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Kering to name brand safety lead after Balenciaga controversy

Kering to name brand safety lead after Balenciaga controversy

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French luxury group Kering will be creating a position at the group level to oversee brand safety after facing intense backlash over a Balenciaga advertising campaign that inappropriately featured children. The ad stunted sales in the final few weeks of 2022, according to François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and chief executive officer of Kering at a media presentation reported on by Reuters.

Balenciaga drew flack last year after it released a holiday advertisement that featured two children posing with teddy bears wearing what has been described as “BDSM-style bondage gear”, according to media outlets. Other images from the Spring/Summer 2023 collection features young children standing on beds with props that included court documents forma child sexual abuse case.

The incident forced senior leadership to apologise for the “errors of judgment" and the advertisement was pulled immediately.

Don't miss: Balenciaga apologises after copping flak for sexualising children in holiday ads

"We are going to take extra steps," Pinault told journalists at the release of the group's annual results.

To do so, Pinault revealed a new "brand safety" chief wo will review major advertising campaigns, challenge them and consider how they might be perceived and criticised. Pinault added that the group will be hiring an external agency to look over their marketing and advertising efforts.

The controversy, according to Pinault, had a “big impact” on Balenciaga sales in Britain, the Middle East and the United States in late November and December. He continued by saying that the brand has a lot of work to do if they want to restore its image in the United States.

Saying that, in its statement, Kering affirmed that Balenciaga has an excellent 2022 despite “a difficult month of December”. “All our Houses posted record revenues and contributed to higher operating income in 2022. But these good performances were not uniformly up to our ambitions and potential,” said Pinault in a statement seen by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE. “Beyond the challenges some of our Houses faced, notably towards the end of the year, we are convinced that we are pursuing the right strategy for the long term,” he continued.

Adding salt to its wounds, Kering also reported that its biggest brand, Gucci, booked a 14% drop in comparable sales over a three-month period ending in December. This comes shortly after Gucci’s new campaign with its ambassador, Dakota Johnson came under fire for modelling products made of real python and crocodile skins. PETA heavily criticised the campaign in a letter addressed to Johnson pointing out the consequences of such campaigns and the industry that commodifies animals as luxury items.

The letter stated that the exotic-skins industry is “extremely cruel” as PETA Asia’s investigations at an Indonesian slaughterhouse showed that “workers were caught on camera bashing reptiles in the head with machetes and hacking their necks up to 14 times before they were decapacitated for their skin.” The letter also exposed the gruesome conditions that crocodiles were kept under in their farms.

The incident followed another 2022 blunder where non-profit animal rights organisation World Animal Protection slammed the brand for "glorifying captive wild animals" in its Gucci Tiger collection in celebration of the Year of the Tiger. The luxury brand had released campaign images of models with real tigers superimposed into them. 

In a Facebook post, Gucci said the tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate and safe environment complying to the brand's policies and then featured within the campaign.  Third-party animal welfare organisation, American Humane, was also said to have monitored the set on which animals were present and verified that no animals were harmed.

“In directly operated stores, sales dropped 15% from a very high base and were significantly affected by the situation in China during the quarter,” it said of Gucci in its statement.

While pandemic restrictions played a big role in its drop in sales, another key point to note is that Gucci recently lost crowd favourite Italian fashion designer Alessandro Michele. He was replaced by a little-known Italian designer, Sabato De Sarno in an attempt to reinvigorate the brand.

De Sarno will lead the Gucci design studio and will be responsible for its women’s, men’s, leather goods, accessories and lifestyle collections. He is set to join the brand in the second quarter of this year.

Saying that, Kering as a group still reported a group revenue that was 15% as reported and 9% on a comparable basis.

“Net profit attributable to the group amounted to €3.6 billion, up 14%,” it said.

Related articles:
Balenciaga partners National Children’s Alliance following sexualising children in ad saga
Balenciaga drops its US$25 million lawsuit against production firm
Kim Kardashian breaks silence on Balenciaga saga, re-evaluates future with brand

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