Calvin Klein’s Controversial “Kiddie Porn” Ads, a Strategic Marketing Plan or Ethical Nightmare?

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  • Topic: Advertising, Child pornography, Calvin Klein
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  • Published : May 29, 2013
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Calvin Klein’s controversial “Kiddie Porn” ads, a strategic marketing plan or ethical nightmare?

Hannah Seaman
NMC490
Spring 2013

Calvin Klein, a popular American designer has been known for presenting controversial and sexually stimulating advertisements to build his multimillion-dollar fashion empire (Bloomberg, 2013). It started with under garment bearing Brooke Shield slowly and seductively telling viewers that “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” in 1980. However that was just child’s play in comparison to an ad campaign that ran in 1995 that gained the title the “kiddie porn ad” (Associated Press, 1999), and even prompted an FBI investigation. The campaign sparked a number of ethical questions including where a line should be drawn between stimulating and fashionable art and raunchy and exploitative content in advertisements. The set up was just this; the ad took place in what looked like to be a dingy wood-paneled basement that could have either been a glorified closet or a the room you wouldn’t want to find yourself after a night a bad decisions (Barlow, 2008). Either way, the environment was definitely not “kid friendly” to say the least. A photographer stood out of frame and used his deep and hair-raising voice to ask the scantily clad models a series of uncomfortable questions ranging from asking one of the models if he thinks he could rip off his shirt, and then promptly gawks over his physique. In another, the voice tells one of the female models that she “looks like a movie star” where she promptly replies, “I am”, he then proceeds to ask her “have you even made love in a film?” and when she confirms, the voices simply lets out a murmured chuckle to himself and then the clip ends and fades to the Calvin Klein brand logo. The 30-second spots conjured up harsh criticism that even gained the attention of the FBI, where they investigated the possibility of child pornography charges (Barlow, 2008). Nothing was ever charged...
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