Kate Spade New York has a video series, #missadventure. This is a still from episode 4, "The joy ride."
Photography courtesy of Kate Spade New York
By Lydia Dishman
December 10, 2015

What do Amy Adams, Marion Cotillard, Michelle Williams, and Anna Kendrick have in common? If you’re thinking Academy Awards, you’re getting warm. These A-list actress–some past Academy Award winners, others nominees–are among those featured in a slew of new, holiday video ads created just for social media platforms.

What’s even more striking is that the sponsors include super luxe brands, Burberry, Balmain, Dior, and Louis Vuitton, as well Kate Spade New York and Coach. Luxury labels have been historically resistant to online advertising (and even e-commerce). But with the decline of print and the fact that no one actually needs to watch TV commercials anymore (thank you Netflix), the high-end names are shifting platforms.

And, sometimes in an interesting way.

This holiday season sees a spate of high-end videos targeted for Facebook and Youtube, featuring top-notch actresses in comic moments, featuring — but not overtly flogging — designer wear. Some of the videos take a more conventional advertising approach — and don’t look all that different from ads you might see on television.

Actress Amy Adams, in a video campaign for Max Mara, is seen in a tight black dress, musing about “elegance,” with the Max Mara handbag barely visible. Some 84% of its 350,000 views on YouTube have come from paid advertising, according to L2, a business intelligence firm. (Max Mara didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

Likewise, a video for Louis Vuitton — featuring three-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams and Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”)– doesn’t have much of a story; it shows the two women improbably navigating the desert dressed to the nines armed with only their LV handbags.

But a few new videos are showcasing edgier storytelling.

Take “The Joy Ride.” Anna Kendrick is a modern Holly Golightly, laden with shopping bags and decked out in Kate Spade New York clothes. She and Zosia Mamet (of HBO’s “Girls”) both jump for the same taxi — then decide to share a ride and strike up awkward, wry small talk — the kind that might be in “Girls” episode. They show off their Kate Spade New York items — without ever mentioning the company’s name — and end up bonding over commandeering the car from the annoying male driver.

Part of the #Missadventure series, so far, “The Joy Ride” has gotten some 2 million views on YouTube alone since its November 3 release. But this is far from a viral hit. The vast majority of its YouTube views — some 86% — are through paid advertising, according to Mabel McLean, director of commerce IQ for L2, a business intelligence firm.

L2’s McLean says that YouTube’s ability to target audiences means that paying for page views can be money well-spent. “The paid share of views have most likely been placed in the right hands,” she says. Just 270,000 of its 2 million page views on YouTube were organic — meaning people just found their way on their own, without clicking on ads on other sites. “The video’s organic views imply that the video has also succeeded in garnering significant (although not groundbreaking) traction through sharing, word of mouth, press coverage.”

Mary Beech, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Kate Spade & Company, wouldn’t say how much the company spent on producing the video series. But she says she thinks their investment is paying off. “We saw a triple digit increase in website traffic driven by social,” she says, with a “near triple digit increase” in the number of site visitors who made purchases.

Burberry went all out in its nearly three-minute video, “The Burberry Festive Film—Celebrating 15 Years of Billy Elliot.” Julie Walters, Elton John and model Naomi Campbell are among the celebs featured in the video, wearing Burberry scarves and iconic trench coats, while “celebrating” the 15th anniversary of the critically-acclaimed movie that became a Broadway blockbuster. Burberry didn’t respond to requests for an interview.

Since its release November 3, it has gotten 12 million views on YouTube, roughly 76% of which McLean says are via paid traffic. Given that much of the star power in the video are older (John is 68, Campbell, 45), it’s likely Burberry was seeking to appeal to Boomer and older Generation X consumers, but Burberry declined Fortune’s request for an interview.

Some experts contend that Burberry is struggling to enhance its appeal, especially to U.S. consumers. Retail sales overall were up 2% to £774 million (roughly equivalent to $1.1 billion) in the first six months of 2015.

Mike Lee, the CMO of WealthEngine, an analytics firm, points out that an important market for Burberry is 50 and older. They have $3.6 trillion in annual income to spend, which accounts for 49% of all after-tax income in the U.S., he says.

When it comes to digital marketing, Parisian luxury label, Balmain, has been pushing the boundaries for the last few years. Creative director Olivier Rousteing, 28, is active on Instagram and enlisted “influencers,” such as Kanye West and Rihanna, to help the brand reach 47 million followers on Instagram.

In a collaboration with fast-fashion retailer, H&M, Balmain last month made its apparel and accessories available to the mass market, inciting a frenzy over faux-fur jackets and beaded dresses and subsequently overwhelming the H&M’s site.

To play to a digitally diverse audience for its collaboration with H&M, Balmain released a video starring model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner leading a troupe of dancers through a musical number in a slick, futuristic version of a subway car. The video has garnered some 6.2 million viewsall of it organic.

Will that translate into paying customers, though? That’s the big question, for all of these brands.

Lydia Dishman is a business journalist covering innovation, entrepreneurship and style. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Entrepreneur, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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