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Phillips Van Heusen Corporation, originally formed in 1881, has undergone recent expansion and many changes in the past couple of years. It purchased Calvin Klein in 2003 and Tommy Hilfiger in 2010 for approximately $3 billion. Among the brands under the PVH umbrella are Izod, Van Heusen, Bass, and Arrow. Needless to say, the company is doing very well.

In 2009, one of PVH’s top bread winners, Calvin Klein, was heavily scrutinized because of a billboard marketing campaign that some believed promoted foursomes, and was too risqué to be shown for all people living in SOHO, NYC. One onlooker commented, “It’s just not age appropriate for kids who haven’t even kissed a boy to be introduced to sophisticated, mature behavior,” an observer told ABCNews.com. “They are not emotionally ready to deal with that yet.”  The poster children for the brand are Mark Wahlberg, who modeled male underwear, and Brooke Shields. Therefore, it should not be surprising that CRK advertisers would put out a campaign like this, as the brand has always been about being modern lifestyle and self expression. Calvin Klein representatives have responded in saying its “intention was to create a very sexy campaign that speaks to our targeted demographic.”

After complaints made by neighbors of the NYC area, Klein was forced to remove the billboard, and replaced it with one of a woman in a string bikini. The company is living proof that “sex sells”. PVH is far from being the only company that produces scandalous advertisements, and the pages of magazines we flip through are a constant reminder of modern sentiment towards sexuality.  PVH is such a huge company, with $5.6 billion revenue in the second quarter of 2011, and the company has had to publicly document its code of ethics, discrimination practices, and corporate governance procedures.  I interned at Calvin Klein this past summer, and learned about all of the codes of ethics and standards that PVH sets for the employees. I was pretty surprised when I saw the advertisement they had created in 2009, but I believe many of the elements pictured in that billboard remain crucial to their marketing campaign. You can see the lengthy amount of documents detailing the responsibilities of the corporation and individuals on their website!

There is a definite ethical dilemma inherent in these advertisements. Should images like the foursome be put up in New York City for everyone to see? Is this appropriate for children? This issue is much bigger than the area of advertisements. Pretty much all forms of media have demonstrated the new outlook on open sexuality. When our parents were growing up they listened to things like “I want to hold your hand…” by the Beatles. Needless to say, we are now exposed to a very mature world at an early age even just by listening to the radio. PVH will continue to be a leader in the fashion world, but will they learn from their mistakes, or lead the movement to even more notorious media?


About alyssakinell

I am a senior Management and Spanish major at Bucknell University. I am originally from East Lyme, Connecticut and I hope to live in a big city after I graduate. If I could be anywhere, I would be on a mountain with fresh powder and hot chocolate. I am incapable of eating a meal without finishing it off with something sweet (generally ice cream).


7 thoughts on “PVH

  1. I guess you like the clothing company?

    Posted by Jordi | February 13, 2012, 7:59 am
    • Yes, I find the company to be very impressive because of all of the brands it holds under its name, and it also has global appeal. I thought it would be interesting to do some research and explore any big problems they have had with their advertisements since I see them everywhere. Since I worked at CK I also wanted to find out about what we were not told as interns and if the company has changed because of any issues they had in the past.

      Posted by alyssakinell | February 13, 2012, 9:21 am
  2. Last semester, I took Intro to Women’s Gender Studies on campus and we spent a whole week discussing women and beauty in the media. Based on the two examples you provided in your post, it is evident that Calvin Klein was and is exploiting a woman’s body in pursuit of sales. This is a clear ethical issue in my mind. The company is perpetuating a stereotype of what female beauty is and should be. This type of advertising adds extra pressure to young girls, and boys, to achieve the perfect body and look a certain way. As someone who is looking to go into advertising, I struggle with the fact that in some cases sex sells, but I do not know if I could personally work on a case that exploits women’s bodies and degrades them to solely objects.

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | February 13, 2012, 10:54 am
  3. I agree that in our modern culture, the reality is that sex sells. While some may view Calvin Klein’s advertisements as controversial, “risqué”, and inappropriate for children, others may see it as a necessary move in order to remain competitve in the clothing industry. After, like you said, we can’t single-out Calvin Klien as the only clothing company that is guity of strategicly taking advantage of the sex sells phenomenon.

    Posted by Lauren McGuiggan | February 13, 2012, 12:11 pm
  4. I know Victoria Secret is in a constant uphill battle against scrutiny for promiscuous advertising; particularly for appealing to girls that are “too young”. The world of advertising for clothing companies is certainly an interesting industry to get involved in. Like Dana pointed, sex does sell. I don’t foresee a change to this either. I almost expect every clothing commercial to contain a promiscuous aspect to it. What does that say about our society? Can we only be driven to buy things if there is a sexual aspect to them? Seems that way from this post about clothing and Ben’s post concerning the gaming industry.

    Posted by Patrick | February 13, 2012, 8:58 pm
  5. Sex sells, period. This has been proven time and time again, continuing to be used as marketing campaigns for a large portion of those higher-end brands such as Calvin Klein. I think our society has become more tolerant of ads that display provocative messaging and scenes. We’ve grown up in a time where this type of media is constant in our lives and having been exposed, we don’t take the time to really think about the underlying notion. I don’t think it’s appropriate to drive through NY, or anywhere, and see a billboard referencing a sexual encounter with 3 males and one female. There’s no filter there for the younger demographic. In a previous semester in my finance class, my partners and I researched Abercrombie & Fitch. They had been under the same type of scrutiny for their risque ads of barely-there clothing. The fact that sex sells doesn’t scare me as much as what comes next; what’s the next step? How do ads compete with one another if their levels of sex representation is already so exploited?

    Posted by Danielle Marquette | February 14, 2012, 2:01 pm
  6. Why is a foursome less wholesome than a bikini-clad anorexic model?

    Posted by Jordi | February 15, 2012, 1:56 pm

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Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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