American Apparel remains in this hybrid of damage control and image improvement mode after all the drama surrounding ex-CEO and founder Dov Charney in recent months. The basics brand is really working overtime to fix perception and to cozy up to women, as opposed to featuring them in provocative ads. American Apparel's new women-friendly ad, which will run at the back of Vice, is a step in the right direction.
The ad will run only in Vice, which is a divisive and polarizing move for some, due to the publication's controversial history with feminism, but it shouldn't be, since the ad points to strong facts and impressive figures about American Apparel's female-dominated workforce. What's most important is the ad itself, not simply where it was placed.
The ad copy claims: "Women have always been in charge at American Apparel. In fact, women make up 55 percent of our global workforce (sorry, guys) and an even higher percentage of our leadership and executive roles. This structure is incredibly (and unfortunately) rare in the corporate world."
While that wasn't the brand's prior consumer-facing image, it appears that it is taking steps to correct that.
You have to remember that previously, American Apparel could be counted on for women-featured ads that oozed sex; how could you forget?! There's no slinky model in undies in this image. The stats take precedence and that's what makes it so rad.
Previously, the ads were pretty much PG-rated porno chic. This women-targeted promo spot boasts an array of female employees of different ethnicities. Their names and their employment start dates are also included, which is insanely personal info being shared in a commercial advertisement. But the point is taken. Women steer this ship, but they have for a while; Iris Alonzo and Marsha Brady were let go in February, but they were longtime leaders in their posts.
WWD did confirm that the ad is running in the first issue with new Editor-in-Chief Ellis Jones, who is not only female but who is also tasked with widening the mag's audience beyond "lads," at the helm.
Personally, I don't think this association is any sort of a problem. Really, I don't. Both the brand and the mag have women atop their corporate mastheads at this point and it is a sign of a shift, even if not seismic. It's a "new" era for both and with that comes change.
These are the three key reasons that the booking a women's ad in Vice feels like the right choice.
1. Broader Reach
Upon Charney being bounced in 2014, Paula Schneider took over and replaced those sexed up campaigns with warmer, fuzzier ones, like those starring sloths and animals. Maybe it's her job to widen her brand's reach beyond "sexy ads," like Jones is doing with Vice on the male end? Maybe? Duh.
2. The Numbers Game
As mentioned, the ad then throws out facts and stats, in effort to demonstrate that American Apparel really is girl-friendly where it counts and that's in the workplace. The rub here is that the brand actually goes against the corporate grain with its female-dominated workforce. But the BEST part is the "sorry not sorry" concession to dudes in the text. How can you not force a smile over that part?
3. Others Are Doing The Same
American Apparel's SVP of marketing told WWD, "We have had a great relationship with Vice for years and plan on continuing to work closely with them on future campaigns and partnerships." So it appears this is the wave of their future and changes such as this will be "the thing." It reminds me of some of the sweeping changes that Maxim is making, adding an artsy element to its women-in-bikinis spreads with a female E-i-C.
Let's ride it and see where all this ends up, while watching how it goes. It's a step in the right direction.
American Apparel is not the sole brand to have had sexual harassment claims laid at its doorstep nor is it revolutionary or singular for having done oversexed ads. That doesn't mean that any of those notions are okay or acceptable, since they are not; there's no "Everyone else has done it" pass being handed out here.
But I have to feel hopeful about the fact that the brand is taking steps to change its perception and reality.
Ultimately, we, as consumers, we can proceed with skepticism, caution, and open minds.
Images: American Apparel (1); Getty (5)