An ad for menswear brand Suitsupply, which features models in an orgy setting, kissing open-mouthed and tongue-tied, has created anger online.
The ad’s tagline – “The new normal is coming” – references the end of the pandemic and the bacchanalian promise of a post-Covid era that some analysts have called “the roaring 1920s.”
However, the CEO and founder of the company, Fokke de Jong, defended the announcement, telling The Guardian: “Life after the pandemic is on the horizon. Social distancing for extraordinarily long periods of time has conditioned us to fear [the] proximity of others. The campaign is simply a positive outlook on our future where people can come together again and get closer. “
The talk seems to have worked: according to digitaloft.co.uk, searches for the brand have increased 41% in the week since the online ad was launched. But for many, the campaign seems too much, too soon.
“Extreme close-ups of models that are not masked and have visible tongues in some cases are likely to be aimed at getting potential customers to think about buying from Suitsupply,” says Adrianne Pasquarelli, Senior Reporter at Ad Age, “[but] the fact that we are not yet, or even almost yet, in that post-pandemic period makes the announcements even more controversial. Millions are still waiting for vaccines when we hit the one-year mark. “
“Rather than being hot and flustered just for the sake of doing it, all of a sudden there is a social component to these ads that doubles as a comment on people’s longing for the human touch,” says Mario Abad, Fashion Editor at Paper .
Of course, shock advertising is not a new phenomenon. “Explicit fashion advertisements date back to 1980, when Calvin Klein marketed its jeans wearing 15-year-old Brooke Shields,” says Professor Andrew Groves, director of the fashion design course at the University of Westminster. “The more designers like Klein spread their brand on mass-market sidelines, the more they relied on controversial advertising to reach a wider consumer audience.”
Groves says that Klein’s announcements became more explicit as time went on, “reaching a nadir in 1995 with a TV commercial that appeared to be a screen test for a low-budget movie. The audience’s point of view [was] that of the director behind the camera, so we are complicit when he asks the models about their bodies or tells them to take off their clothes. It’s easy to see why it was removed. ” Buzzfeed He has described it as “too creepy”.
A progressive aspect of the latest ads is that they feature same-sex couples. Abad says this is a gamble to attract the attention of the Gen Z customer. “Focused on same-sex couples [to the point] where it becomes the norm, rather than as one-off stunts, will go a long way toward building the kind of authenticity brands preach so much about, ”he says.
Given that suit sales have fallen dramatically as a result of people working from home, Suitsupply’s announcement may be an attempt to restart a struggling market. Last year, the US company Tailored Brands, which controls suit retailers Men’s Wearhouse and Jos A Bank, filed for bankruptcy.
“Showing something provocative, like an orgy, helps build enthusiasm among consumers at a time when suit sales are declining,” says Pasquarelli. “In pre-pandemic times, showing an apparent orgy would get people talking; Now, when many are still socially distancing themselves and trying to keep their germs to themselves, an orgy is even more shocking. That impact can translate into brand awareness. “
However, Groves believes that it will not turn into sales. “The problem with Suitsupply is that whatever the ‘new normal’ is, it will not include a return to orgies or wearing suits anytime soon.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism