TCU Daily Skiff Wednesday, February 11, 2004
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Sex sells, ethics absent from advertising industry

Erin Cooksley

It is no surprise that the No. 1 marketing tactic these days is sex propaganda. Sex and crude behavior are being used to sell all ranges of products to Americans. The worst part is that the targeted age group is getting younger and younger. Whether it is in music videos, commercials or clothing catalogs, the growing trend is undeniable. Sex sells, and the entertainment and retail industries are cashing in.

Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has been under the microscope for some time now about the material it displays in its catalogues and large posters hanging in its stores. They distribute mail order catalogues only to those who are 18, or legal adults. That should tell you something right there. A customer has to be able to buy pornography to buy the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue.

There has also been scrutiny about suggestive posters that are hung in high visibility in actual Abercrombie & Fitch stores. Just before this past Christmas, someone finally got fed up and decided to do something about it. Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on Family, a conservative Christian group out of Colorado Springs, called for a national boycott of the retailer. The nation responded, and Abercrombie & Fitch’s stock has since dropped 15 percent. As a spokesman for Focus on Family, Dobson later made a television appearance warning the retailer that Focus on Family has a $200,000 ad campaign coming against them.

I think it is great that a group took the initiative to call Abercrombie & Fitch out and make a statement. It is about time that Americans take responsibility for the form of advertisement they respond to. Have you ever turned your television on mute and watched one commercial segment? It is truly amazing to watch commercials and advertisements without the distraction of sound. You will find that almost every commercial has some sexual reference in it.

Retailers who use sex to sell their products are lacking in the areas of ethics and character, but those who target children are just downright greedy and sick. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch’s last mail order catalogue advertised by using pictures of groups of eight to 10 people barely clothed in the photos. What are they really trying to sell to the American youth, clothes or sex?

When asking yourself this question, I call on you to keep in mind that they are a company that sells clothes, yet rarely uses clothing in their advertisements. They know what they are doing, but they do not care because they are making money. American retailers are cashing in on American youths’ impressionable minds.
Granted, Abercrombie & Fitch would never be considered the only retailer to be participating in this. It is commendable that a group rallied together to fight what has become the accepted norm, and they made an impact. Hopefully the declining stocks will grab Abercrombie & Fitch’s attention, and they will turn their advertising tactics around. The most pathetic part of all this is that the retailer will be more likely to respond to the sinking stocks than to their conscience.

Erin Cooksley is a freshman political science major from Texas City.

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