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Ralph Lauren's '4D' Water Show Fails to Impress

Ralph Lauren likes a light show. Four years ago, the American megabrand roped off several blocks along Madison Avenue to stage what was advertised as a"4D" visual spectacle -- but what turned out to be a video of models and renderings of Ralph Lauren products projected onto a building, manipulated in such a way as to make them appear three-dimensional. (It was well done but overhyped. The fourth dimension, Senior Vice President David Lauren said at the time, was scent.)

On Monday evening, Ralph Lauren brought a high-profile crowd to Central Park for yet another "4D" digital experience to promote its Ralph Lauren Polo for Women collection, which just opened its first flagship store. This time, a video was projected onto a fountain of water (water being the "fourth dimension"). If you've ever seen the "Fantasia" water show at Disneyland, or Singapore's "Wonder Full" light show in the marina, you have an idea of what it looked like.

The video showed models walking runway-style in Polo's spring collection, which wasn't very interesting, but the backdrops they walked against -- a lighthouse, the Manhattan Bridge, the Chelsea High Line -- were. The problem was that the models and clothes were hard to make out: Because the video was projected onto a fountain and there was a slight breeze, the images were blurred. You could make out a neon pant or a diagonally striped skirt, but you couldn't tell what fabric it was made out of or who was wearing it. It wasn't exactly effective for showcasing a collection.

Which begs the question: What was the point? One could argue that Ralph Lauren was aiming for a great "brand" experience -- but no one I talked to sounded very impressed with the show nor with what they could discern of the clothes. It was also the wrong audience. Polo, as a low-priced, mass-market line, does not appeal to a fashion and celebrity crowd the way Lauren's runway collections do; they will not rush out to publicize the event and, even if they did, I am not sure they would be talking to the right audience. Better, I think, to create a digital experience where Polo can directly reach its customers: online and on mobile.

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