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Diesel Tears Down A Wall In Its New David LaChappelle-Led Campaign

The Warhol protegé returns to the brand he made history with 20-plus years earlier to strike a timely chord.

These days, smashing walls has a very particular political symbolism that it hasn’t had in close to thirty years. You can’t really talk about the political significance of walls without talking about Donald Trump, whose successful Presidential campaign was built nearly as much around the slogan “Build The Wall!” as it was “Make America Great Again.” But Diesel, in its new campaign, “Make Love, Not Walls,” would like to try.

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The campaign features a video and series of still images shot by celebrated photographer and filmmaker David LaChappelle, who first made history with Diesel in 1995 with its “kissing sailors” ad, one of the first major ad campaigns to feature a gay couple. And it’s built around the iconography of a concrete wall, with barbed wire at the top–and the subversion of that image, with brightly colored outfits on people of all races, genders, ethnicities, orientations having a pretty good time with rainbow-colored tanks and smoke surrounding them as they break through that barrier.

Engin Celikbas, CEO and partner at Anomaly Amsterdam, which created the campaign, says that he was interested in exploring the imagery of walls outside of the context of Trump, though. “For us, the wall is a symbol of division, and we needed a symbol that people could get easily,” Celikbas says. “It’s a graphic symbol that people all over the world understand, and this campaign runs in multiple countries. At the same time, the direct link with Trump’s wall, while it was there, was not intentional. There are many visual cues in the ad, and it’s very subject to interpretation from person to person. There are many layers in the ad, and they’re basically all saying the same thing–this is not a statement against anyone or anything.”

The imagery in the ad may not have been intended specifically as a response to Trump–Celikbas notes that the campaign was shot in the fall of 2016, back when the idea that we’d still be talking about Donald Trump or his border wall at this point had a rather slim chance (poll-plus) to come to reality. Rather, he says, the focus was on showing the joy that comes from bringing so many people together, not about commenting on any specific walls that may or may not be getting built in the near future.

“It’s Diesel’s answer to a world where intolerance is growing,” Celikbas says. “We launched it on Valentine’s Day because it’s a day that symbolizes love. The idea behind the campaign is the same philosophy as Diesel as a brand–a world without barriers is a nicer and better world. It’s an extremely positive message.”

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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