There’s an absurd mini-controversy brewing about whether Michael Phelps will be stripped of any of his medals because some Louis Vuitton ads in which he appears were leaked before the Olympics. (This will soon blow over, as it’s clear that neither Phelps nor Louis Vuitton intentionally violated the ban on pre-Olympics advertising.) Lost amidst all this needless angst is the fact that the above ad is absolutely brilliant.
When I saw it in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, I was was struck first by the elegance of the photo, and then by my curiosity over the “mystery woman” pictured with Phelps. When I read the fine print and learned that it’s Larisa Latynina–the woman whose record for 18 career Olympics medals Phelps broke–I could not have been more impressed. Talk about a classy idea…and a classy execution.
In almost all cases, I’m critical of ads that require you to read the fine print, simply because almost no ad is capable of getting a meaningful percentage of readers to do that. I’m also critical of ads without large, clean, creative headlines and, even more so, ads without prominent mention of the brand name or logo. However, when you have a stunning, provocative photo–and when that photo prominently features your highly recognizable product–it turns out you can be effective without a headline and without a large logo.
Please don’t try this at home, however; unless your product is as distinctive as a Louis Vuitton bag, and your art director and photographer are as gifted as the people who created this ad, going without a strong headline and strong logo is a sure route to a complete waste of your advertising dollars.
So just sit back and appreciate the above ad for being as much an exception to the rules of advertising as Michael Phelps and Larisa Latynina are to the sports of swimming and gymnastics.