Lane Bryant vs. FOX and ABC: Publicity Stunt?
By Gary Susman Posted Apr 22nd 2010 08:00PM
But are the networks really displaying a double standard, or is Lane Bryant's claim just a publicity stunt? Is this all just a tempest in a D-cup, an effort to make Lane Bryant seem provocative, controversial and sexy?
The ad in question, which Lane Bryant has posted at its Web site (which calls the spot "The Lingerie Commercial Fox and ABC Did Not Want Their Viewers to See"), shows a curvy woman trying on various articles of lingerie, checking an appointment on her smartphone ("Meet Dan for lunch"), then heading out of the house wearing nothing but a bra and panties under her trench coat for a presumed nooner with Dan. A little salacious for the family hour? Perhaps, but it's not too different from any other lingerie ad on TV, except that the model in the commercial is voluptuous, not toothpick-thin. Watch:
And that's the point raised by Lane Bryant in a complaint the retailer posted Wednesday on its own Inside Curve blog. The post claims that ABC rejected the ad as unfit for 'Dancing,' except perhaps during the final moments of the show, and that FOX sent it back three times asking for edits before agreeing to air it on 'Idol.' This despite similar ads from Victoria's Secret and Playtex running on both shows. Why? "Too much cleavage" was the networks' complaint, according to Inside Curve.
As Inside Curve notes, ABC and FOX show plenty of eyebrow-raising programming in the primetime hours during which kids are likely to be perched in front of the TV. "These are the same networks that have scantily-clad housewives so desperate they seduce every man on the block," writes Lane Bryant's blogger, "and don't forget Bart Simpson, who has shown us the moon more often than NASA, all during what they call 'prime time.'"
But is there any truth behind the blogger's claim that what ABC and FOX truly object to is that the bare flesh on display here belongs to a plus-size model? "Our new commercials represent the sensuality of the curvy woman who has more to show the world than the typical waif-like lingerie model," the blogger writes. "What we didn't know was that the networks, which regularly run Victoria's Secret and Playtex advertising on the very shows from which we're restricted, would object to a different view of beauty."
While it's true that TV seldom presents plus-sized women as sexy (in either ads or in the programming surrounding them), there's no indication that ABC or FOX objected to the Lane Bryant model's ample assets. A FOX source told PopEater that Lane Bryant was treated like any other advertiser for the same product, that 'Idol' has aired Playtex lingerie ads with plus-sized models and that Victoria's Secret (unlike Lane Bryant) agreed to edit its current ad to air during the 9PM results show. And while FOX did balk at airing the Lane Bryant spot at 8PM without edits, it has agreed to show the ad uncut during the 9PM hour of 'Idol' next week. So much for the commercial "FOX... did not want their viewers to see."
ABC issued a statement in which it also denied any double standards and hinted that Lane Bryant was more interested in generating publicity from controversy than actually placing its ad on 'Dancing.' "Their statements are not true," the ABC statement said, regarding Lane Bryant's allegations. "The ad was accepted to run in 'DWTS.' Lane Bryant was treated absolutely no differently than any advertiser for the same product. We were willing to accommodate them, but they chose to seek publicity instead."
Lane Bryant's spokesperson, however, told PopEater that ABC rejected its ad for all but the final minutes of 'Dancing' while running a commercial for Victoria's Secret that was similar in every respect except for the weight of the model. "We have never experienced this level of rejection – especially with what was clearly already approved and running on their network," said Holly Baird of Los Angeles PR firm Sitrick and Company, which the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer has hired to field inquiries about the ad. (Lane Bryant also directed Zimmerman Advertising, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agency that created the commercial, to forward all questions about it to Sitrick.)
"The only difference between our work and [Victoria's Secret's] work appeared to be the size of the models," Baird said. "We do not believe beauty has a size. The networks' reluctance to approve our spots appear to be discriminatory to plus-sized women everywhere."
The controversy over an ad that hasn't even aired yet certainly seems an effective (and inexpensive) way for Lane Bryant to make a splash in a national TV ad market that it's only barely dipped its toes into for the last couple of years, during a recession in which many companies drastically cut back on their ad budgets. A report from media research firm Kantar Media shows that the clothing chain bought $1.13 million worth of TV time in 2008 but only $1,000 last year. Now, its re-entry into the TV marketplace is getting all sorts of free publicity.
Even so, if this is just a move to generate hype, it could have been a lot more effective, suggested advertising industry reporter Willow Duttge. "If this were a too-hot-for-TV publicity stunt," Duttge told PopEater, "why wouldn't they make the ad even racier, even more controversial?"
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