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Esprit’s New Ad Campaign Features Customers’ Views

August 11, 1991

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Esprit de Corp., the youth-oriented clothing manufacturer, asked its customers what they thought would make the world better. The answers are the focus of a new $8 million advertising campaign that addresses issues such as abortion, racism and animal testing.

In a questionnaire sent to 200,000 consumers, Esprit asked ″What would you do to make the world better?″

″I’d keep a woman’s right to choose, unless George Bush is free to babysit,″ says Rachel Hirsch of Massachusetts in one ad.

″Give back the land stolen from Native Americans,″ Mari Gardner of Colorado suggests in another.

Other young customers talk about eliminating animal testing, saving the rain forests and ″putting all the generals in a room and letting them duke it out.″

The ads, including Esprit’s first TV spots that will premiere Aug. 19 on MTV and in 11 major television markets, were developed by Esprit’s image director, Neil Kraft. Fashion magazines and store displays will also feature the new ads, beginning in September.

″Hearing what these people say, letting them express themselves, urging them to be involved and make a difference - that’s what this campaign and this company is all about,″ said Esprit founder Susie Tompkins.

Some responses were less controversial.

″I’d teach everybody that nobody is a nobody,″ said Shannon Going of California.

″I’d ban high heels and teach the world to groove,″ said Angelle Brooks of California.

Esprit has raised eyebrows with its advertising before. In 1987, the company devoted a page in its fall catalog to an essay designed to increase AIDS education and awareness. And in 1990, Esprit ran ads urging consumers to buy only what they needed to help ″reduce the horrendous impact we have been placing on the environment.″

Benneton, another clothing retailer, attracted attention recently for a new ad campaign that features photos of a nun and priest kissing, and a newborn baby with the umbilical cord still attached.

But Esprit officials said their campaign is designed to spotlight the opinions of concerned young people.

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