When I think of advertising that stretches the limits of what is decent, I think of the Calvin Klein brand. In Australia, public billboards portraying carnal activities or mostly naked models are banned. Some can understand why. Several advertising campaigns in the last few years alone have raised a lot of eyebrows:
Personally, this type of advertising does not offend me. The heavily-sexual overtones, the erotic innuendo and aggressive themes of the advertising is shocking to most, which is the objective of these real “attention-getters”. Look closely at each ad, and you may find hidden clues to the intention of the participants in the ad.
It is widely known that sex sells, and some of Calvin Klein’s ads are hot, sexy and alluring. It is just what the Calvin Klein brand wants their target consumer (14 to 50 years olds who
desires modern fashion forward products) to think of when they think of Calvin Klein. It is intriguing to see a brand accept alternative lifestyle choices, however, these type of ads should be thought of as provocative and controversial, since they are, and left to adults to ponder, admire and/or repel in a less public setting.
However, as a proponent of the First Amendment, it is Constitutional to advertise your brand as you see fit, as long as it is legal. Moral advertising is a much grayer area, however. What is considered proper by some may be thought of as offensive by others. Displaying a giant billboard of any of the ads shown in this post could be considered depraved, since young eyes may view these sexually-charged ads. Many people agree with this view, since Calvin Klein has had massive push-back from the public at large where public and massive billboards were exposed in New York City (and as previously mentioned, banned in other places).
So why would the Calvin Klein brand insist on displaying an advertisement that will certainly bring negative responses from the public at large? In advertising, the old adage rings true…”there’s no such thing as bad publicity” – which is the same as “any publicity is good publicity”. Controversy is contagious and memorable. Calvin Klein is making use of sex to sell their brand through their advertising, using both traditional and digital methods, and they are doing it very well.
A browse through the Calvin Klein website and a visitor will find a section where the “average” CK underwear-wearer can post their own photos. A giant billboard also pushes the #mycalvins hashtag feed to everyone who passes by, the very same billboard that is banned in Australia. But talk about acceptance and engagement within their target group (and beyond), since hundreds of photos are posted and shared.
Calvin Klein has embraced on-the-edge advertising, just as other companies have, like Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana, using sex and suggestion to solidify their brand and sell product. If popularity of Calvin Klein continues to grow, stimulating and controversial ads will continue be made and displayed in public, too hot or not, for the public outcry against the brand has not been as strong as the positive reception with its consumers.