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aerie underwear campaign embraces real women February 16, 2014

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Perhaps taking a page out of Dove’s book, American Eagle’s sister store for lingerie, aerie, launched a new ad campaign in 2014 embracing real women. The new ads feature unretouched models in the companies apparel, marking a stark contrast to ads coming from competitors like Victoria’s Secret.

So far, the attention given to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. Indeed, the women in the ads are still amazingly attractive and hardly representative of the “average” woman. Yet, as one critic for adweek.com stated, “In a world where Photoshop morphs already super hot models into super hot models with thigh gap and flawless skin and inhuman proportions (Google Victoria’s Secret Photoshop Fails for glorious examples), this is a step in the right direction.”

For more on this new campaign, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How might campaigns like aerie’s change the culture of objectification of women? Is this even possible?

2.  Are such strategies becoming commonplace mainly to combat objectification, or to market products with a greater sense of goodwill?


Dumb comments hurt good companies? Learning from Lululemon December 22, 2013

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Want evidence that PR matters? Ask Lululemon’s executives. The women’s clothing line was quickly becoming a corporate giant, until it hit some snags in 2013. First, there was a problem when the company’s $100 yoga pants were discovered to be see through. The company issued a recall, but failed to really fix the problem. Second, company executive Chip Wilson issued a really dumb statement not long after the mini-crisis, claiming that the pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies. It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.” Wilson’s comment was perceived as blaming fat customers for their problems, and according to the company’s Chief Financial Officer John Currie, it “undoubtedly” hurt sales.”

How bad did Lululemon get hurt by this bad PR? The company recently announced that sales in its fourth quarter would be flat, and shares fell 11 percent after the news. According to The Huffington Post, one marketing research firm also found that women’s perception of the brand dipped four times in 2013, and leaves the company in a tough spot as the new year comes.

For more, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How could Lululemon have dealt with its bad PR in a better way?

2.  What kind of message does Lululemon need to craft to win back consumers?

3.  What does the case study of Lululemon demonstrate about the importance of staying on message?

Dove finds another hit ad campaign with “Sketches” April 29, 2013

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Dove has been the talk of the internet in April 2013 after releasing a new ad called “Real Beauty Sketches.” The company conducted a social experiment featuring seven women who would tell an FBI-trained sketch artist what they looked like. Then, strangers who had just met the women would also tell the sketch artist what the women looked like during a separate meeting. The sketches were dramatically different, with women describing themselves in far harsher terms than they were described by strangers.

While Dove first said that reaction to the ad was amazingly positive, those reactions are now mixed. Some critics are claiming that there is a lack of racial diversity in the ad, and that the company is perpetuating the same beauty myth it is criticizing. Given that the ad is viral now, though, there’s enough evidence to suggest that it has been quite effective.

Despite being effective in reaching millions of viewers, the “Sketches” ad may not succeed in selling soap. According to Ad Age‘s Loren Grossman, while 70 percent of consumers polled said the commercial made them feel better about Dove, only 30 percent reported that they were more likely to buy products from the company.

To see the ad yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the general message of Dove’s “Sketches” ad?

2.  Why has Dove come under attack for the ad?

3.  Why might effective advertising have no impact on products actually being sold?

Missouri candidate for U.S. Senate spikes campaign with “legitimate rape” comment September 2, 2012

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U.S. Rep. Todd Akin won a competitive Republican primary in Missouri to challenge democrat Claire McCaskill for her U.S. Senate seat. Akin’s campaign, which led McCaskill in almost every poll, saw his fate change quickly after making a controversial comment about abortion and rape during a televised interview. Asked if he supports abortions in the case of rape, Akin stated, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.” Akin then falsely added, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Following heavy criticism by his opponent, the media, and several Republicans, Akin issued an apology, stating: “In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.” However, Akin added, “I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.”

Refusing to bow out of the race as Republican leadership quickly requested, Akin now finds himself in a war with his own party. Republicans have called for fundraisers and the GOP to abandon his ticket, even if he might have a chance to unseat McCaskill. Akin, whose campaign is run by a small circle of family members, is now attacking his critics, claiming that pro-life voters are telling him that they are uncomfortable with the GOP’s knee-jerk reaction to leave him hanging.

To see Akin’s gaffe, and his uncomfortable apology released after the incident, watch the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why was Akin’s original statement so controversial? Why were Republicans so quick to distance themselves from his claim?

