googlead166c37c697d4d3.html Glenn Ashton Author Blog: A Paris Condom for Cleopatra's Needle

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Paris Condom for Cleopatra's Needle

Paris obelisk with condom 1993
What kind of woman gets to put the world's largest condom on the Paris obelisk, launch the famous rubenesque Ruby campaign of the Body Shop, and then help a large UK law firm burst into modern marketing, with partners carrying different colored cards that represent their mood?
And you thought obelisks were boring!
Allow me to introduce Marina Galanti.
In 1965 the eldest of four children, aged 30, saw a market for colorful clothes. Needing money, he sold the bicycle of one of his brothers and bought a second-hand knitting machine. Business took off and he asked his two brothers and sister to join him, opening their first store in 1966 and three years later in Paris. Now the company sells 150 million garments each year, and is known for its brand, one of the strongest in the history of capitalism.
His name was Luciano Benetton, and the company is the Benetton group.
Fast forward to December 1, 1993. A group of activists working for the French AIDS fighting society Act Up Paris move quickly – commando style - into the largest public square in Paris, the Place de la Concorde, and unroll a giant pink condom over Cleopatra's Needle, before melting away.
Marina Galanti
The person who organized the condom raid was a young Italian born woman, educated in an English school in French speaking Switzerland, named Marina Galanti, from Benetton's PR unit. She says it was a fun thing to do, covering the obelisk with the 22 meter high and 3.5 meter wide condom, and an achievement. The action was to observe World AIDS Day.
Galanti decided on the Paris obelisk because the Washington obelisk was too big.
Five years later Marina was the driving force behind the launch by Body Shop of its self-esteem campaign, and its star, Ruby. The doll appeared in windows of the Body Shop along with the slogan: There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do.
 Body Shop founder Anita Roddick had this to say about the generously endowed Ruby:
Ruby was a fun idea, but she carried a serious message. She was intended to challenge stereotypes of beauty and counter the pervasive influence of the
cosmetics industry, of which we understood we were a part. Perhaps more than we had even hoped, Ruby kick-started a worldwide debate about body image and self-esteem.
But Ruby was not universally loved. In the United States, the toy company Mattel sent us a cease-and-desist order, demanding we pull the images of Ruby from American shop windows. Their reason: Ruby was making Barbie look bad, presumably by mocking the plastic twig-like
bestseller (Barbie dolls sell at a rate of two per second; it's hard to see how our Ruby could have done any meaningful damage.) I was ecstatic that Mattel thought Ruby was insulting to Barbie -- the idea of one inanimate piece of molded plastic hurting another's feelings was absolutely mind-blowing.
And so Ruby bit the dust, defeated by an annoyed Mattel defending its skinny Barbie.
Body Shop's Ruby
Barbie
Fast forward to 1983, and Ashurst, a solid British law firm headquartered in London, which hired one Marina Galanti to help it change its brand from a stuffy and distinguished law firm to one that was modern, in tune with its modern clients and their needs, and a force to be reckoned with:
Ashurst Morris Crisp is no more. Say hello to Ashurst, the rebranded, not at all fuddy-duddy, multi-coloured new legal firm. "New" is a bit of an exaggeration, especially for a business founded in 1821.
What the partners have unleashed on an unsuspecting world is quite startling. Out has gone the distinguished royal blue colour, the garter logo and familiar hat-trick of names the firm has traded under all these years.
In has come a quirky and colourful new logo, very 2004, backed by an emphasis on the individuality, spontaneity and (dare one say it?) irreverence of the firm's people. The sober-suited gentlemen (and ladies) are bursting out all over, handing out multi-coloured business cards as they go.
One of Marina's ideas to add pizazz to the partners of the law firm was to give each partner a range of colored business cards to reflect their prevailing mood.
An interesting career path, Marina. We wonder where you will be turning up again. Perhaps you should call Dr Hawass and suggest you could help him in his campaign to have the bust of Nefertiti returned to Egypt?
Such a campaign would benefit from Marina's brand of hard hitting promotion.
Oh, and Marina, feel free to adopt our slogan Set them Free!

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