It’s not often that the Daily (Ad) Biz has been in agreement with Bob Garfield as we have had our share of bad blood. However, when a man is right, he is right no matter what disagreements have come before.
I have to say that Garfield, in his review of Abercrombie’s new spinoff store Gilly Hicks, Sydney, is right.
The new brand, which sells underwear to teens and has nothing to do with Australia except for the “Down Under” reference that is probably funny to kids in high school, has created a lifestyle narrative that is, to quote Garfield, “You’re 16, and you are therefore a walking-talking hormone engine, so why not visit our website, declare yourself at least 18 and watch our semi-soft-porn vignette? There are nipples involved!”
Is Abercrombie all that different from other brands that use sex to sell? American Apparel and even PETA do it:
I feel a lot like my Mom for saying this, but even though sex sells and even though it really sells underwear to teens (because they are more willing than more to suspend disbelief – or more desperately flailing for anything to help them – and think that something like Gilly Hicks underwear or Axe body spray will make them more desirable), why is this something that we, as adults, are okay doing? We are selling teens on a lifestyle choice that has serious consequences.
To go back to Garfield, “the normalization of casual sex is simply a reflection of the real world, where increasingly anything goes down under. We can wince all we want, but this is one the culture has decided for us.”
That may be true that culture says its okay, but we are the advertisers. We are the planners and creatives and account people who make this work happen. It may be cool and edgy and fun from our hipster ivory towers and maybe we even live like our advertising – I know that a couple of guys in my office wish that they did – but I have serious reservations about selling a lifestyle with such terrible side effects for teens (a group that is uniquely ill-equipped to make good choices).
I am all about personal responsibility and the culture says that selling sex to teens is okay…but call me prude, I just don’t think that it’s right.
Not to mention that it is creatively unimaginative.