It's one of those dumb ads that uses a stereotype about the need to fit in at school. But how times have changed!
This back-to-school ad has ignited an emotional debate on social media. On the one side, we have parents outraged that, by joking about the exclusion of kids with uncool clothes, JC Penney is promoting bullying or classism:
What do you think? I'm not personally offended by the ad, but I can also see why (in this economy) it struck a nerve in some parents. As you can see above, the company is responding to complaints with a PR blurb that is pretty noncommittal, however they acknowledge they have discontinued the ad anyway.
Perhaps the real lesson here is for creatives: Come up with some new damn ideas, rather than rehashing clichés you remember from your youth. And for marketers: Oversensitive or not, this is the new reality of democratic communication. Deal with it honestly and with empathy.