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Four years after ditching topless models, Abercrombie & Fitch commits to inclusive advertising

More than 20 ambassadors feature in the evolving campaign

Abercrombie & Fitch is using a multi-million-dollar relaunch of its Fierce fragrance to prove the days of topless in-store models and ‘sexualized marketing’ are truly in the past, bringing on board a cast of diverse, vulnerable men in a creative move akin to P&G’s Gillette.

The reboot of Fierce, a cologne first created for men in 2002, is the brand’s first fully-integrated campaign.

The year-long initiative stars an ensemble cast spanning a range of geographies and careers. Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku and NBA player Jayson Tatum represent the athletic, traditionally A&F aesthetic, while LGBTQ+ activist actor Keiynan Londsdale and male pro cheerleader Napoleon Jinnies are among the thoroughly modern males the brand hopes to court.

Women, such as actress Brianna Hildebrand and surfer Julia Muniz, also feature in the work comprising out-of-home, social, influencer, connected TV, digital fashion media and in-store.

The hero film features the cast members describing what it means to be ‘fierce’, particularly how behaviors such as compassion, vulnerability and humility play a part in said fierceness.

The relaunch comes just two weeks after P&G’s Gillette made a similar tonal shift from the masculine ‘the Best a Man Can Get’ to the softened, sensitized ‘the Best Men Can Be’.

The charge is being led by creative director Joanna Ewing and Carey Krug, Abercrombie & Fitch's senior vice-president of marketing, who arrived at the Ohio headquarters in October last year.

She is clear that this campaign does not mark a U-turn for the company; instead she deems the creative a showcase for the already “evolved expression of the brand”.

“We have to be aspirational to today's consumer, which is very different from the time period [of the early 00s, when Fierce first launched],” she said. “The work has to be more of a conversation with our consumer and a reflection of what society looks like today and what it is to be aspirational.

“The evolution of the brand started four years ago, and I think that this campaign is the pinnacle of what we're going towards.”

A&F’s first moves away from its exclusive, homogenous 00s reputation were abrupt and wide-ranging. When long-term chief executive Michael Jeffries stepped down in 2014, the company almost immediately announced plans to ditch its “sexualized marketing” within four months.

This comprised topless men greeting shoppers in stores, semi-naked heterosexual couples in its marketing materials, a stock policy that favored smaller sizes and a “looks policy” for staff that was finally deemed unconstitutional in June 2015.

“This [campaign] is the first chapter in the new story of Abercrombie and Fitch,” said Krug. “You'll start to see how that percolates and trickles down into all elements of the customer-facing aspects of the brand. So, for instance, we have a lot more size diversity on our website.

“We have walked away from retouching [models] as a whole and in general, [we] just want to show up in a much more authentic and real way that embraces our heritage but resonates with today's customer.”

The bulk of the campaign was created in-house with help LA’s Begood Media. Krug said the model works for the fashion line as it commands “passion and respect for the brand” internally”.

Additionally, she said the similarities between 'Fierece Redefined' and the Gillette transformation are "a bit of a coincidence”.

“I think it's just a reflection of the conversation that's happening today about what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman in society, and how that bubbles up to the stereotypes that we've all grown up with,” she said.

“I applaud Gillette for taking a stance and taking a risk.”

The Fierce cologne bottle remains a cast of a shirtless, ripped male. But this time around , it’s the shirtless, un-retouched torso of a real athlete.

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