Exhibit 22-8 Bijan often uses whimsical and controversial ads
with a shopping mall Santa portrayed as a pedophile, and nude photos. The retailer promoted its 2002 Christmas catalog with an advertisement across the plastic covering stating, "Two-hundred and eighty pages of sex and Xmas fun" (Exhibit 22-7).30 A few years ago officials in four states threatened or pursued legal action against the company, which responded by implementing a policy of carding would-be-buyers of the catalog to ensure they are at least 18 years old.
Another company known for its whimsical, and sometimes controversial, ads is Bijan. The fragrance marketer's ads attracted a great deal of attention a few years ago when it decided to forgo the tall, thin, glamorous supermodels typically used in fragrance ads and use very large, naked women instead. The company's founder, Beverly Hills fashion maven Bijan, defended the ads by stating that they were his homage to artists such as Rubens, who used full-figured models (Exhibit 22-8).
Many advertising experts argue that what underlies the increase in the use of shock advertising is the pressure on marketers and their agencies to do whatever it takes to get their ads noticed. However, critics argue that the more advertisers use the tactic, the more shocking the ads have to be to get attention. How far advertisers can go with these appeals will probably depend on the public's reaction. When consumers think the advertisers have gone too far, they are likely to pressure the advertisers to change their ads and the media to stop accepting them.
While marketers and ad agencies often acknowledge that their ads push the limits with regard to taste, they also complain about a double standard that exists for advertising versus editorial television program content. The creative director for Abercrombie & Fitch's agency argues that there is a double standard and hypocrisy in the shock advertising debate: "When advertising uses sex, everybody complains—when editorial does it, nobody cares."31 Advertisers and agency creative directors argue that even the most suggestive commercials are bland compared with the content of many television programs. Ethical Perspective 22-1 discusses the process by which the standards and practices departments of the four major networks review the thousands of commercials they receive each year and try to resolve issues regarding their tastefulness.
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