Calvin Klein, Federici Recycle Fake Sex Controversies in New Ads

Last Updated Jul 1, 2009 3:26 PM EDT

Calvin Klein and ice-cream brand Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano have both engineered fake advertising controversies to generate sales. Klein repurposed one of its old "orgy" ads for a billboard in New York and the Federici created a newspaper ad that showed a nun about to kiss a priest. (Click to enlarge images.)

Advertisers have long known that "sex sells," but as we coast down to the bottom of the recession -- client spend and agency revenue is likely to hit a new low in Q2 -- it appears that agencies have adjusted that motto to "sex sells advertising."

The two ads are part of a trend that BNET occasionally pays attention to: the manufacturing of dissent for the sake of publicity. Klein previously (and almost certainly falsely) claimed a TV version of its orgy ad was "banned" from the air. Other repeat offenders are PETA, Weatherproof and GoDaddy. Klein's latest orgy billboard showed a girl engaging in a lacklustre four-way with two guys and a comatose male model. Predictably, neighbors complained and Klein was "forced" to replace it, resulting in news coverage. The replacement board shows a lone female model, dripping wet, in a string bikini.

The Federici ad used the UK's Advertising Standards Authority to generate this coverage:

In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority said that the portrayal of the priest and nun in a "sexualised manner", and the implication that they were considering whether or not to give in to temptation, was likely to cause serious offence to some readers. The ASA banned the ad.
A nice explanation of Klein's cynicism can be found in a Jeff Bercovici piece here.