Not too long ago there has been all the commotion around the raunchy 50 foot tall billboard for Calvin Klein jeans in the New York’s SOHO neighborhood. Once again Calvin Klein created a cultural outrage and there was a lot of controversy about the latest campaign. Some people have called it “disgusting” and “outrageous”, while others couldn’t understand what all the commotion was about.
So, I decided to poke a little on my own by creating a poll on LinkedIn and asking what people thought about the campaign. I also asked some of my friends and what they thought. I was surprised by the responses that I got which ranged from it “being a great publicity for the company”, or that the ad “had no impact on them and that it’s only advertising”. Here is what some of the respondents have said:
“This ad reminds me very much of the original CK fragrance ad in the ’80’s. At least 3 men were pawing at a naked or semi-nude woman. The color was all blue & black, which helped subdue the imagery — I remember asking people to imagine it in red. I don’t mind provocative imagery but I am definitely against advertising that seems to promote violence against women or gang-rape of a teenager.”
“Looks like pretty standard CK fare. The ‘group’ thing might be new. ‘Sex-in-my-face’ is intrusive no matter how it is portrayed and no matter what the Vagina Monologues promotes.”
“The ad reminds me of a CK ad that ran in the 1990s with an image that implied sexual assault. It caused such a stir that CK pulled them. I’m certainly not within the target group and find them too edgy for my taste. Not the type of image/behaviour I want my neices to emulate.”
I guess I was expecting a lot more negative responses about it. One of the reasons why the ad created such a controversy was due to the combination of one girl and three men.
However, we must not forget the fact that “sex sells”, it always did and it always will. The point of the ad was to attract attention to it, the company and the product, which I think it succeeded in doing. As one ad critic at Advertising Age noted “If you pay attention to it, you’re just doing his advertising for him”. It’s just a free publicity for Calvin Klein. The ad is promoting a product not sex or the idea of an orgy etc. We all came across advertisements that were really cleverly executed and made us buy into the claims made by companies but that’s the whole point of advertising, especially in the fashion industry.
The television spot has been banned in the U.S. and the ad has been replaced with a shot of Doutzen Kroes in a red bikini.
I think CK did a great job at tapping into the cultural outrage. Calvin Klein Inc. was quoted saying “intention was to create a very sexy campaign that speaks to our targeted demographic”. Did you expect a different ad from Calvin Klein, the master of pushing the envelope when it comes to advertising?! The campaign did what it was supposed to do, turn heads and spark interest. =)