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U.S. Retail Industry Global Update: Australia Protests Against Controversial Advertising Used by American Apparel in Stores and Websites Down Under

By June 13, 2009

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American Apparel has been using the same kind of explicit photographs that have shocked U.S. retailing in its Australian advertisements after opening its first store there in March, 2008. Apparently the marketing strategy is just as controversial in Australia as it has been in the U.S., and consumers down under have launched protests in hopes that they will force changes to American Apparel's print, store, and website marketing strategies. Good on ya, Aussies, but stand in queue!

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that Australians are lobbying against American Apparel and the sexually provocative advertisements it has been using to sell its clothing in Australia for the past year or so. Isn't it nice that the company has the word "America" in its brand so that it can connect its own reputation with the U.S. retail industry as a whole? It's not as if America's image abroad hasn't been contentious enough in the past decade.

Unfortunately, Australian protesters, these are the same type of controversial photographic images that American Apparel has been using in the U.S. for years. Protests in the U.S., so far, have only served to draw more attention to the retailer's ads.

The clothes and models in the U.S. and Australian versions of the American Apparel e-commerce websites look pretty much the same. This is curious because our countries are on opposite sides of the globe and, therefore, experiencing opposite weather and fashion seasons.

So, why is that girl in the backless black swimsuit and black heels straddling (literally) the front of the Australian website when temperatures are in the 60's? And why would the American site feature thigh-high socks at the beginning of the summer season except to display the photo of the bare-bottomed nymphet who is modeling them?

I wish I had a way to track how many people just clicked away from this blog and at this moment are trolling the American Apparel website trying to find those photos. Voila! The American Apparel marketing strategy is successful once again!

Perhaps the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau will have more luck getting the company to tone down or clean up its ads than the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has had. The fact that there isn't really a "standards bureau" completely dedicated to the advertising industry in America probably says a lot about what's allowed to go on in advertisements here.

Since I personally am in love with Australia and all things Aussie, I offer this inside hint to help the country and its citizens deal with this paticular U.S. retailer. It is just my own opinion, offered in the spirit of global retail harmony.

American Apparel's decision-makers aren't going to stop using soft-core advertising images just because they are offending the sensibilities of Aussies, Americans or anybody else around the world. In fact, that seems to be part of the motivation behind making the choice in the first place. The company will only stop using scantily-clad and provacatively-posed young women when the strategy no long results in the sale of tube socks, underwear, and t-shirts.

Don't waste your time trying to stop the behavior of the company or its rock star CEO. If you want to make an impact, your effort would be better spent trying to stop the purchase of its products.

If you doubt this sage wisdom, consider this quotable quote given to Business Week magazine by American Apparel's founder and CEO, Dov Charney. "I should tone down? So I don't get in trouble? It's fascism. You're asking me to succumb to tyranny."

Enough said, mates?

More about American Apparel:


June 18, 2009 at 1:41 pm
(1) Mike says:

I hope American Apparel stands by its ads. In fact, the prudes will only help it with its target audience. And when has everyone become so frightened of sexuality anyway. Selfish baby boomers. Once, they were for free love, now that they’re older and worried about buying more little blue pills in the recession, they want to deny youth the freedoms they demanded when they were young. Perhaps Australia, like America, should begin teaching its young about sexual responsibility like those promiscuous, low teenage pregnancy countries in Scandinavia rather than try to ban nature.

June 23, 2009 at 8:16 am
(2) Eadie says:

You forgot to mention the law suits against Mr. Charney for sexual harassment in the workplace. Not a nice guy!

June 27, 2009 at 2:06 am
(3) pos sybil says:

I have to agree with Mike. I had no idea the Australians were so uptight!

Oh, and my favorite part of your article was:
“I wish I had a way to track how many people just clicked away from this blog and at this moment are trolling the American Apparel website trying to find those photos.”
because I had just done that exact thing (only for purposes of investigation, of course….).

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