With the release of its Christmas advert Burberry continues fashion’s lengthy relationship with film with a three minute “trailer” spanning over 50 years of British history. The tale takes us from Thomas Burberry’s invention of gabardine in 1879 to Betty Kirby-Green’s record-breaking flight from England to Cape Town in 1937. Burberry emphasises the fact that this advert has been “160 years in the making”, placing the heritage of the brand firmly centre-stage as we follow the founder and his various pioneering exploits (notwithstanding a dose of creative licence with the chronology).
Despite describing itself as a timeless brand and producing timeless pieces, in this advert Burberry is anchoring itself in another time, not our own. The notions of innovation, invention and exploration come through loud and clear but there is little attempt to update these notions for today’s audience, and so the question arises, how does Burberry want and intend a modern viewer to relate to the story told? Doubtless these concepts are compelling but the brand hasn’t realigned them to their modern incarnations; while the mind-set of innovators, inventors and explorers may not have changed much in 200 years, their paths, behaviours and outputs certainly have.
The cinematography is undeniably beautiful, the story reasonably captivating, the ad brimming with stars but in short, visual form and narrative outweigh brand and product content. The storytelling is impeccable, but is it really the story that Burberry needs to be telling in the face of ailing sales?