2. Why was Akin’s apology (seen in the second video) insufficient in repairing his image?

3.  Can Akin win the election? If not, can his career survive his gaffe?

4.  How might Akin’s resistance hurt the Republican party?

New web campaign with Laura Luke shocks and sheds light on domestic abuse July 28, 2012

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Laura Luke shocked her hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers when she, a self-taught makeup artist with a huge following, instructed viewers how to cover up bruising and other injuries sustained after being physically abused. In “How to Look Your Best the Morning After,” Luke demonstrates how to cover up fresh bruises with foundation, and how to hide injuries after “getting pushed against a coffee table.” The video PSA was generally praised for depicting the reality of domestic violence.

As Luke told Ad Week, the video was very personal for her, as she was a victim in an abusive relationship. Although it wasn’t physically violent, she stated, “I had a bad experience in the past with a previous boyfriend. He never physically hurt me but I did sometimes fear what would happen next if I said the wrong thing. He could be overprotective and embarrass me in front of my work colleagues or friends because of his aggressive behavior. Sometimes it was like living with a volcano which could erupt at any second—I felt I was walking on egg shells just to keep him from exploding and smashing something across the room.”

Explaining the purpose of the video, Luke stated, “To open up and be honest about something like this makes us feel weak among our friends and family, but in actual fact there is nothing weak about it. Those who are abusive behind closed doors are the ones who are weak. Back then I knew the whole situation wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know about the help that is out there. And that is why I wanted to work with Refuge—to get the message out to anyone who may need help and support that it’s time to stop covering it up.”

To see Luke’s controversial PSA yourself, watch the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Was Laura Luke’s video shocking and offensive? If so, why does that strategy simultaneously work to raise awareness?

2.  Why was Luke’s video on her own YouTube channel so effective in reaching a target audience for a domestic-abuse PSA?

3.  How does Luke’s PSA demonstrate the benefits of YouTube over television as a medium for public service announcements and advertisements?

Another celebrity Tweet disaster? The case of Kasey Kahne January 5, 2012

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NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne landed in hot water in December 2011 after using Twitter to express his disgust with a woman breastfeeding in a grocery store. Kahne Tweeted: “Just walking though supermarket. See a mom breast feeding little kid. Took second look because obviously I was seeing things. I wasn’t!” Kahne called the incident “nasty.” Once his followers and many others criticized his comments in addition to his claim that one critic was a “dumb b*tch,” Kahne quickly apologized, stating:

I understand that my comments regarding breastfeeding posted on Twitter were offensive to some people. For that, I apologize. It was in no way my intention to offend any mother who chooses to breastfeed her child, or, for that matter, anyone who supports breastfeeding children. I want to make that clear.

According to one of Kahne’s breastfeeding critics, he may have had little choice but to apologize considering the makeup of NASCAR’s fan base. As Samantha Van Vleet wrote for Yahoo:

“With roughly 50% of NASCAR’s fan base being composed of women, Kahne’s comments may have alienated some fans of the sport. With roughly 75% of new mothers choosing to breastfeed their babies at birth, Kahne is very likely to have hit a nerve with some of these fans.”

For more on Kahne’s Twitter disaster, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why might internet users want to follow celebrities like Kahne on Twitter and other social networking sites? Why is this activity enjoyable?

2.  What are the risks of celebrities using Twitter as an unfiltered site of direct communication with fans?

3.  Was Kahne’s apology sufficient in gaining forgiveness from his disappointed fans? Why, or why not?

The Power of the Euphemism: The evolution of tampon commercials March 25, 2009

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For years advertisers have wrestled with the challenge of selling tampons. As Seth Stevenson of Slate wrote a few years ago, most tampon commercials used fear appeals and included scenes in high school, somewhere around attractive men, or situations in which women were wearing white clothing. Only recently have advertising firms attempted to use different strategies to sell feminine hygiene products. Playtex, for example, has linked their brand to active, athletic lifestyles, while o.b. has appeared more bohemian through promoting an earthy feel that is approved by gynecologists. Tampax, though, has moved toward humor in the past few years, and has demonstrated more candor than ever before.

For classic tampon commercials, see the following:

For examples of the new “Mother Nature” ads by Tampax, see the following:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why were advertisers in previous years forced to speak of tampons and menstruation in coded language?

2.  What are euphemisms, and how were they used in tampon commercials in the past?  Even in this age of candor, how are euphemisms still used in advertising tampons?

3.  How are current tampon advertisements more open or direct?

4.  How might the mass media have played a role in promoting a culture where it’s finally okay to discuss menstruation?