Fruit of the Loom uses transparent pants to sell skivvies

Fruit of the Loom’s new campaign strategy: Show, don’t tell.

To promote its No Ride-Up Boxer Briefs, a line of briefs that claim not to ride up the leg, the underwear brand pulled an elaborate prank: The company sent models wearing transparent, plastic pants out on the streets of New York City and LA. Underneath the models’ clear bottoms were brightly colored briefs from the new Fruit of the Loom line — and all around them were stares from passersby, left wondering if clear plastic pants were really the next fashion trend.

They’re not. At least, not yet. But Fruit of the Loom went all in on the stunt, creating an entire online footprint for the phony plastic pants. Meet “Plastique,” the new couture line from (nonexistent) designer Frank La Rant.

The campaign started innocuously enough. The plastic pants were first seen in a charming TV spot that showed guys dancing around their office wearing them with the no-ride briefs underneath, marked with where the briefs should hit the leg. The point of the TV ad is to show that the underwear stays in place as you move around, but Fruit of the Loom’s creative agency CP+B saw an opportunity to extend the campaign.

From this humble inspiration, Frank La Rant’s Plastique line was born.

Behind the campaign is CP+B, Fruit of the Loom’s creative agency. Associate creative directors Mona Hasan and Nicholas Buckingham said that they wanted to think of a way to build a larger story from the initial ad, and the fashion line grew from there.

“We deliberately made it high-end fashion but with a question mark,” said Hasan.“We wanted people to say, ‘It’s plastic pants; could this actually be real?’”

Fruit of the Loom and CP+B went deep with La Rant’s backstory, giving his brand a Twitter account (bio: “Owner | Designer #Plastique #ad #Applause #Applause”), a website, a billboard ad in SoHo, a lookbook and a long-form documentary.

On the surface, it’s difficult to tell that this Frank La Rant character is at all associated with Fruit of the Loom. Observers should be tipped off, though, when they see in his bio that his collection was “inspired by Fruit of the Loom’s plastic test pants.”

The brand has also interacted with La Rant’s Twitter account, playing dumb.

Other clues that Fruit of the Loom was behind Plastique: the name on the briefs under the Plastique pants, the brand’s logo hidden in the campaign signage (it’s next to the E in the top image) and drawing the connection from Fruit of the Loom’s #ItsUnderneathThatCounts hashtag.

“The consumer is more likely to start a conversation,” said Buckingham on the great lengths the brand went to for the fake fashion line. “We were fishing for that, to a degree. The boxer briefs are the heroes of the campaign, though; you just have to look a little deeper.” 

Engagement was a driving goal of the elaborate advertisements. Fruit of the Loom is a seasoned American brand that has often gone the route of traditional advertising; Plastique is a way for the brand to come across as contemporary, said Hasan. 

Plastique's SoHo billboard.
Plastique’s SoHo billboard.

“Going all out makes Fruit of the Loom much more than our grandma’s brand,” she said. “It’s putting it into the consideration of a group of people who would never consider it before.”

Be that as it may, engagement has not exactly been robust. According to data from social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, the #plastique hashtag has been mentioned in just around 1,900 posts since it was created on April 10. The Fruit of the Loom handle has been mentioned in some 150 tweets.

In the past, Fruit of the Loom has tested more innovative advertising waters when it sold a limited number of “Lucky Looms,” pairs of underwear that had traveled the world and partaken in various good-luck traditions, like being passed through the largest horseshoe.

But how can an ad show off how a new pair of briefs is supposed to fit? Transparent pants sends — and literarlly shows — the message, according to CP+B.

“How else are you going to see how they perform under pants?” asked Hasan.

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