Victoria’s Secret ‘Bright Young Things’ ads make parents ask: Just how young?

Victoria’s Secret is pushing spring break panties in its ‘Bright Young Things’ ad campaign. A Houston minister and lot of parents are asking how appropriate panties emblazoned with “Wild” is for girls of any age.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
'Bright Young Things', Victoria's Secret's ad campaign, received unwanted attention after a dad's critique went viral. Here, Alessandra Ambrosio poses during the launch of the company's swimwear line, March 12.

In the United States, Victoria’s Secret is emblazoning girls’ bottoms with salacious phrases, while in Japan an ad agency is enlisting young girls to wear temporary tattoo ads on their thighs. Both are advertising campaigns by nature and the bottom line is that parents are talking about the need to take this issue much more seriously.

Victoria’s Secret may say publicly they are not purposefully advertising to young girls, but as parents we are pretty adept at spotting a falsehood, and this is one of those times that we need to agree with the characters in HBO’s Game of Thrones and repeat their stock phrase, “Words are wind.”  After speaking with the dad who prompted a boycott of the stores I realize the bottom line is we don’t want people writing on female’s bottoms at any age.

The company posted on its Facebook wall, “In response to questions we recently received, Victoria’s Secret PINK is a brand for college-aged women. Despite recent rumors, we have no plans to introduce a collection for younger women. 'Bright Young Things' was a slogan used in conjunction with the college spring break tradition.” 

The furor began March 22 after Rev. Evan Dolive of Texas posted an open letter on his website chiding the lingerie retailer for its “Bright Young Things” line. He believed that no matter what the company line may be, the undies are aimed at tweens with phrases like “Wild” across the butt. Dolive is the father of two, one is a daughter age three.

Dolive wrote: I want my daughter (and every girl) to be faced with tough decisions in her formative years of adolescence. Decisions like should I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I take calculus as a junior or a senior? Do I want to go to Texas A&M or University of Texas or some Ivy League School? Should I raise awareness for slave trafficking or lack of water in developing nations? There are many, many more questions that all young women should be asking themselves … not will a boy (or girl) like me if I wear a "call me" thong?"

Meanwhile, in Japan,  a PR agency called Absolute Territory PR is enlisting young girls to wear temporary tattoo ads on their thighs. The service launched in July 2012 and immediately boasted 1,300 walking billboards. To become a paid human thigh billboard requires: being a female over 18 with more than 20 connections on an SNS (Twitter, mixi, Instagram, etc.). To get paid, you have to wear a temporary tattoo for eight hours or more and post pictures of it to your SNS in at least two different places.

When I spoke with Dolive on the phone about the Facebook posting by Victoria’s Secret he said, “I’m not surprised. That’s really what I would expect them to say. But they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths here since their CFO made it very clear what he’s after.”

Dolive is referring to a Business Insider report that quoted Victoria’s Secret Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer as saying at a recent conference "When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink."

“That’s the magic of PINK,” Dolive repeated in disgust. “Fine, let’s say 'Bright Young Things' is aimed only at college girls and then start the discussion from there about why we should not pressure girls into unattainable standards and believing that their worth is defined by their underwear.”

He adds, “I‘m getting calls and letters from parents who tell me that their middle school-age daughters come home asking for underwear from the PINK line because when they get changed for gym class they realize the popular girls are all wearing that line.”

Since posting the letter, Dolive says he has been deluged with responses from every nation, “I’d say that over 95 percent were fully in support with only a few telling me if I didn’t like it I just shouldn’t buy it.”

Dolive agrees that not only will he not buy it, but according to the emails and reactions to his letter, many other parents are going so far as to call for a boycott. That’s because his argument jibes with that of many parents who feel children are pressured to grow up too fast and it’s up to the parents to boycott, write letters, and put the brakes on marketing panties in candy colors and elementary school typefaces.

Amanda Cole Hill, mom of a daughter and local PTA activist in Norfolk, Va., saw and then forwarded Dolive’s posting to me. When I wrote back and said I’d be blogging the topic and asked for a comment she was quick to respond. “From what I have read they changed their tune when the backlash occurred and said it was meant for college girls,” Hill said. “But initially it was for high school. Nonetheless, I don't think anyone needs underwear that says ‘Call me.’  Seriously? Call me?

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