Calvin Klein is a brand that has been gaining the attention of the media for years. Though their campaigns show no major change when looking into the way the models have been photographed, a lot of the time, especially in the early 90s there was a lot of controversy around some of the ads that were produced. Celebrities such as Eva Mendes have said that it’s not a Calvin ad without some controversy.
The brand is known for portraying men and women in a very stereotypical way, men being what would be considered the ideal masculine figure and women shown in an overly sexual way.
Though Calvin Klein has received a lot of backlash over the years for their commercials, they still do not struggle when it comes to selling their products.
Steven Meisel is the main photographer for Calvin Klein campaigns. His work previously was never seen as controversial when it came to photographing for other companies, however, for Calvin Klein there was a lot of negative attention brought by the public as well as departments such as The Justice department.
Starting with one of their earliest campaigns realised in 1992, featuring the super model Kate Moss and photographed by the fashion photographer Herb Ritts. At the time of this shoot, model Kate Moss was only 17 and Mark Wahlberg was in his 20’s was also part of the reason the ad received backlash due to Kate Moss’ age. At the time Neil Kraft who at that time was the senior VP for Calvin Klein had said “It was a really nice combination – he appealed to women, he appealed to gay men and he appealed to men who wanted to be him.”
Soon after the adverts featuring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Moss was shot for Calvin’s new perfume called obsession. Though the print ads didn’t gain any controversy, the TV commercial was said to be suggestive of the “heroine chic” movement, and had glamourized it.
Calvin Klein released a campaign promoting their jeans. This campaign, which was shown in print showed a group of young models wearing the products but was deemed risqué and somewhat suggestive by viewers. Though Calvin Klein was known for his provocative adverts, its audience felt that this campaign had pushed the boat a bit too much. The company faced major criticism from child welfare authorities, leaders of the Catholic League, journalists and the American Family Association.
The campaign received so many complaints the Justice department had to hold an investigation to see if the company had violated any child pornography laws, but were soon dropped when evidence had proved all models were indeed adults.
“I’ve been a fan of Calvin Klein and his work. His position has been always a very sexual one. But I feel he crossed a line in the allusions to children or teen-agers and sexuality.” (Elliott, 1995).
As the campaign was mainly shown in magazines that would be viewed by a younger audience, there was concern around the ads being over-sexualized which would effect the youth.
“At best the campaign looked like amateur porn, but most parent groups felt that the images along with the [creepy] commercials were borderline child porn.” – The New York Times
Though there has been so much controversy around the advertising with Calvin Klein, there wasn’t any major decline in their sales.
This campaign, which was for kids underwear was probably one of the most controversial ads by Calvin Klein. It was said to be “nothing more than pornography” by The American Family Association who continued on to say “whether you like it or not you have paedophiles in society, anything could get them excited. Detrimental, irresponsible and reckless”
Eva Mendes, actress had been the new face for the perfume Obsession. This particular advert wasn’t seen by a vast amount
of the public as the US network for being to provocative banned it. Even with the ad being pulled the actress had said, alvin, totally provocative and a little controversial.”“that means the ads are totally C
This particular advert was photographed by Steven Meisel, but was soon banned in the US due to the provocative nature shown.
In 2010, the advert was put out for the public to see. They had unofficially titled the advert ‘foursome’. A 50ft billboard poster was on display for the public to see in New York. When viewed by the public a lot of people interpreted it to look as like a foursome. Again The American Family Association went as far as putting in an appeal for the advert and also sent in an estimated 15,000 complaints to Calvin Klein.
Lara Stone who models in this advert showed nothing new from Calvin Klein, but was thought to subliminally spell out the word ‘Fuck’ from the positioning of the model and the type. As it was down to interpretation the advert wasn’t axed from being seen by consumers.
Overall my thoughts for Calvin Kleins form of marketing is that, though the company has dealt with lot of controversy over the years, their sales don’t seem to be effected by the over sexualised imagery. Consumers may buy into the idea of being what Calvin Klein portrays for men and women, which is very stereotypical. What the brand represents seems to be the key feature as to why people purchase the products, not necessarily for the quality, which is reflected on the prices. With all the controversy that we have seen over the years from Calvin Klein, it seems to be what we expect from the brand and would expect any different. Boundaries have been pushed majorly, which could also tie into the reasons why people purchase the items, looking at the target age group for the brand, they are more inclined to show interest in something that isn’t socially acceptable.
The effect that it has on the consumers could be that they are simply buying to the lifestyle that is portrayed by Calvin Klein. This meaning that their understanding as to what men and women should ideally look like is come from brands such as this one.