Diesel and David LaChapelle Offer Joyous Resistance With the Flamboyant ‘Make Love Not Walls’ Campaign

Breaking down all barriers, physical and symbolic

How do you break through an imposing wall of hate?

With wild ballet dancing, same-sex kissing and an inflatable, rainbow-colored love-tank, of course!

Fashion brand Diesel revels in diversity with its spring-summer “Make Love Not Walls” campaign, which was developed with Anomaly Amsterdam and includes a rousingly memorable short film by David LaChapelle.

An Andy Warhol protégé, the celebrated photographer and director most famously worked with Diesel 22 years ago on the iconic “kissing sailors” ad, which caused a stir for showing two male swabbies sucking face.

The new film, similarly smoochy in spots, opens with shirtless Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin wandering through a wasteland. Soon, he approaches a winding gray wall topped by barbed wire. (Did Mexico foot the bill for that thing?)

As the anthemic strains of Alex Vargas’ “Higher Love” swell on the soundtrack, Polunin pirouettes for all he’s worth. Folks on the other side of the wall join in the increasingly frenetic dance and toss flowers over the barrier.

Can the wall possibly withstand this onslaught of good vibes? We all know the answer to that, now don’t we?

“There are so many walls, symbolic and physical walls that are stopping people from being their true selves, from loving who they want to love, etc.,” Diesel artistic director Nicola Formichetti tells AdFreak. “We wanted to spread a positive message and show that a brighter and exciting tomorrow is possible.”

You’ll note that once a huge, heart-shaped hole is blown through the barrier, mainly stylish and attractive young people pour through to party. (Maybe the older, stocky set had to work that day.)

Still, the cast is exceptionally diverse and on-brand. Along with Polunin, the performers include artist Stefan Meier (his illustrations feature in the campaign’s photo collages); transsexual model Laith de la Cruz; androgynous queer artist Karis Wilde; 2016 parallel and horizontal bar Olympic silver medalist Danell Leyva; makeup artist/drag star Raja; and transgender model Octavia Hamlett.

“As you can imagine, it was a big production,” Formichetti says. “We built an actual wall in the middle of a desert and created an inflatable tank with a wedding scene and acrobats, which we shot over several days.”

And that tank will go on tour, visiting Berlin, London, Milan, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo. “It was David’s idea to have a rainbow tank,” says Formichetti. “The tank is now a symbol of hope, a machine that used to divide now unites us!”

Along with the film and other digital assets, the brand campaign includes out-of-home elements in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

While somewhat hokey, harkening back to flower power/hippy themes (the tagline is a play on the counterculture slogan “Make Love, Not War”), the work is also timely and irresistibly sweet. (Dig that groovy tank with its flaccid cannon flapping in the wind!)

Also, because Diesel has long featured social issues in its ads, this approach feels genuine, and the brand isn’t concerned about seemingly jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon. (Marketers such as Aeromexico, Corona and Tecate have all taken notable shots at our president’s proposed border wall.)

“Diesel has always pushed boundaries, broken barriers and is a strong brand that believes in togetherness,” Formichetti says. “We need to act right now, and this campaign is our voice in the name of unity and love.”

More print work below. Click the images to enlarge.

Client: Diesel
Campaign: Make Love Not Walls
Riccardo Bellini – Global CMO
Giada Gheno – Global Head of Advertising, Media & Product Marketing
Nicola Formichetti – Artistic Director
Jacob Wildschioedtz – Creative Director
Agency: Anomaly Amsterdam
Talent: Sergei Polunin, Stefan Meier, Danell Leyva, Octavia Hamlett, Laith de la Cruz, Raja, Karis Wilde, Taylor Banks, Kyle Kleiboeker, Jonathan Rivas, Britni Sumida, Vinny Balbo, Jeremiah Buren, Krista Jaspers, Miles Woods, Sabeerah Najee-Ullah, Junji Dezaki, Thais de Lima, Cody Callahan, Adeng, Erika Angel, Jay Decasby, Annie McGinty, Hanni Larma
Production Co.: CXA and Maavven
Photographer/Director: David Lachapelle
DoP: Fredrik Jacobi
Production design: Annie Sperling
Executive Producer(s): Steven Pranica, Coleen Haynes
Editor: Govert Janse
Post Production Company: The Moving Picture Company Ltd.
Music supervision: Amp.Amsterdam
Music: ‘Higher Love’ by Alex Vargas. Listen here: http://alexvargas.lnk.to/HigherLove
Remixed: Brewhouse.Amplified
Audio post production: Amp.Amsterdam
Colorist: Ricky Gausis

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.