Advertising is about nothing if not eliciting desire: and if the medium of advertising itself achieves that, surely you're onto a winner. For the past four seasons, Yves Saint Laurent has taken brand awareness to another level, packaging its advertising imagery in a 'Manifesto' and handing out the resulting pamphlet on international city streets - the paper tomes quickly achieved something approaching cult status. This year, appropriately enough on Valentine's Day, Yves Saint Laurent staff will again take to the streets of Paris, new York, London, Milan, Tokyo and Hong Kong en masse to distribute half a million copies of their latest campaign, shot again by Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin and this season featuring Claudia Schiffer posed, poised and preened in front of the 'HOLLYWOOD' sign.
Last season, a limited edition tote-bag designed by Stefano Pilati and featuring the classic Cassandre YSL logo inverted was the prize for the early birds: this season, in keeping with the day in question, YSL wear their heart on their sleeve in a pure homage to the late, great Saint Laurent himself. Just as every Saint Laurent couture show since the sixties featured his favourite model wearing a heart-shaped pendant, set with crimson paste jewels, this season, in a distinctly 21st-century homage to this (although certainly no less covetable), YSL have created a heart-shaped necklace-cum-USB key, strung with silk-grosgrain and containing all 'Manifesto' images alongside an exclusive video (a snippet of which is showcased above).
And what of those images? Schiffer is shot from below like a monumental, towering monolith of woman, all the while the giant white 'Y' of 'HOLLYWOOD' (and coincidentally, of YSL) looms over proceedings, echoing the Y-shape seamed into her handbag, the shoulders of her tailoring and even Schiffer herself, thrusting her arms out to transform herself into a graphic typographic talisman. Perhaps that is taking analysis a step too far, but the whole exercise is an unabashed and satisfying ode to Yves that seems more-than-fitting. Maybe this is taking advertising to its logical conclusion - the medium becomes the message while the advertisement itself becomes a covetable commodity.
The Yves Saint Laurent 'Manifesto', featuring the entire Spring/Summer 2009 advertising campaign as pamphlet and stickers, along with an iconic A0 poster of Claudia Schiffer, a printed tote-bag and that heart USB-key, will be handed out at key London locations (Bond Street, Covent Garden, Knightsbridge and High Street Kensington) on February 14 2009.