In this advert, as with most high end fashion houses, Calvin Klein use a ‘Physically Attractive- Admirer Altercast’. The physically attractive are privileged relative to the status hierarchy and customers desire to be part of this world. This, as well as creating sexual tablo, is an exceptionally common technique especially in advertisements for this industry. 3 glistening men (2 topless) surround a woman, one of the men is actively on top of her and another is holding her head which is on his leg and with his hand on the man on top of her. The third smokes a cigarette next to them. This scene looks to take place in somewhere like a basketball or tennis court with a wire fence as the backdrop. Unfortunately whilst seemingly wanting to encompass passion, lust and sexual energy this fashion house have made the unfortunate fo-pa of recreating what looks like an, although admittedly stylized, gang rape. The desire for people to identify with the beautiful resulting in an increased persuasiveness for attractive communicators (Reingen & Kernan, 1993) is useful when trying to influence a demographic to purchase your product but in this case the communication is perceivably a very dangerous and disturbing one.
Chaiken’s 1979 study on how physically attractive people tend to be more effective agents in changing attitudes. In a field setting, each of 68 physically attractive or unattractive male and female communicators delivered a persuasive message to 2 undergraduate targets of each sex. Results indicate that attractive (vs unattractive) communicators induced significantly greater persuasion on both a verbal and behavioral measure of target agreement. In addition, female targets indicated greater agreement than male targets.
Interestingly this 2010 Calvin Klein advert makes a similar mistake to that of the Dolce & Gabbana advertisement of 2007 which was also met with outrage due to what many thought was an implicit attempt to cash in by glamorizing a violent sexual act. Dolce and Gabbana released a statement saying they had by no means intended this message. In both cases the ‘taboo’ wasn’t thought through.
Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion. Journal of personality and social psychology, 37, 1387-1397.
Reingen, P. H., & Kernan, J. B. (1993). Social perception and interpersonal influence: Some consequences of the physical attractiveness in a personal selling setting. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2, 25-38.