Nearing the ten year anniversary of the controversial “child-porn” underwear advertisements, Calvin Klein has launched another raunchy ad campaign for the spring 2009 collection, featuring an orgy of young men and women.
For the latest ad campaign, Calvin Klein hired Steven Meisel, famous for the photography in Madonna’s pornographic “Sex” book in the early 90s. The ads, which can be seen in women’s fashion magazines such as Lucky and Cosmopolitan and soon to be on billboards, are composed of photographs of three to five twenty-somethings sprawled out half naked on each other in various sexual positions. Viewers can see the multimedia version of the ads in an online video considered too explicit to air in the United States.
Calvin Klein has propagated controversial ads in recent history, the most unforgettable being a 1999 advertisement that conjured up images of child pornography. Due to public outcry, the offending ads, which displayed young models showing their underwear and included creepily suggestive dialogue, were removed from the campaign within 24 hours.
But so far, the latest ads have caused little controversy. The lack of outcry may be due to a mostly absent media. CNN and CBS’s "Entertainment Tonight" were the only shows to give the new CK ads any press.
The January 29th edition of “Entertainment Tonight” teased the new Calvin Klein ad campaign throughout the entire segment with hosts Mary Hart and Mark Steines rhetorically asking whether or not the add is “too sexy” or “too hot.” Steines gave the crude video this light-hearted introduction: “In tonight's ‘E.T. Obsession,’ a commercial so hot we can barely show you any of it. The latest TV ad for Calvin Klein jeans will no doubt stop you from channel surfing. And the new print ads, coming to a billboard near you, featuring the same partially naked bodies in compromising positions, will surely bring traffic to a crawl.”
They then showed the online video almost in its entirety. Hart and Steines made light of the sexy nature of the ad and inadvertently pointed out that the ad had little to do with clothing:
STEINES: Now, that’s what I call a jeans commercial. Although I’m not so sure I saw any denim whatsoever.
HART: I’m with you Mark. I definitely saw naked.
STEINES: Yes.HART: Ah, well, that’s all the nudity we have for tonight.
CNN covered the controversial ads on February 17th‘s "American Morning," only briefly mentioning the campaign in a “Recessionistas on the Runway” segment noting that in the struggling economy, designers are trying new tricks to attract buyers. “Calvin Klein is putting out racy ads hoping that shock sells,” CNN correspondent Alina Cho said.
And for Calvin Klein, shock does sell. In 1980, Calvin Klein first made a splash with a magazine and television advertisement featuring a 15-year-old Brooke Shields in CK jeans saying, “What comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” Soon after that ad aired, CK jeans sales soared. Neither CNN nor "Entertainment Tonight" mentioned Calvin Klein’s history of offensive advertising.
In the fall of 2008, a 30-second CK perfume advertisement, featuring model/actress Eva Mendez rolling around in a bed touching herself, was banned in the United States for being too racy. Mendez exposed her nipple in the television ad and is heard saying, “Between love and madness lies obsession…Love ... madness. It's my secret.”
A decade ago, the media helped remove salacious ads from public view. and the could do it again by exposing these ads for what they are – soft core pornography disguised as clothing advertisement.