Who doesn't remember a doe eyed girl proclaiming, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins" in a national advertising campaign? I am sure you do remember because it was Brooke Shields and it was highly controversial at the time because when it aired in 1980, Brooke Shields was only 15 years old.
Calvin Klein opened his first eponymous store in 1968. He spent the next twenty years growing a brand that would become a world-wide name. During that time the main consistency was eye-catching advertising. Working with famous photographers Bruce Weber and Richard Avedon, the creative license caught people's attention. And Calvin Klein was on everyone's lips.
Often racy, often talked about, and often provoking contention, Calvin Klein has featured the semi-nude bodies of famous personalities from Djimon Hounsou and Kate Moss to Kate Bosworth and Charlize Theron.
Facing bankruptcy in the early 90's, he came back with a vengeance with the marketing of his underwear line and CK One.
And who can forget the infamous Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) campaign from that time. I mean, he was grabbing his package after all. On a forty foot billboard in Times Square. Subtle? I don't think subtle is what Calvin had in mind.
Calvin Klein has manufactured a reputation as edgy. The tendency to shock seems par for the course. But is it becoming trite and stale?
Last year, a campaign featuring nude ads of Eva Mendes were banned by numerous mainstream media outlets. The outcome? A percentage of people sought to find the contraband by any means they could. Increased magazine sales for GQ, Elle, W, and Vanity Fair all which featured the ads? Yes.
So that there is current grist over a Calvin Klein ad is not surprising. The newest campaign features a billboard comprised entirely of racy creativity and pure controversy. And its the current cause celebre' for Calvin Klein.
Located on the side of a building in the Soho neighborhood of New York, this billboard features fairly youthful (translation: teenagers?) models wearing only jeans and engaged in all kinds of a loving embrace. A young woman is lying on one young man, while kissing another, while yet another lies just adjacent to them with a look of, well, I think you know that look. Some local residents call it provocative while others call it inappropriate and seedy. Multiple associations focused on families and children are furious at what they call highly sexualized imagery in a high traffic area. It is located very close to a school.
A Calvin Klein spokesperson said the "intention was to create a very sexy campaign that speaks to our targeted demographic."
This isn't the first time people have come out to denounce CK's efforts to get attention. A huge controversy in 1999 with an ad campaign involving young teens was found so offensive and borderline child porn the community and media flexed their muscles to terminate the placement of any of these ads.
Owned by Phillips-Van Heusen since 2002, Calvin maintained heavy involvement with the creative direction until recently. The theme of his thirty year legacy carries on with the ongoing embroilment and chatter about these ads.
Seedy? I don't know. Racy? Of course. Highly sexual? Absolutely. Civilized enough for mainstream media? Its questionable. Appropriate for a neighborhood in which kids walk to school? Well, as a parent, that's dicey.
Is that porridge too hot? Or just right? You decide.