A Look into Calvin Klein’s Advertisements
As a seductive young man looks into a camera a raspy voice, off camera, whispers, “You got a real nice look. How old are you? Are you strong? You think you could rip that shirt off? That’s a real nice body. You work out? I can tell.” No, it’s not straight out of a steamy romance novel, though it could be. This is just one example of how provocative Calvin Klein’s advertisements have been. Although the ads boosted sales for the Calvin Klein empire, it angered many parents, religious groups, and even the media over its message, its image, and its legality.
There is no doubt the ads are in bad taste, but in advertising today, sex sells. Advertising is all based on the way a particular individual perceives it. Flipping through any teen magazine, you will most likely come across a Calvin Klein advertisement that portrays his models as runway teenage junkies, young anorexic girls or even children clad in revealing clothing. In 1980, a Calvin Klein ad featured a 15-year-old Brooke Shields, who said that there was “nothing between her and her Calvin’s.” And who can forget the posters of Marky Mark grabbing himself in his cotton briefs, or the anorexic-looking Kate Moss that went topless in an ad. Patrick Carroll, President and General Manager of Calvin Klein Cosmetics Canada said, “All advertising, for fragrances, jeans and underwear, share a similar look that combines creative minds, beautiful faces, buffed bodies, great sound tracks, and imaginative copy that creates advertising that stirs, awakens and often causes controversy. And that their advertising explodes on the media scene.”
Calvin Klein eventually dropped the $6 million dollar campaign after the advertisements were accused of violating child pornography laws. On September 8 the Justice Department began looking into claims that the ads used young models posed in a provocative manner. A Calvin Klein spokeswoman stated that only one of the models used in their ads was under the age of 18. The fifteen-year-old girl that was in his ads was Bijou Phillips, whose mother was aware of the ad and was proud of her daughter.
If the parents of the teen models allowed their children to pose for the advertisements, who are we to blame the CK company for using them. Who are we to look down on Calvin Klein’s ads when you can watch any show on prime time TV and see much worse than what the ads portrayed? Who are we to suggest that the ads are suggestive when all we know is that, in advertising, sex sells and sells big? Isn’t Calvin Klein just giving the public what it wants?
Calvin Klein has publicly stated that the “misunderstood” ads had been intended to “convey the spirit, independence, and inner worth of today’s young people.” Personally, I do not really buy that argument. Is he saying that the teenagers today are always thinking about “it,” doing “it,” or discussing “it.” But, at the same time, I don’t think the public should automatically label him or his company as “perverts” for using sex to sell their products.
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