MY Controversial Advertising.

Main Focus: Fashion Industry


On the 8th day of each month (by the time the magazines actually get to my front door it’s already a week into the month) I run downstairs, grab my mail from the letterbox, rip off the protective plastic and flip through my stunning magazines, VOGUE Australia and VOGUE America. And yes, I have to hold myself back from drooling all over the pages. I am IN LOVE with the FASHION INDUSTRY.

After reading about this part of the assessment in the IMC Unit Outline, I dug up my old Vogue collections on the hunt to be shocked! I pretended to be a regular Vogue reader (without a hidden agenda) and page after page waited to be offended by shocking content. Here’s what I found! Now, because I don’t own a scanner and because ripping out a page in Vogue is as good as loosing a finger, I found the advertisements via online sources.

It was very apparent to me when collecting the following controversial advertisements from the fashion category that it is used so often by fashion brands to create a competitive advantage and catch the viewers attention. But why? In my opinion it is because the fashion industry likes to be at the forefront of  trend-setting. Using risque, shocking and subversive imagery (usually overly sexualised) in their advertising tactics, assists fashion brands in being seen in the consumers eye as a risk-taking, trend-setting, show-stopping, fashion forward brand. “A recent study in Advertising & Society Review found that 20 percent of all magazine and Web ads involve sexual images” writes David Wallias of Adweek – media news magazine (Wallias 2012).

For those who find fashion bleak (it’s ok, I don’t judge) I have included controversial advertising from other categories, so read on! There is something here for everyone!

One more thing, just so you leave this page a little wiser and educated-up on controversial advertising, I have supplied a small discussion illustrating the objectives of the ad, the nature of the controversy and of course, my opinion under each ad.




Brand: Dolce & Gabbana

Advertisement viewed in Vogue America 2008

The above controversial advertisement depicts a young woman (model) wearing a black corest-like bathing suit paired with strappy black stiletto heels pinned down by a man of similar age wearing nothing but sunglasses and denim jeans down around his lower hips. The overall appeal of this ad is very sexy and fashion-forward. The advertising agency that composed this print media for Dolce & Gabbana have attempted to elicit feelings of sexual fantasy for women due to the use of five attractive European male models used in the ad. However the nature of the controversy surrounds the “sex sells” notion that most high-end fashion brands employ in particular advertising campaigns. Some have said this advertisement shows a demeaning side to advertising on the woman’s part, whist promoting debate about violence against women (Dolce and Gabbana Advert). It seems to me like this interpretation can most certainly be taken, though I do not see the ad like that. I believe those that are interpreting the ad to be offensive and require the brand to be more gender sensitive in their integrated marketing communications are simply not the target audience.


Brand: Harvey Nichols

Advertisement viewed by Harvey Nichols database customers by receiving a flyer promoting the 2012 pre-summer sale (Arthurs 2012)


The above Harvey Nichols advertising campaign depicts a tall, very attractive, blonde model wearing the latest summer fashion wear who appears to have “wet her pants with excitement” from the department stores’ summer sale, as mentioned by Deborah Arthurs in an online news website – part of the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail (Arthurs 2012). The ad image has accompanied copy “The Harvey Nichols Sale – try to contain your excitement”. The objectives of the ad campaign as quoted in the article by Harvey Nichols spokesperson was to be “playful and inoffensive” whilst trying to take a more creative and light hearted direction in contrast to previous campaigns by the conservative brand. The nature of the controversy surrounds the taboo topic of someone – and excuse me whilst I say this – wetting themselves. It’s not necessarily spoken about, nor has it been seen linked to a high end fashion department store in an advertising campaign ever before. I believe it is most certainly shocking and distasteful. Having a very brief understanding of the Harvey Nichols customer (after visiting the store and walking out moments later because I felt like I had stepped onto a Chanel Haute Couture runway) would allow me to say that I do not think it would have been as well received in terms of being “playful” and “tongue-in-cheek” (Arthurs 2012).


Brand: Tom Ford 2007 print media campaign

Viewed in Times magazine May 2012 issue

The above Tom Ford print media advertisement illustrated the designer men’s cologne lodged in between a woman’s bare breast covered only by her hands (fingers nails painted a sultry red). Wallis of Adweek writes, the strategy was taken “to a disruptive yet effective extreme” by creative producer Mars (Wallis 2012). The article states the following said by creative producer: ““Because [Ford] is such an out gay man,” says Mars, he “had to go against the gay stereotype” to prove the scent wasn’t just for homosexuals” (Wallis 2012). I find this an interesting take on an extremely controversial ad campaign. The bareness of the model’s breasts is enough to shock and offend me! Taking into account that the creative director of the Tom Ford brand (Mr Tom Ford himself) is in fact a homosexual, does not change the nature of the controversy, as it is simply still overly sexualised and offensive. Understanding that the ad was placed in a male dominant magazine readership does change the goal orientation in my view. I find the ad extremely tongue-in-cheek, however effective in its creative execution based on its understanding of the target audience and ad placement.


