The Lincoln Motor Company is out with a new print campaign shot by Annie Leibovitz, the iconic portrait photographer's first ads for a car.
The images feature musician Jon Batiste, artist Tali Lennox, actor Giles Matthey and director Ben Younger in and around the automaker's 2017 Continental, set against downtown backgrounds and country landscapes.
Overall, they are meant to convey a story about a group of up-and-coming creative professionals on a road trip from Brooklyn to upstate New York, featuring headlines like "How worldly you are has nothing to do with a passport" and the tagline "That's Continental."
Leibovitz has famously photographed celebrities ranging from the Rolling Stones and John Lennon to Queen Elizabeth II, as well as ad campaigns for American Express and Disney. In 2015, Leibovitz shot this year's Pirelli calendar, drastically overhauling the tone of its traditionally sex-driven imagery.
The faces in the Lincoln shoot all have some pop-culture heft of their own. Batiste, for example, leads Stay Human, the house band on The Colbert Show; Lennox is the daughter of singer and songwriter Annie Lennox. A behind-the-scenes video from the shoot offers more insight into Leibovitz's process.
Lincoln, a luxury line long owned by Ford, is in the midst of a multi-year brand reinvention spearheaded by Hudson Rouge, the agency WPP launched in 2012 to handle the brand. Its output has also featured the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Beck.
Read on below for perspective from Jon Pearce, the shop's chief creative officer, on why Leibovitz was the right fit for the campaign, what it was like to work with her, and how the agency approached pairing copy with the images she shot.
I think it starts with the fact that we're positioning Lincoln as a warmer, more human-oriented brand than the other luxury manufacturers, who tend to focus on the machine itself.
So, to launch the new Lincoln Continental, considered their new flagship, we went to the world's most renowned portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz. She's not a "car" photographer in any sense, so I guess it was a calculated risk we took. But we did know that she would capture something special in her subjects, and integrate them beautifully and memorably with Lincoln's new vehicle. At this point in Lincoln's transformation as a brand, we can't afford not to "go big" with any of our campaigns. Their new vehicles are beautifully designed and the interiors are amazing, so we need to continue to find interesting ways to bring this to the forefront in a relentlessly congested media environment.
Annie likes to work with a narrative story for her shoots. So we presented her with a number of scenarios. She really took to the idea of friends going somewhere for a short stint, and came back to us with a very detailed road trip concept. She told us about the trips she took with her father when she was young, and how the framing of the rear window influenced her seeing things in a photographic landscape format. She was also inspired by the fact that the Lincoln Highway was our country's first transcontinental highway, and that our shoot could be inspired by that.
Her idea for our four subjects was that they were on a location scout for an independent film they were making. And that storyline continues through to who they really are in their personal lives—a film director, a musician/bandleader, an artist and an actor.
I found Annie to be, not surprisingly, very professional and very clear in her vision. She was great to work with, and really understood what we were trying to do with this launch for Lincoln.
When it came time to making the ads themselves, we had written a number of lines expressing this idea of "That's Continental." We're very lucky to have a product name that has a history and resonance in and of itself. We also like that it can be used to describe a "Continental" approach to life—one where you're curious about the world around you, and you use that knowledge not in a showing-off kind of way, but with a quiet confidence. We felt that the continental attitude really came through with Annie's portraits. When we saw her edit of the images, we started pairing the lines we had written to the various portraits. Some of the lines can work on multiple images, but in the end, we think we found some great pairings.
These ads should help further the notion that Lincoln is changing. It's becoming a brand that's much more contemporary than people may have thought. And the quiet confidence you get from the people and settings of these portraits should connect with consumers who may be open to considering a luxury brand like Lincoln, who see in them a different approach than most of the other luxury automobiles out there.