Mulberry has commissioned Poet and Director Caleb Femi, who was appointed the first Young People’s Laureate for London in 2016, to create a poem and short film entitled “The Season of Light” for their holiday 2019 ad campaign. Viewing the film in comparison to past Mulberry campaigns is a valuable exercise for analyzing how brands go through stages of development, which often seem to reflect the times in which we live.
Previous campaigns for Mulberry have used humor to poke fun at motivations or miscalculations behind gift giving, whereas this year the brand has taken more of a winsome, warm-hearted approach to the holidays. One example of a previous Mulberry ad focuses on that awkward moment when a relative gives a gift that you don’t really like, but feel obligated to graciously accept, because it’s really the thought that counts. Another example is a short film from 2014 in which family members compete with one another in a game of one-up-man-ship for who can give the best gift. Spoiler alert! Grandma wins with a gift from Mulberry.
In a rather striking contrast, Mulberry’s 2019 holiday campaign forgoes laughs for a story about family memories and holiday decorations, with a voice-over narration by Caleb Femi reading his poem about cozy feelings evoked by the season’s “glow of festive lights”. It is a sign of the times that the theme has shifted from a wealthy family competing for the title of best gift-giver, to sweet sentiments of inclusive nostalgia.
Caleb Femi’s poetry is well written, and his reading in the voice-over narration feels genuine. However when the poem is paired with the film’s visual narrative, things get a bit dicey. The cast of the film seems more diverse than some previous Mulberry holiday campaigns, but they seem relegated to the streets of London for selfies and bar-hopping. Femi served as director for the film which leads one to wonder, why he has cast himself as the person delivering packages for the holidays? If the intention is for Femi to spread good cheer on behalf of Mulberry, then why is the film focused on this one affluent family? Furthermore, the heart-felt content in Femi’s poetry begs the question, where is his family this holiday season and what are they doing to prepare for festivities?
The sincerity of Femi’s poem is apparent, and so with the ad campaign’s film, one is willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. However the campaign also functions as a catalyst to examine potentially outdated tropes, and think more deeply about what the concept of inclusion really means for luxury fashion marketing and beyond.
Director | Caleb Femi Cast | Caleb Femi, Laura Butler, Faith Cresswell, Johnny Myers, Samir Marat, Kate Ovenden, Gabrielle Quaye, Jaasvi Shah, Joshua Lawton