January 20, 2010

American Appalling or American Appealing?

A bit of premeditated wavering to start this post off: for the record, I’m not supporting nor bashing the goals or tactics of these ads. To be fair, I very much enjoy womanly beauty. Very much so. I also disagree with gratuitously objectifying anyone – no matter what gender – for the purpose of making scads of money. That’s what pimpin’ is for.

I’m also not looking to be the moral compass of my generation here. I’m simply raising this subject because it’s intriguing, relevant in the adverting world and downright controversial. Some people love these ads. Some are infuriated by them. Let the floodgates of comments open!

By now we’ve all seen the effect that American Apparel has had on the fashion and marketing industries. Their no-frills, high-quality, mad- in-America clothing has become a hit with urban hipsters at the same time – and very likely because – their advertising has changed the face of pop American fashion.

First made distinctive by a gritty photography style, alternative models and short, curt messaging, the advertising has recently taken an even more gritty, urban and downright carnal turn.

So much so that Style Crave just released their list of the “50 Sluttiest American Apparel Ads of All Time” (NSFW!!). Wait, re-read that: 50. Sluttiest… 50! It just goes to show that if your short list is 50 items long, you’re really trying to own the market in smut advertising. Hell, AA is even hiring adult movie stars as their models these days.

Now to be fair, other major players, such as Victoria’s Secret, have famously used overt sex to sell for a long, long time. But they sell lingerie, not socks and sleepers, so you gotta expect some flesh. VS also has a much more dreamlike, fantastical feel to it. AA’s ads are straight raunchy.

And the extend of their lasciviousness is directly matched by the public’s polarized response to these ads. A lot of people (read: men) love the ads or can at least find the hidden humor in the overly sexualized poses. Other people have a visceral disgust to what they consider the obscene objectification of women.

Listen, I’m not here to say who’s right or wrong. That’s the job of the people who decide public decency.

Are a lot of these ads hot? Yeah. Do some of them toe the line of extreme inappropriateness? Uh huh. Do they sell a shit load of panties? I think the numbers speak for themselves. But at what cost?

So what do you think? Leave a comment…