Diesel Awkwardly Stuffs Every Online Obsession Into a New Global Ad Campaign

Targeting the 'post-digital generation'

Headshot of Tim Nudd

"Our worlds, online and offline, are completely merged. Digital is now more real than reality." That's the not-very-fresh insight behind Diesel's new global ad campaign for its spring/summer 2016 collection, according to the brand's artistic director, Nicola Formichetti. And the result is work that lackadaisically checks off boxes on a list of young people's digital obsessions, all of which advertising has appropriated relentlessly in recent years—selfies, emojis, texting, "liking" and more.

The print, online and out-of-home campaign, created by Spring Studios in New York, stars Joe Jonas; actress, singer and designer Kiko Mizuhara; and models Sara Cummings, Sang Woo Kim, Trevor Signorino and Stav Strashko (the androgynous model who starred in a Japanese ad for Toyota a while back).

You can check out some of the print work here. Click the images to enlarge.

Andreas Neophytou, creative director at Spring Studios, describes the campaign as "a knowing commentary on culture and celebrity in the post-digital generation. Sometimes the truth can seem too obvious to be true, and the absurdity of our behavior online reflects that. This season we're completely transparent about celebrity endorsement, surfing porn, dating online and self-obsession."

That approach is meant to be fresh and titillating, but instead comes off as obvious and tired. Dramatizing online behavior has almost become an advertising cliché, and selfies and emojis were the most oversaturated ad themes of 2015. (Diesel also brags that it created its own emojis for this—Formichetti calls emojis "the new Esperanto, a universal language which is understood by millions"—but the brand is hardly ahead of the curve there, either.)

Some of the campaign elements echo other brands' ads, even those from fashion advertisers—like this Calvin Klein campaign from last year, which was all about dating via digital. Other elements seem lifted wholesale from memes and GIFs. (The "Still Looking" video below directly echoes a famous Tinder-themed GIF, for example.) 

Diesel has also made a point of emphasizing that it's buying space on Pornhub and Grindr for the ads, but that, too, feels like an PR-led pseudo-provocation.

"As the culturally relevant denim brand, it's important for Diesel to converse with audiences in a way that is both intimate and honest," says Richard Welch, global head of strategy at Spring Studios. "Partnering with Grindr and Pornhub allows Diesel to connect without taboo where—on occasion—a great number of people spend their time in the digital age."

The videos (see below) likewise feel wilted. They dramatize the act of following, liking, texting and more—with lines like "I am what I want" (on a video of a woman compulsively e-shopping) and "You look just like your profile picture." But without many striking visuals, or much of a sense of humor, they feel perfunctory. 

Trying to speak to one's target in their own language makes perfect sense. But focusing on social-media-propelled dynamics of self-obsession—in borderline cheesy vignettes—saps the coolness right out of these models, reducing them to the level of the utterly ordinary. 

"I hate it and love it," Formichetti says of social media in a new interview. He'll be lucky if people feel even that conflicted about this campaign.


Brand: Diesel

Agency: Spring Studios, New York

Photographer (Advertising): Santiago & Mauricio

Director of Photography (Advertising): Matthew Schroeder

Diesel Artistic Director: Nicola Formichetti

Stylist: Davey Sutton

Hair: Peter Gray

Makeup: Maki Ryoke

Photographer (Social): Jordan Hemingway

Director of Photography (Social): Bill Stepanoski

Production: Spring Studios, New York

Postproduction: Modern Post, New York; Spring Studios, London

Celebrity Talent*

Joe Jonas

Kiko Mizuhara

DNCE (Joe Jonas, Jack Lawless, JinJoo Lee, Cole Whittle)

Model Talent

Sang Woo Kim c/o Select Model Management

Sara Cummings c/o Soul Artist Management

Aki von Glasgow c/o Wilhelmina Models

Trevor Signorino c/o Request Models

Ilana Koslov c/o Next Management

Grace Mahary c/o IMG

Stav Strashko c/o Established

Tommy the Cat

Agency Credits

Creative Director: Andreas Neophytou

Copy Lead: Tessa Mauclere

Art Director: Serena Wise

Global Head of Strategy: Richard Welch

Strategy Lead: James Denman

Account Director: Donald Stewart

Project Director: Michelle Jones

Senior Producer: Matthew Rodriguez

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.