Loewe to Spanish youth: You’re all fucking idiots. What?
Director: Luis Venegas
Last month, the luxury brand Loewe, Spain’s equivalent to Louis Vuitton (and in fact part of the LVMH conglomerate that owns both houses), released a campaign for their new Oro (“Gold”) Collection of handbags. A dozen
hipsters youngsters were invited to star in the ad – bloggers, relatives of Spanish celebrities, up-and-coming actors, etc. Loewe, which has been around for more than 150 years, wanted a more dynamic and hip image for its Oro bags, which, although they do not have groundbreaking designs, do have neon-coloured handles.
The plan was to represent the creative, young vibe in modern-day Madrid. And to further legitimise the product, Loewe acknowledged they had paid the participants with an Oro Collection bag each – which, at an average of €1200 apiece, is not a bad salary.
This was the ad they came up with:
Loewe has a lighter version on their website – and by lighter you can see I mean the same version minus the terribly edited sentences, but retaining all the young urbanites putting handbags on their heads, kissing in a park, yelling from a balcony at the Ritz or laughing as they check their iPhones while crossing the street.
Though the subtitles do not capture some of the cultural and linguistic context – such as putting on a fake foreign accent to say “a lot of good wine” – you get the gist: the people in the ad come off as the ultimate proof that idiocy has taken over Spanish youth.
Now, this maybe would not have been THAT bad if Spain right now did not have a 47% youth unemployment rate, was not crushed by terrible austerity measures, or was not in the aftermath of the Occupy the Streets movement, known in Spain as 15th of May, when thousands of Spaniards took over the central squares of major cities and camped out for months.
The video went viral – and, what’s more interesting, became a source for numerous parodies. Some of them have more views than the original. One of the most popular is by a professional dubber who does voiceovers in a coarse Spanish dialect, so that the actors talk about how great circumcised penises are, how amazing is to shop at low-cost supermarkets and how Loewe reminds them of their mother’s sex toys. It got 900,000 views, most within the first two days, versus the 600,000 of the original Loewe video.
However, other parodies also touched more on the social aspects of the ad. One of them uses footage from Callejeros, a popular TV programme that normally reports about socially excluded groups in Spain, with the original audio from the Loewe ad. There was also this site, where you can calculate how many Oro handbags you earn in a month – a satirical jab based on the terrible job market in Spain.
But perhaps an even more revelatory “parody” was this one:
Here, sub-Saharan immigrants in Barcelona who sell knock-offs of branded handbags are interviewed about what they think about Loewe, and are asked some of the same questions the actors in the original video were. Unsurprisingly, they have very different answers.
I must admit that, as much as I laughed at the original Loewe ad, I feel bad for those who appeared in it. I recently met one of them, who said they were interviewed for 40 minutes and told the commercial was going to be about something else. I also know, through friends of friends, that some of the actors are in fact perfectly sound Madrid scenesters of various kinds, who’ve now had shows or gigs cancelled because they were portrayed like complete idiot silver-spoons. Their sentences were taken out of context: at 2:06, for example, they are actually imitating a popular Spanish celebrity, Nati Abascal.
Many of the participants have laughed it off, such as Josep Xorto of the band Stand Up Against Heart Crime (the guy who says “Loewe reminds me of the word love”), who tweeted this self-parody on the day the ad (and the criticisms) came out.
The whole campaign makes me wonder: what were Loewe thinking? Was the original intention for the video to go viral and create such a stir? How has it affected the brand? People tell me they’ll be keeping their Loewe handbags in the closet for a while, so as not to be associated with the youth portrayed in the video. But maybe in the long run, it has done more good than bad, even to the actors in the commercial. As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity: Xorto’s Twitter followers have doubled.
Eduardo Cassina runs Destination Economy. He lives in London and plays in Madrid.