TVC1 Title: ‘Walk of Shame’ Campaign

Brand: Harvey Nichols

TVC viewed during peak time hours on main television stations in the UK during the 2011 Christmas period.

Check this out! I was quite outraged after seeing the Print Advertisement from Harvey Nichols located above (mainly because the brand is so conservative along with its customers), and so I looked into any other recently offensive advertisements published recently and I found this TVC for Harvey Nichols. Not as bluntly shocking, though still, quite offensive in its acceptance of the urban ‘one night stand’ and ‘walk of shame’ as noticed in the ad’s copy (see images 4 and 7).

The following images are screen shots from the Harvey Nichols Television Advertising Campaign, 2011. If you have a chance, here is the URL to the Advertisement via YouTube:

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As seen in the above images (screen shots taken from the TVC) and mentioned in the above article, the advertisement shows young women in the early hours of the morning making their way home after a “one-night-stand” in “last night’s” not so fashion-forward and daytime-nightime adaptable clothing. A slogan saying “avoid the walk of shame this season” then appears and is followed by a shot of a well-dressed woman confidently returning home at dawn wearing a dress from Harvey Nichols, unlike the other women (Harvey Nichols criticised for sale advert showing models wetting themselves with excitement 2012).

The objectives of the ad prove to be in line with the brand’s previous print media ad campaign (see above – “try to contain your excitement” campaign) in terms of promoting light-hearted, playful tongue-in-cheek brand awareness. The nature of the controversy lies with idea that the campaign “reinforce[s] negative stereotypes of women [who] choose to have casual sex” writes Mark Sweeney of Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom in article located above (Sweeney 2012). Some found it to take a mocking tone as it depicted those that were less fortunate looking and most probably who could not afford to wear clothing from Harvey Nichols, in a negative light. I thought the TVC was quite clever and enjoyed the wittiness of it in a light hearted way, though I can understand where some women are coming from in seeing a clear contrast in their depiction of those that wear Harvey Nichols and those that do not.



TVC1: ‘Cleans your balls’ Campaign

Brand: Lynx

Client: Unilever

Advertising Agency: Soap Digital Creative International Agency

Viewed after 8pm on Network Nine and Channel 10 in July/August 2012

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The Lynx (and Axe, the American version of the Unilever brand) TVC campaign titled “Cleans your balls” takes sexual innuendo’s to a new level. The images above (screen shots taken from the TVC on Youtube) along with the above trade press article found on the online HeraldSun website introduce the incredibly controversial and offensive campaign. The TVC shows Australian TV personality Sophie Monk act away as a tennis professional and an authority on cleanliness. She uses the Lynx body wash to illustrate the effectiveness of the product by using sporting balls belonging to members of the audience. It was very obvious the ads were used to humour the incredible results seen through the use of the body wash, and to preview a risque and humorous toned Lynx campaign. It isn’t unlike Lynx to release such a controversial campaign. The Lynx Jet campaign was banned in some countries because of its controversy despite its incredible success in brand awareness and in sales being the most effective Lynx campaign ever.

Although some believe that the campaign is “sending teenage boys the wrong message” writes Kate Jones whilst quoting a member of the lobby group ‘Collective Shout’ (Jones 2012), I find it clever and somewhat-not-unexpected from a brand like Lynx. If it was Dove for Men then I would be 100% with the lobbyists, however, knowing how well Lynx speak to their target market, how large their market share is, and how high their brand awareness already is, I believe using shocking content like controversial advertising as a technique in this TVC is in line with the usual brand objectives, clever and innovative.


TVC1: ‘The tongue quest’, 2003

Brand: Toohey’s Extra Dry

Client: Lion Nathan Australia

Advertising agency: BMF Sydney

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TVC1: ‘Ultimate Care Down There’ Integrated marketing campaign, 2008

Brand: U by Kotex

Client: Kimberly Clark

Advertising Agency: The Brand Shop, NSW

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Article URL:

Reference List: 

Arthurs, D 2012, ‘Harvey Nichols spark outrage with ‘disgusting’ advertising campaign showing women wetting themselves’, Mail Online, Associated Newspapers Limited, 8 June, viewed 1 September 2012, <>

Dolce and Gabbana Advert n.d., Gender Links for Equality and Justice, viewed 1 September 2012, <>

Harvey Nichols criticised for sale advert showing models wetting themselves with excitement 2012,, Telegraph Media Group Limited, 8 June, viewed 1 September 2012, <> 

Jones, K 2012, ‘Sophie Monk’s Clean Your Balls ad for Lynx doesn’t wash with lobby group’,, Herald Sun, 12 June, viewed 1 September 2012, <>

Sweeney, M 2012, ‘Harvey Nichols’ ‘Walk of Shame’ TV ad avoids ban’, theguardian, Guardian News and Media Limited, 21 March, viewed 1 September 2012, <>

Wallis, D 2012, ‘The Breast of Advertising From Hooters to the cover of ‘Time,’ does the strategy sell or repel?’, Adweek, 4 June, viewed 1 September 2012, <>


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