American Apparel have developed a reputation for producing shocking and controversial ads, most of which flash some flesh (exposing significantly more than their competitors). Although this has given American Apparel a strong brand image, I believe their approach is questionable. Their ad’s lack a clear message and brand promise and I am often left wondering whom these ads are targeting…
…These messages have been particularly confusing in American Apparel’s recent risqué print campaign – The provocative illustrations of, arguably underage, girls drawn by pornographic artist Boris Lopez go too far. The age of the girls depicted in the image make the ad distasteful and American Apparel should be warned that people may develop the impression of their campaigns as being more exploitative than explorative.
Ok, so sex sells. But do we know what message we are sending? The same communicational care should be taken with sexual elements to ensure the message which is crafted is the message the audience WANT to receive…When ordering steak at a restaurant you expect it to come flame grilled and seasoned; You would not be impressed if a raw slab of meat thrown in your face! As American Apparel teeter on the edge of bankruptcy, with reports of their annual sales being down nearly 9%, we behold a clear demonstration that it’s not enough to stir up a hype in order to increase sales.
…So what would I do if I were to acquire the AA account?
American Apparel is a brand targeted at young adults and is known for its brightly coloured attire. This brand is about expression. This brand is about non-conformity.
I would, therefore, advertise American Apparel using other forms of expression:
· Dance –
With a twist on the ‘catwalk’, dancers wearing a range of AA clothing (from sportswear through to lingerie) would perform a routine that would fit into the urban image of the brand. There would be opportunity for a risqué element to be incorporated; however the main sex appeal would come from the talent, accomplishment and empowerment seen in such an act.
As AA has its own dance range, this campaign could aim to initially engage the performing arts individual. The audience could be invited, across a range of social media platforms, to create and share their own piece of dance/ music for the advert. The winners (voted by corporate judge or popularity) would then feature in the adverts. As the calibre of the performance would want to be high, this competition would be specifically aimed at adult performing arts schools. Not only would this increase the profile of American Apparel within a relevant target group, it is likely these people already lead open minded and non-conformist lifestyles that support the brands image. If the AA were to develop status within this group it is likely that the support could be used to leverage the brand across other social groups.
The performance would be exposed through the medium of TV and social media. Supporting print material would also be placed in magazines targeted at the same demographic group and within specialised performing arts journals. Posters would be located in shopping centres/clubs/theatres.
· Art –
Already, the promotional material produced by American Apparel is not what you’d get from an average photo shoot. However, I believe that if the images were adapted – with toning, lighting and shading- AA could turn their potentially offensive work into upmarket art, and even show some nipple in a tasteful way. The art could also be used to reinforce the brands ideals (of expression and non-conformity) by, for example, featuring brightly coloured clothing on model’s silhouette between otherwise darkened forms.
Non product specific art (not showing clothes) could also be used to exacerbate the brands message and link in the concept of body form. Using the same principle, dark silhouettes of inanimate objects (such as trees) could be used to decorate American Apparells’ stores. Within these silhouettes would be a brightly coloured tree formed, not as a drawing, but through a mass of interlinking bodies…