How “Real Is Rare” Hopes to Reinvent Diamond Advertising

The architects of the Diamond Producers Association’s new campaign have thrown away the rule book to appeal to millennials

The ads are attention-getting, sometimes racy. They don’t portray an idealized love, but a relationship that has weathered problems and near dissolution. The diamonds are not the focus of the ads but flash by. They don’t tout a diamond engagement ring; it’s not clear if the couple in the ads is married or even engaged. This isn’t your father’s diamond advertising—or even your older brother’s.

The two millenial-targeted videos were produced for the Diamond Producers Association’s (DPA) “Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond” campaign, and constitute the industry’s first full-blown “category-driving” effort in eight years. With it, the DPA is wiping the slate clean, not using “A Diamond Is Forever” and many of the familiar jewelry tropes.

“We wanted to go away from a traditional diamond ad,” says DPA CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr. “These ads are about the couple. They are not about the diamonds. They are about the role that diamonds play in their lives.

“It’s important not to miss the magnitude of the shift that we are making,” he adds. “It’s actually quite daring. But we have to break some of the codes a bit. The industry needs a little bit of an edge. We aren’t going to move the needle without it.”

Thomas Henry, senior strategist for Mother New York, the agency that produced the ads, says the new approach stems for the “problem we are trying to solve.

“We didn’t need to tell [millennials] what a diamond was,” he explains. “They were rather familiar with the type of diamonds on offer. What they didn’t understand is the role of a diamond. We want to build an emotional connection that is meaningful to them.”

The target audience “couldn’t see their own lives in some of the types of communication that they have seen previously,” he adds. “There is a shift in the culture. People aren’t necessarily subscribing to the ideals that their parents have. [The ads] reflect the lifestyles millennials are living and the lack of perfection that they see.”

The first ad is called “Runaways”:

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The second, “Wild and Kind”:

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Let’s look at the thinking behind the break with traditions we see in these ads.

They don’t spotlight any specific diamond product.

That was deliberate, says Lieberherr.

The ads are meant to “inject emotional meaning in the diamond engagement purchase, which has become so ritualized that the emotional meaning has gone away for many millennials,” he explains. “Everything has been ritualized, whether it’s the way we sell with the Four C’s, whether it’s the occasions, it’s all been so formalized we need to bring it to the emotions, which is the real powerful motivator.”

Henry notes that this campaign is just meant to be the first step.

“The key thing is to get the idea out there,” he says. “Advertising works in two ways: long term and short term. In a long-term way, we want to build up the idea that diamond is the symbol of the perfect connection. If the campaign is successful, it will plant that thought in your head. As the campaign develops over the years we would love to branch out into different areas and help consumers join some of those dots.”

They don’t mention engagement.

While the ads are built around the moment the couple decides to commit, it is not clear whether that commitment is formal.

“What we’re trying to do is open the aperture,” says DPA chief marketing officer Deborah Marquardt. “We are trying to show different types of relationships and expressions that are worthy of diamonds. It starts with the commitment, that moment we know something is real and rare.”

They talk about the couple’s problems.

“We are saying away with the fairy tale,” says Lieberherr, “away with the ideal representation of a relationship that no one really believes in, and in with real life, and the ups and downs of real life, and the beauty of something that is real and authentic.”

The couple seems awfully scruffy.

As opposed to the typical diamond ad, which features statuesque models, these couples seem like they just returned from Burning Man or are about to make your macchiato. That was also intentional, says Nick Feder, a Mother New York “mother” (“what we call account management”).

“It was picking people the consumer could look and see themselves in and that didn’t feel too gorgeous and aspirational,” he says.

The campaign starts running this week on TV shows and digital platforms popular with millennials, like Refinery29, Hulu, and Bustle. The DPA will also enlist a celebrity that will appear in a short “Real Is Rare” documentary film.

“That is going to feature real couples, talking about relationships, their diamond moments,” Marquardt said at the campaign’s launch event in New York City on Oct. 5.

The DPA has also launched realisadiamond.com, on the Tumblr platform.

While the DPA’s budget this year is $12 million (up from the initial $6 million), that will “significantly increase” next year, Lieberherr says.

“This is a first step,” DPA chairman Stephen Lussier said at the launch event. “We are not out to transform Christmas this year. Our real mission is to make sure that these new consumers—these millennials, who will, for the next 25 years be the core group that fuels the American diamond industry—have this belief in the diamond dream.”

The DPA also wants to get the industry on board, and it’s opened up a trade portal on its site.

“It has a lot of information not only about the campaign but links to the videos, information about millennials, facts about diamonds, what makes them real and rare,” Marquardt says. “It will also give sales associates new ways to talk to millennial customers and new ways to talk about diamonds.”

The DPA is also talking with retailers and manufacturers to form a DPA support group, Lieberherr says: “The idea is to have a group of people that we work with to have input into what we are doing and be relays of our work to the rest of the retail community. It is a quite an innovative way to work collaboratively between the miners and the rest of the sector, which never really happened before.”

Eventually, the hope is to spark a broader industry transformation. “We are creating an expectation that the diamond offering will be a personalized experience,” Lieberherr says. “If we don’t start translating that into the reality of the experience—be it in terms of product, product offering, design, the way that’s communicated through sales associates—if the mix doesn’t follow, then it won’t work as well as it could. So it’s very important to join the dots.”

Speaking at the launch event, Helzberg Diamonds chairman and CEO Beryl Raff said that the campaign’s biggest enemy might be trade nit-picking.

“The most important thing is that this happened. The industry needs this so badly. I grew up with ‘A Diamond Is Forever’ and all the messages that we all grew up with. But the tailwind that we have all experienced from the ‘Diamond Is Forever’ days is long gone. No one is out there telling this younger generation that they need a diamond.

“It is incumbent that every one of us in the industry put our emotion aside—I like this one, I don’t like that one, I like the first commercial, I don’t like the second—it doesn’t matter. We have a group of people that got something off the ground that we desperately need. It is up to us to get behind them, to cheer them, to contribute, and to help make this happen.”

And if not every industry member relates to the ads, that might be because they aren’t aimed at them.

“This is speaking in a new way to a generation that hasn’t been exposed to much diamond advertising,” says Marquardt. “Our idea is to begin the conversation again, to make diamonds relevant, and make them real in their lives.”

(Photo courtesy of the Diamond Producers Association)

JCK News Director