Why Diesel is about to start advertising on Pornhub

From ironic slogans to their own emojis and a refreshingly modern attitude to sex, Nicola Formichetti explains why Diesel aren’t content to play by the rules

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Diesel SS16 Campaign
Diesel SS16 CampaignCourtesy of Diesel

“This is where we tell you what to wear.” So read the one of the tongue-in-cheek slogans that accompanied last year’s AW15 Diesel campaign, a series of images that parodied traditional fashion adverts by being radically upfront about their purpose. Splashed across billboards, they switched out #hashtags for “blah blah blah”s and appeared on the roofs of taxis accompanied by phrases about “driving traffic to diesel.com”. After all, we all know that the glossy, beautified images presented to us by fashion brands season after season have one main goal: to get us shopping. Why not be open about it?

“I was always frustrated by those things that we all think but we’re not allowed to say,” admits artistic director Nicola Formichetti of what inspired this “transparency” – something which is continued in both in the brand’s SS16 campaign (exclusively released above) and a new strategy that involves ads on Tinder, Grindr, Pornhub and YouPorn. “What we see in advertisements is just selling fake dreams, fake things, this impossible beauty. I think we have to be honest. Yeah, this is an ad, we’re selling shoes. But it’s in an interesting way, and people smile.”

“What we see in advertisements is just selling fake dreams, fake things, this impossible beauty. I think we have to be honest. Yeah, this is an ad, we’re selling shoes. But it’s in an interesting way”– Nicola Formichetti

For their latest round of images, Formichetti wanted to move things into the world of the internet, complete with custom Diesel emojis, a campaign video made up of moments that reference Tinder, Snapchat, selfie culture, our online shopping addictions and more. “I wanted to decode the idea of digital culture – the way we connect,” Formichetti says. “Emojis are our new language, this is how we communicate now.” The fashion industry’s obsession with followers is even mentioned – one image featuring Joe Jonas and Kiko Mizuhara comes with the caption, “We have more followers than @diesel”. It’s a natural next move for the man that pioneered internet casting, became one of the first to use the now over-hyped hashtag in a fashion campaign and even partnered with Instagram iconoclast @bessnyc4 to collage over adverts.

“We still advertise on billboards and magazines they’re important, but more and more we need to start advertising where people go,” Formichetti says. “Which is phones, iPads and digital screens, websites.” It’s also to apps like Tinder and Grindr, both of whom Diesel has recently partnered with to create bespoke ads tailored to their platforms. “For Tinder, we got one of our models to pretend to be a user, so you’re swiping and then Sam comes up like ‘hello!’ It’s clear that it’s an ad, but we’re engaging with where we are, and that’s about this transparency.” 

“We all go on websites like Pornhub, you know? So before you start jerking off maybe you can stop and look at our new pants and shoes” – Nicola Formichetti

They’re not stopping at dating and hook-up apps though – the brand’s new underwear campaign will be advertised on YouPorn, the 174th most visited website in the world, and Pornhub, the 64th. “To launch our new underwear on Pornhub is like… hello!” says Formichetti. “They were so collaborative, I think we’re the first brand to go on Pornhub. At Diesel, we want to talk about things that not everyone else is talking about – I like that we get to do that. Sexuality is still a taboo in today’s world.” Of course, it was a bit of a shock to some – “In the office some people were a bit like ‘What?!’ But Renzo (Rosso) was like, ‘It’s great, it’s so Diesel – let’s do it!’ We all go on websites like Pornhub, you know? So before you start jerking off maybe you can stop and look at our new pants and shoes and, just laugh! It’s funny.”

Still, Diesel’s creative direction isn’t about being edgy for the sake of it. “I want to portray the world we live in today, and the people in it – so it’s very important that we have different genders, body types, colours, that’s our norm. And then we all live through the phone and the computer, so I wanted to be honest about that.” Formichetti, having just returned from a holiday where he spent time reading books, writing and sketching, is also honest about his own relationship with the digital world though (even if he loves Snapchat and admits that reading sheet music off his iPad changed his life). “I love it and I hate it,” he says. “Sometimes it’s nice to switch off!”

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