Friday, April 3, 2009

Dirty Old Admen?

I have to admit, as a fairly jaded type of guy my first reaction to this Ottawa Citizen editorial (and pic) about the new Joe Fresh campaign was "Newsflash! Young women are sexualized by the media: Film at 11"

But this particular flyer campaign got yanked by Loblaws after complaints, and they actually issued an apology:
"The 'Underthings' flyer was the first one created for our Joe Fresh Intimates line. We apologize for any concern that this flyer may have caused to our customers.
Loblaws also stated that all the models were over 21.

So, what made this campaign worse than the window displays at LaSenza (which once caused me to walk into a parking meter in Montreal)? One piece of evidence is the copy:
"barely there to boy cuts: boyshort, lacy little lovelies, sleeping beauties"
...which is supposed to invoke a sense of virginal innocence, I guess, to appeal to the teenybopper set.

I'd love to get a copy of this flyer; not for nefarious purposes, but just to form my own opinion about how bad this campaign really is/was. But as far as the images go, they seem pretty standard. Hell, at least they don't have the amateur porn look of American Apparel.

We're living in a time where superficial sexiness is admired and emulated by girls who seem to get younger by the year. But is this campaign part of the problem, or simply a reaction to consumer demand?

I'm not keen on sexy underwear being sold to really young girls, simply because as an aging adult I think of them as kids at this point. And so it freaks me out that a 14-year-old would want to be that hot. But I also realize the power of peer pressure is much greater than any advertising campaign (which is why "buzz marketing" is so effective with this demographic).

Sex is everywhere in fashion marketing (nudity in link), and it always has been — within the social limitations of the time. Perhaps the problem right now is, because you can instantly see anyone doing anything to anyone and their pets on the Internet, we don't really consider it a big deal. At least, no more than the Ancient Romans did (cartoon nudity).

Our big thing now is that we no longer know where "the line" is, if there ever was one. It's all become a matter of taste. A female colleague says it's "like I am looking at images of exploited children". My opinion is somewhere between "That's atypically sexy for Loblaws" and "I feel dirty for looking at it for more than a moment."

What's yours?


  1. Unfortunately, I had trouble concentrating on the columnist's moral outrage because my irony detector was pinging so loudly.

    At the top of his column was one of the most provocative of the pictures: it was in full colour, at the top left of the page, where you put things to get the reader's attention and draw the eye (I'll bet you have a nickname for that spot in the ad business). He refers to the pic in his column, so he wasn't just sandbagged by the layout editor.

    I'd be interested to hear the arguments about why it's OK to use underage-looking underwear models to sell newspapers, but not to sell underwear.