Benjamin Moore Paints Puzzling Picture in Magazine Ad Campaign

benjamin_moore_ad.jpgThe news about first quarter 2010 magazine ad pages was not great. Second quarter is doing better, but I’m only interested in one ad page at the moment.

It’s the Benjamin Moore ad. You know, the one done à la Vanity Fair portrait. The ad debuted as a double-spread in the May 2010 issues of House Beautiful and Elle Decor. Or, if you live in certain markets, you might have seen it as a half-page horizontal in Country Living, Real Simple or Traditional Home. (Look for it in other magazines in other markets in the near future, per a press release on the Benjamin Moore website.)

The ad has garnered something advertisers value almost as much as sales: copy, which is of course free advertising. Stories have appeared in Chicago’s Sun Times, Mediabistro’s “Daily News Feed,” the New York Times and countless blogs discussing the style of the image, the idea behind the campaign (that design experts love Benjamin Moore paints), etc.

What struck me first about the ad, aside from its ensemble cast and absence of the product (there’s not even a paint can in the picture) was the contrast between the outfits of the two women–Amy Lau and Celerie Kemble–and the attire of the male designers. (And why are only two of eight designers women?)

Did Lau and Kemble head to the shoot on the way to or from cocktail hour? A dress-up preview of “Sex and the City 2″? Do they dress like this in their studios? To meet clients?

Is there a professional “uniform” for female designers (and everyone else) somewhere between frou-frou and frumpy? Is there no suitable feminine equivalent to the practical, comfortable wardrobe modeled by the male designers in the ad?

Really, I’m asking because this problem of wardrobe parity doesn’t stop with Benjamin Moore-loving designers. Think of broadcasting. What should women wear when seated next to a male counterpart dressed in a suit and tie? From the Weather Channel to network and local news to E!, no one (no woman) seems to know.

Meanwhile, no one in the Benjamin Moore ad is wearing painter’s pants. Hmm.