CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/GOLD COUNCIL - BBH campaigns to rescue gold from the legacy of the 80s. Report by Jenny Watts

The image of wideboys with chunky gold jewellery dripping from

their bodies may soon be consigned to its rightful place in stereotype

history, if the pounds 39 million global push by the World Gold Council

to reclaim gold's fashionable image gets its way.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which was appointed in January to the task of

halting gold's slide downmarket, has unveiled a campaign positioning

gold as a warm, almost spiritual, experience, far removed from images of

second-hand car dealers and macho men.

However, persuading consumers to take another look at gold will be

tough, and nowhere tougher than in the UK. Gold may have ended the 1970s

as a symbol of prestige, status and wealth, but the era of the yuppie

served to reduce it to a byword for crassness and vulgarity.

"Gold has been tarnished by the 80s and the used-car-salesman image,"

Rosie Arnold, the art director on the account, says. "In the 80s, it was

a symbol of achievement. People started wearing it and it became more

and more ostentatious."

The situation wasn't helped by various products and brands cashing in on

the cheap prestige associated with gold. A spate of credit cards,

breakfast cereals and butter substitutes further distanced the

once-precious metal from its association with taste and style.

Now, with the aid of BBH, The Gold Council is hoping to make gold

synonymous with natural beauty, sensuality and spirituality. The

strategy has changed, and the council is trying to create an

aspirational place where the buyer wants to go. It is hoping to take the

precious metal back to basics by repositioning it as an attitude, rather

than a fashion accessory.

Historically, after all, gold is the original brand with value. It has

been used as a currency for 5,000 years, ever since the Egyptians beat

it into gold leaf. The Incas and Aztecs thought it was pieces of sun

fallen to Earth. "All the civilisations that found gold, revered it. It

became a standard," Arnold says.

To return to this standard, BBH has produced a press campaign that

eschews any cold, black-and-white fashion photography. An eight-page

pullout in Vogue starkly contrasts such uber-cool images with the warmth

radiating from the adjacent full-colour gold ads.

The endline "Glow with gold" sums up the direction BBH wants to


"The warmth thing is a natural truism about the metal," Steve Kershaw,

BBH's group business development director, says, while Arnold adds:

"It's an emotional campaign to remind people how good it can make you


So who buys gold - is it a one-off purchase, a sentimental purchase, or

a fashion statement? "You can't be that specific," Steve Kershaw


It seems it is hard to define a gold-wearer. "Our target audience is the

top end of the triangle," Kershaw says, unsurprisingly. "It's people who

are attitudinally well-educated, affluent, well-travelled and want to

enjoy life."

Still, however warm the proposition, there remains the issue of expense

to contend with. And what about alienating the people who make up gold's

existing purchasers? "They already buy it," Arnold responds - she

doesn't believe the softening of its image will deter these purchasers.

"If they look at the ads, they'll identify with people in gold. It's

upbeat and spiritual, and that's where people want to be."