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Click on the link to see the ad. Thoughts on this?
From Zappos, an Unadorned Approach
by Tanzina Vega
Monday, July 11, 2011
If sex sells, then nudity cannot be far behind. At least that is what Zappos, the online retailer, hopes with its new advertising campaign featuring naked models doing everyday things like jogging, hailing a cab and playing Frisbee in public.
The campaign was created by Mullen, the company's agency of record and part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, and is intended to highlight the company's apparel. "Zappos has a quirky culture," said Tim Vaccarino, group creative director at Mullen. "Doing something typical is not really them."
The campaign departs from Mullen's last work with Zappos, which featured (clothed) felt puppets whose voices were provided by real customer service calls and was made up primarily of television ads. The new campaign will incorporate a heavy dose of digital ads, videos and QR (for quick response) codes, as well as print ads in magazines. And if the idea of using naked people who need to be clothed to sell clothing seems too literal, that is exactly what the marketing minds at Zappos and Mullen say they had in mind.
"Sometimes advertisers try to do something very creative and the messaging gets lost," said Michelle Thomas, the senior brand marketing manager at Zappos. The campaign also highlights Zappos's focus on clothing as a "growth engine for the future," Ms. Thomas said. "Zappos has a belief that really, we can sell anything."
The Kantar Media unit of WPP says Zappos spent $19.7 million on advertising in 2010 and $4.8 million in the first quarter of 2011.
The hundreds of brands on the Zappos Web site are as varied as Stuart Weitzman and Spanx, and the company has a separate Web site, Zappos Couture, that sells higher end items from designers like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. The company also features Web pages where in-house stylists put together outfits and customers can determine their style personality (Are you a Mom-on-the-Go, a Casualista or Boho?).
The new ads were shot outdoors in Manhattan locations like Park Avenue and the West Village and feature naked women, with censor bars strategically placed, doing outdoor activities like jogging or riding a Vespa scooter. A tagline on one ad reads "To help you break a sweat without breaking the law."
Instead of tall willowy models, the ads feature "the shapes and curves of many, many people," Mr. Vaccarino said. Tiffany Payne, who is five feet tall, was a model featured riding a scooter in downtown Manhattan.
"Sometimes when I see ads and the girls are 6 feet 2 and skinny, it sort of deters me from buying the product because I don't think it would fit me right," Ms. Payne said. During the shoot, the models wore pasties and thongs or tiny bikinis, which were edited out later.
Zappos is hoping consumers will keep looking at the campaign's print ads long enough to notice that they will be enhanced with quick response codes. When scanned by a smartphone, the codes will take the phone user to a mobile site featuring fictional videos of what happens to the naked women in the ads. Users can also select outfits for the model to wear and can enter the Zappos mobile site to buy the items on the smartphone.
Ads will begin running in the August issues of magazines like Lucky, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, and Harper's Bazaar. The target audience is what Zappos calls "happy hunters," or women who are fashion conscious and heavy consumers of online media.
Women who may feel slighted by the lack of a naked man in the campaign will have to wait until the end of July, when Zappos will take over the home page of a major search engine portal with an interactive ad introducing a male character, Arthur. In the ad, Arthur asks the user to help him dress while he makes his way to the Zappos Web site.
"He should be captivating in an 'I hope you've had your coffee already' kind of way," said Kay Pancheri, an account director at Mullen.
Using nudity and sex to sell products can be a tricky proposition for brands. Ads for Calvin Klein featuring a ménage à trois of young models wearing nothing but Calvin Klein jeans drew criticism for being too sexual. Abercrombie & Fitch, the retailer of clothing for teenagers, has come under fire for using overtly sexual images in its catalogs and advertisements.
In 2003, the company withdrew a holiday catalog, A&F Quarterly, after protests from parent groups and others that the images encouraged sexual behavior among teenagers.
Another retailer, American Apparel, has been criticized for nudity in ads. In 2008, the company ran ads online that featured topless women among other overtly sexual images.
"The American public, I think, is mature enough to be able to handle these types of images," said Ryan Holiday, the director of online marketing at American Apparel. Brands should consider their motives for using nudity and sexuality in ads, Mr. Holiday said.
"Are they doing it because they want to get attention from blogs and Web sites that will write about it?" he asked. "Or are they doing it because it's the ad campaign that speaks most truly to who they are and what they want to sell?"
After being shown the new ads, some Zappos brands declined to participate in the campaign for fear that it was "too risqué for them," Ms. Thomas said. One brand that signed up was Lolë, a manufacturer of women's active wear. Nathalie Binda, the marketing vice president for Lolë, described the campaign as "gutsy" and "very Zapposesque."
Lolë has been selling clothing on the Zappos Web site for four years and will feature items like tank tops and pants in the new campaign. As for the nudity? "If there was one brand out there that can do it, it's them," Ms. Binda said.