American Apparel are well known for their well-priced, good quality clothing, but more specifically for the direction which their advertising has taken over the past few years. An increasingly sexualised approach has featured barely-disguised innuendo and barely clothed models, some of which are better known for their careers in adult film. It's a daring approach, which seemed to be working for a while. But as the JoGFM points out, no longer.
They compared reactions to AAs edgy advertising on ther Facebook page to those of a competitor who is also known for controversial campaigns: Dolce & Gabbana. D&G have been featuring a "sexy housewives" branding for the past three years. Surely a little behind the times, and ripe for a social media skewering. Right?
The results were eye-opening. AA's ads were described by visitors to the page as "sleazy," "tasteless", "trashy" and, more uncomfortably, as promoting "sex slavery/sex-trafficking." D&Gs ads, on the other side, featured female characters that the audience saw as "strong", "confident" and "empowered". Ouch.
The strange thing is, of course, that AA have a great history of featuring their strong ethical background in ads. As one of the few multinationals to produce their clothes in the US using local workers who are well-paid and treated, AA don't really need to go down the controversial route. The JoGFM are equally bewildered, saying:
...it would seem to be wise for AA to cease its inappropriate marketing campaigns and focus on ethical marketing claims. It is perhaps time for the company to consider its social responsibility role from both an ideological (e.g. AA’s sweatshop-free claims) and a utilitarian ethical viewpoint (e.g. financial productivity through ethical claims and brand reputation) in order to balance corporate social responsibility and profitability.”With the departure of AA founder Dov Charney (under something of a cloud, it has to be said–he's under indictment for multiple claims of sexual harassment) maybe it's time for AA to really push their solid ethical credentials. Those are, after all, the reason why we stock them here at The Pier (although the range we carry is slightly different to retail and we can't sell them uncustomised). AA do the best basics out there in a way that many other fashion retailers would do well to copy. Push that, and pay attention when your customers tell you that your ad campaigns are a turn-off.