Why Net-a-Porter is going back to basics with its ad message

Online luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter has figured out that its advertising campaigns should focus on, well, fashion.

As brands from IHOP to MasterCard look to appeal to more customers and grow their businesses by becoming “lifestyle” brands, Net-a-Porter is refining its focus in its new campaign to its core product — fashion — and moving away from the all-encompassing lifestyle approach. According to global creative director Claudia Plant, the strategic shift is meant to position Net-a-Porter not as a fashion marketplace, but as an authority on trends in the industry.

“In the past, we had a more laid back, lifestyle approach,” said Plant. “We wanted a visual shift, for it to scream ‘fashion.’”

The fall campaign stars five models, including Charlee Fraser and Pooja Mor, wearing different trends and brands that the product and editorial teams decided were the most important to showcase for the season, like reworked denim, puffy jackets, and print dresses. The photos for the campaign were shot in New York’s Soho neighborhood, and will be run as print and digital ads, as well as featured on Net-a-Porter’s own platforms and social media accounts. Plant said that the goal of the campaign was to present Net-a-Porter’s newest offerings in the way that its customers actually shop, which is by mixing and matching the latest trends.

“Our customer is a very savvy shopper,” she said. “It wasn’t about brand messaging, because we leave that to the brands’ campaigns. Instead, we focused on the individual style of each piece through our own voice.”

Net-a-Porter, which merged with Italian online retailer Yoox in 2015, has unique positioning in the luxury market. While the overall luxury market is expected to grow by 3 percent each year for the next five years, Net-a-Porter’s projected growth is forecasted at 20 percent each year, something attributed to Net-a-Porter’s grasp of client data.

In 2015, the company increased sales by 21 percent to $1.85 billion. While Net-a-Porter has built a strong editorial arm with both Porter, its print publication that has scannable pages customers can shop in its app, and The Edit, its online branded content site, its campaigns have taken a backseat in terms of editorial point of view. Now, fashion is “firmly in the spotlight,” said Plant.

The company, following its merger with Yoox, has also been investing much more heavily in marketing. In its 2015 annual report, the company noted a 100 percent increase in marketing resources, having spent $125 million in 2015 compared to $62 million in 2014. With its shift in focus from lifestyle to fashion, Plant said that more of those resources will be diverted from print to digital advertising, though she declined to mention specifics.

While Net-a-Porter’s success is derived in large part from the data it collects from its shoppers, Plant said that the trends and brands featured in the new campaign and called out to shop on the website were not chosen based on consumer data.

“We used our editors as a litmus test,” she said. “Our editors chose what fall trends they’d recommend to their friends, and our buyers picked the most exciting new additions. It was a focus on newness, and we also just listened to our hearts.”

Combining the editorial and product teams’ points of view into the campaign are, according to Plant, another part of the company’s content and commerce strategy. The call to action in the campaign is to follow the trends laid out in the advertisements.

“Brands today, Net-a-Porter included, need to have a strong point of view to make a difference and actually get people’s attention,” said Jessica Navas, evp of Erwin Penland. “That represents them.”

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