A look at the biography of Renzo Rosso, chairman and founder of the
Diesel clothing company, suggests a stereotypical Italian. It includes
his favourite pasta recipe, pictures of big family meals and talk of his
passion for football.
But Diesel has long been known as a brand whose advertising is anything
but typical. And last week it landed the Cannes International
Advertising Festival award for Advertiser of the Year 1998 (Campaign, 24
The much feted ’successful living’ campaign launched in 1991 through the
Swedish agency, DDB Paradiset (which still handles the TV work). It
propelled the company into the big league: in 1985, Diesel sold just
200,000 pairs of jeans; ten years later the figure was five million.
Rosso has described Diesel’s advertising as ’a challenge to the quickest
and most analytical of minds’, believing that consumers have been
patronised for long enough. He also insists young people everywhere are
similar and so chooses to advertise worldwide with single
Renowned for being low on product coverage but high on humour and irony,
the ads have focused on controversial areas, for example, waif-like
models in third world countries, male sailors kissing, an Indian Elvis
and Diesel-clad models walking on water. The ’successful living’ work
has also been used to mock the idea that consumer products can offer
people a better life.
Executions often show the Diesel wearer coming off worse, or as a figure
of fun. ’Little Rock’ shows the Diesel-wearing cowboy shot dead in a
According to Jeremy Bowles, account director for Diesel at Lowe
Howard-Spink - the agency that handles print - this is the real beauty
’There is absolutely no hard sell, they just have a point of view on
life,’ he says.
Lowes has produced some unusual work itself, including the Virgin Mary
in jeans and a liposuction operation. Bowles is sure of the reasons for
Rosso’s latest accolade: ’The Cannes award is deserved because they have
followed their instincts and haven’t adhered to any rule book.’