Burberry Brand Today Projects Oddness and Ugliness

Another New York Times Sunday edition, and another weird take on a great brand. This Sunday March 5, 2023, our double-truck ad delight is Burberry, once known for gorgeous winter coats and scarves. It is now known for creepy airs.

Here, a 1937 ad for Burberry, when they featured real men, and real people.

Above is the ad appearing in the paper’s Sunday, March 5, 2023 edition. The left side of the ad features an elderly androgenous person, in an odd pose in front of a lion at what appears to be Trafalgar Square. On the right side of the ad is a person, perhaps female, perhaps male, with a white rose. Perhaps we are no longer allowed to determine the sex. We cannot even see the second figure and whether they are wearing Burberry. The only clue is the writing on the page.


The logo appears in a shadow atop the coat on the left, as if it was put in there by accident.

In newspaper lingo, a “double-truck” is a two-page ad, on facing pages, in a broadsheet newspaper. The “double-truck” ad is sort of the print equivalent of a one-minute Super Bowl buy. Because Sunday readership is consistent, and the largest of the week, the Sunday paper charges the most, for the best real estate. The NYT Sunday edition is a flagship place, where companies like Saks and Ralph Lauren put out their best promotions.

A promotion from last year from the brand.

Assuming a price of about $250K a page, the investment, not including art direction, is about half a million, not including the irrational, but probably terribly expensive, art direction.

It all rather looks like a bad Guess ad from 1992, trying to “refresh” the brand with a grungy look, and a sort of erect cowl neck turtleneck.

Let us give the company some ideas of what they could do with that half million. With that money, the company could sponsor about 32 New York students to actually get their flying license (at around $16,000 each) in Burberry gear. Or they could send 100 youths to Africa, to go on safari and learn about the real world, all the time wearing Burberry outergear.

Burberry History of Real Explorers

Burberry was built on real people doing real things outdoors, in quality fabrics and designs. This was the company that took Roald Amundsen to the South Pole, Ernest Shackleton to the Antarctic trip and George Mallory to Mount Everest.

It is hard to see what the brand is selling today, except for an odd concept of luxury. Indeed the market of Times readers perhaps is the least needing any promotion of Burberry. The aging fashion people intrigued by such a 1980s approach to advertising are not its buyers, and we doubt the aging readership of the Times cares too much, either. What the ad does do is grease the wheels of The New York Times Company itself, so that its offerings will be on the mind of editors and their friends who work at other fashion properties.

How odd must I look to sell a Burberry jacket these days, asked the strange man in Trafalgar square?

Today, Burberry (LSE: BRBY) is a publicly traded giant on the London Exchange. How it advertises is in some ways immaterial, as the brand has a life of its own because of its fame. It can coast a bit, and creep folks out, if it likes. For a time.

Oddly, Banana Republic went back to its explorer roots just over a year ago, in a successful campaign to reclaim adventure.

It would be good, however, if fashion could get back to some old norms, particularly the brands like Burberry that were created to be anti-fashion. But in this economy and era, the good must always be pillaged and sullied, and made irrelevant. Those who are in control wish it so.

Below, a vintage ad for Burberry, just to see from whence our Anglophone culture came. It shows a Burberry for people of action, not inaction.

“There is class distinction in the Dual Burberry,” or so the old ads said. There is none today, except a class of emporer elites who hate the pyramid that they sit atop.


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