Advertising (and) the “Social Media Striptease”

The advertising and branding firm Fred & Farid Shanghai has come out with a new video touting the interactive work they’ve done for the online women’s fashion retailer Vicomte A. (The site is mildly NSFW.) It works like this: As a model flirts with you on the screen, you can click on an item of clothing that you’d like her to remove, provided that you allow the item of clothing to be shared (and promoted) on Facebook or Twitter. In the video, the agency brags about its success: “The more you share, the less she wears,” the video explains. In 48 hours, 150,000 pieces of clothing were shared on Facebook, and “more than 300,000 Twitter accounts were reached.”

All things being equal, it seems like a textbook case of brilliant social media marketing that brought an impressive level of awareness to the brand. But of course all things are rarely equal. The case seems to smack of legitimized online porn, more than anything else. Moreover, it seems to be yet another case of the objectification of women: She’s not a person; she’s an animated avatar at your service who will strip for you as you please. Just so men don’t feel left out, there’s a male stripper, too. As Steve Hall on the advertising blog Adrants writes, “Like salivating dogs [in] heat, men clicked. A lot. And every time they did, a post promoting a particular piece in the collection would appear on their Facebook wall.” Like previous cases involving Skullcandy, the punk rock band Green Day, and (more recently) Equinox, here we have another case of sex being used in a very overt way to effect a financial transaction; or as Hall put it in his headline, “Men’s Lust For Female Nudity Used to Promote Fashion Brand.” What are the ethical issues here? Was this brilliant or offensive? What do you think?

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