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?