The Amorality of Advertising

J.C. Penney officials are upset about a racy, fake advertisement on YouTube, in which the retailer appears to be endorsing teen sex.  The “fake” ad was not done with their knowledge or permission.

The video, called “Speed Dressing,” ends with teens telling the girls’ mother that they’re heading down to the basement to watch TV.  As they head toward the basement door, the words “Today’s the day to get away with it” flash on the screen, echoing Penney’s use of the phrase “Today’s the day to…” in a series of ads it launched last year.  Penney’s logo and slogan then appear on the screen.

The title refers to the beginning of the video which shows two teenagers in their own respective bedrooms stripping down to their underwear and then timing themselves as they race to put their clothes back on. 

The amoral part of this story is the response of Alan Siegel, chief executive of New York strategic-branding company Siegel + Gale.  “It’s not going to reflect well on the brand in Middle America, but the ad is nicely done and the people in it are attractive; young people in New York and LA will get a kick out of it,” he said.

The potential impact on young people is irrelevant, however, as long as it’s clever and attractive?  Amoral thinking at best.