When The Mirror broke the shocking news that a Kylie Minogue ad for
Agent Provocateur had been banned from TV for being too saucy, it would
have done well to check its facts first.
Agent Provocateur knows when to be provocative - such as in the Kylie
ad, which cdp-travissully designed specifically for an 18-plus cinema
run. It also knows when to look for less racy mainstream profits, such
as the cash it rakes in from Marks & Spencer for designing its Salon
The company that is getting tabloid journalists hot under the collar was
set up seven years ago by Joseph Corre, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm
McLaren's son, and his partner Serena Lees, a former secretary from
adland's very own Young & Rubicam.
It's still a small operation with only three outlets; two in London and
one in Los Angeles. But Agent Provocateur does have a thriving
mail-order service operation - both on- and offline supply 40 per cent
The company seems healthy, with its bottom line boosted by the tie-up
with M&S. "It is almost 100 per cent growth per year and we are looking
to increase that," Corre says.
"Coming from a fashion background you can get on a treadmill of how you
have to behave and how you run your business. I find this
I want to make products and sell them straight to the customer," he
Agent Provocateur sticks to these core principles by refusing to allow
its main brand to be sold in stores other than its own. It's a strategy
that's worked well. "It's a very salient brand that everyone wants to
get involved with," Justin Cernis, the managing director of Barrett
Cernis, says. He should know - the agency has worked with Agent
Provocateur before on campaigns. The client gets bombarded with scripts
from agencies which view the task like a charity account - one that will
bring in the cachet, if not money.
Cernis, who loves the brand and says that "it legitimises blokes looking
at women in frilly underwear", has only two criticisms of how the
company is marketing itself at the moment. First, he believes that the
punters need to know that the range is affordable.
Cernis also thinks that it is a crime that Agent Provocateur has not
branched out and cashed in on the strength of the brand. Well, it took
nearly six years but a year-and-a-half ago Agent Provocateur had its
first stab at this. It now distributes its perfume and skincare ranges
in department stores.
For now, Corre sees nothing wrong with the marketing strategy. "We have
put ourselves in a very good position now to be able to bring a lot of
credibility and integrity to any table that we happen to sit at," he
In the next year the plan is to build on distribution and open more
Corre confides that he is working on more ancillary products such as the
"The brand stands for independence," Corre muses. "There's a sense of
humour and, ultimately, it's a celebration of femininity."
But with all the hype around the brand, does Corre feel that Agent
Provocateur needs to advertise? "I'm not sure that we do. The question
to me is whether or not the idea is good. If the idea is good then it's