CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/BURBERRY - The once-dowdy brand is determined to maintain its cachet, Jenny Watts writes

Burberry, the 150-year-old fashion company founded by Thomas Burberry, will always be associated with its signature checked, gaberdine trenchcoats.

But the successful relaunch of the past three years has jazzed up its rather dowdy image, mainly by having the clothes shot adorning the likes of Kate Moss and Stella Tennant.

Last week, Springer & Jacoby UK was handed the task of creating two commercials to support Burberry's branding. The ads will run in-store in a bid to enhance the consumer's experience of the Burberry brand.

Burberry uses Baron & Baron, the New York-based agency, to handle its advertising. It was behind the famous black-and-white shots by the photographer Mario Testino. However, Burberry often calls in other resources for specific projects. "We haven't got a huge marketing department, so it suits us better," a spokesman says.

Joakim Jonasson, the creative director of Made, Leo Burnett's sister fashion agency, believes that a fashion house appointing an ad agency is, "unfortunately", the exception. "They're too full of themselves, and think they can do everything themselves," he says, adding that more should employ agencies to give a fresh perspective.

However, the bottom line has the last word, as ever. Last week, Burberry posted impressive first-half financial results for the six months to 30 September. Sales rose more than 16 per cent to £274 million, giving profits of £55.1 million - up from £39.2 million a year earlier. Accessories accounted for 28 per cent of group sales.

The brand has also extended into children's clothes, personal products and blue jeans with some success. "Burberry is a good example of an old-fashioned, quite boring, sleeping brand, which has woken up and got interesting, and extended into different areas," Jonasson says.

But with consumers displaying more eclectic shopping habits than before, high-end brands can also appeal to the mass market. "They're not mutually exclusive," the spokesman says. "But we have to be about quality. Our competition is worldwide."

Burberry now uses the models Elizabeth Jagger and Callum Best - both representative of a youthful British generation born out of a celebrity heritage - but maintains being British is not a prerequisite for its models.

"We look at a concept, and we work on who will suit that concept best. We don't have a face, we have a style," the spokesman says.

But the brand's beautifully shot advertising isn't everyone's cup of tea. "It's really boring," Jonasson says. He argues that more fashion houses should use ad agencies to create more enduring symmetry to their marketing activity. "The photos are quite good, but what is the advertising is saying? How do we translate what the brand stands for? It's not explained in the advertising," he complains.

Burberry's spokesman counters that the brand's campaigns over the past five years are consistent. "We've managed to achieve that with the imagery and casting," he responds.

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