While the draw of the Harry Cipriani spot, for example, is his quiet courtliness, this profile is something else entirely. Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop and worldwide marketer of environmentally conscious creams and scrubs, is a woman who prefers to let 'er rip.
This is a much more complicated piece of work, both conceptually and philosophically, than the previous spots: Imagine Germaine Greet as an ecowarrior-entrepreneur of the beauty business, as played in a tribal rock video/infomercial by Cher, and you begin to get the picture.
There's a lot to communicate about Roddick's life and work, and for unfamiliar viewers, there's much to digest. (Roddick has 900 shops in 42 countries, as she explains in the first spot, but started late in the U.S. and is still relatively unknown.)
The daughter of Italian immigrants in England, she's like some character out of an Isak Dinesen novel, with a little Bill Gates and Ben & Jerry's on the side. The story goes that she opened her first store on borrowed money in Brighton, England, in 1976, to support herself and her baby daughters while her Scottish husband left to pin-sue his dream of riding a horse from Buenos Aires to New York. It gets more colorful from there.
And the contradictions begin. A child of the '60s with a $250-million-a-year business, Roddick is a cosmetics queen who sees herself more as the spiritual sister of Dian Fossey than Estee Lauder. She's also an outspoken opponent of traditional marketing and advertising. She's never spent a cent on Body Shop advertising. Instead, she's relied on the free media to tell her story.
For American Express, of course, it's a no-lose proposition: the greening of the green. For its green card, the company finally has a true green marketer. It then gets to trade off her feminist presence, her eco-correctness, her revolutionary zeal. How up-to-the minute, how '90s, how fraught with anomalies.
The first is why she would do the spot. Mixing social change with skin care, of course, is a tough and uneasy business. (As Benetton has also found out in promoting politics and separates.)
These two spots offer an inspired visual mix of her hard-to-capture first-world/third-world existence (but no soundtrack by Sting). Roddick is a woman with a big voice and grand passions. For the uninitiated, she comes across as a bit of a blowhard in the 60-second commercial. She's much more compelling in the 30-second version.
In the first, she explains her Trade Not Aid global programs. We see wonderful black-and-white footage of Mexican women weaving and drying cactus fibers which end up as body scrub. "We don't touch the culchahh," she says, sounding a bit like Bette Davis. "I'd rah-ther promote human rights than evah promote a bubble bahth" she adds later while evidently promoting a bubble bath.
The second spot uses similar visuals, but it's less about her company and more about her celebratory vision of women. "I go into tribes and their notion of beauty just leaves me breathless . . . women my age (she's 50) are considered sexy because we carry with us wisdom." We need more of this.
By the way, Body Shop stock took a dive in late '92, which may explain why Roddick did her first ad (with American Express funding). In fitting contradictory form, she'll likely find out that TV does more for shampoo sales than it does for endangered tribes.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)