Wait, What? Balenciaga Is Suing the Producers of Its Own Ad Campaign?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and reading Oliver Darcy’s CNN Reliable Sources newsletter, when I came across these items.

• Kim Kardashian is “re-evaluating” her relationship with Balenciaga amid backlash over the brand’s recent ad campaign that featured children with BDSM items. (NBC News)

Balenciaga, meanwhile, is suing the producers of the ad campaign. (NPR)

Really, Doc, they get to do that – approve an ad campaign and then sue over it? Sounds kind of addled to me.

– Trying to Keep Up

Dear Trying,

Actually, it happens more often than you might think. (See here for a bunch of examples.) One of the most famous cases was this Super Bowl ad that retail chain Just For Feet ran in 1999.

Back then one of the Doc’s good pals produced a piece about the spot for APM’s Marketplace. Here’s how his commentary began.

Retailers are the hypochondriacs of the business world – endlessly taking their temperature at the cash register, constantly checking for downdrafts in the market, and looking over their shoulder at last year’s sales figures so often, it’s a wonder they don’t have chiropractors on staff. As for adventurous advertising, retailers may not be allergic to it, but excess creativity does tend to give them the sniffles.

All the more remarkable, then, that Just For Feet’s Super Bowl ad ever saw the blue light of day. The spot shows a barefoot Kenyan runner being tracked by white paramilitaries in a Humvee. They pull up alongside him, slip a Mickey into a cup of water that he inexplicably accepts, and next thing you know the runner wakes up to find a pair of Nikes on his feet.

(RUNNER) Nooooooooooooo  (ANCR) Just for Feet. To protect and serve feet.

Apparently, protecting and serving clients was not a priority for the retailer’s ad agency, Saatchi and Saatchi Business Communications. The press alternately labeled the spot reprehensible and racist, and Just for Feet kept seeing itself in the same sentence as Texaco and Denny’s. So the retailer sued the agency for marketing malpractice, which immediately raises the question, CAN someone violate the standards of an industry that clearly has none?

At least that’s the response Saatchi & Saatchi has filed in court papers according to a story in the Internet magazine Salon. That should put the agency in solid with its other clients . . .

Meanwhile, Just For Feet’s stock is down 75% since last year. Thanks to Saatchi & Saatchi, the stock of the ad industry could be even lower.

Just For Feet eventually dropped its $10 million lawsuit against Saatchi & Saatchi, shortly before the chain filed for bankruptcy.

Back to the present, NBC Today show contributor Lindsay Lowe detailed the origins of the Kardashian/Balenciaga dustup.

Kim Kardashian says she is “re-evaluating” her relationship with Balenciaga in light of the brand’s recent ad campaign that featured images of young children posing with teddy bears that appeared to be wearing BDSM-inspired accessories.

 “I have been quiet for the past few days, not because I haven’t been disgusted and outraged by the recent Balenciaga campaigns, but because I wanted an opportunity to speak to their team to understand for myself how this could have happened,” Kardashian, 42, wrote in her Instagram story on Sunday.

 “As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images,” she continued. “The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period.”

A couple of the ad images, for those of you keeping score at home.

So what did Balenciaga do about the media critiques of its campaign? The fashion house turned around and sued the creative team that came up with the ads. Balenziaga’s lawsuit rolled in an additional campaign with a controversial image, as NPR’s Emily Olson related.

Balenciaga, the luxury fashion brand that sparked back-to-back controversies over two recent ad campaigns, has signaled its plans to sue the production company North Six for its role in creating one of the ads.

The backlash began when online scrutinizers noticed a page from the 2008 Supreme Court decision United States v. Williams in the backdrop for an ad showcasing a $3,000 purse.

The ruling upheld the constitutionality of a child pornography conviction.

The ad, which has since been removed from the company’s website, was part of the fashion house’s Spring 2023 collaboration with the activewear brand Adidas.

As in Adidas, the company that just dumped Kanye West, who was recently dumped by his ex-wife Kim Kardashian, nicely completing the Circle of Brandicide.

For those of you keeping score at home, here’s the ad for the $3000 purse.

For the life of us, we can’t locate the offending document anywhere in the photograph. Then again, the Doc’s not an optometrist, okay?

But Google Images found it.

Anyway, here’s the current state of play as reported by Nick Kostov and Stacy Meichtry  in the Wall Street Journal.

Balenciaga filed a lawsuit in New York state against Nicholas Des Jardins, a set designer who worked on that ad campaign, and North Six, a production company involved in the photo shoot. In the lawsuit, Balenciaga alleges Mr. Des Jardins and North Six were responsible for including the excerpt of the court decision in the ad campaign.

“In no way was any controversial material intentionally placed by me or anyone on my team,” Mr. Des Jardins wrote in an email to The Wall Street Journal. “There were literally tens of thousands of papers on-set rented from a prop house,” he said.

North Six declined to comment.

Kim Kardashian has remained mum about the second ad donnybrook, while Balenciaga has deep-sixed both ad campaigns, saying they “reflect a series of grievous errors for which Balenciaga takes responsibility.”

And for which Balenciaga should take a serious financial hit.

But that’s just our diagnosis.

Really? Americans Think Advertisers Are More Trustworthy Than the News Media?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and checking out MediaPost’s Marketing Politics Weekly, when I came across this Joe Mandese piece about the industries Americans trust most.

Americans Deem Ad Biz More Trustworthy Than Media, Both Trail All Other Industries

The good news is that as far as brands go, the ad industry is deemed more trustworthy than much of the media it buys to reach consumers. The bad news is that the ad business, “news media,” and “social media” all rank at the bottom of all brand categories American consumers were asked to rate as trusting “a great deal” recently.

The findings, which were announced Tuesday via a press release from brand researcher Brand Keys noting that “media brand trust took a nosedive” in its most recent tracking study, which surveyed 6,850 U.S. adults in July.

What the hell, Doc – hucksters get more respect than government officials and journalists? That’s messed up, yo.

– Trust Busted

Dear TB:

Wait – so this survey is saying that a buck hustler like Spike Lee is more trustworthy than, say, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt? That would be the same Spike Lee whose ad last year for Coin Cloud conned untold numbers of Black people into investing in cryptocurrencies.

Lee brazenly played the race card in touting crypto’s currency: “Old money, as rich as it looks, is flat out broke,” he says in the video, which has garnered about 1.5 million views on YouTube. “They call it green, but it’s only white. Where’s the women? The Black folks? And the people of color?”

Where the Black folks and people of color are, according to Madeline Garfinkle’s Entrepreneur piece last month, is in the red.

‘We’re the First Group Who Loses Out’: Black Americans Hit Hard By Crypto Collapse

As digital currencies continue to fall, a new report found Black investors to be disproportionately vulnerable.

Digital currencies have dropped drastically, with bitcoin alone losing more than 50% of its value this year.

With consistent reports of plunging value, the question looms: Who’s really getting hit?

A study by Ariel Investments found that, on average, Black Americans own significantly more cryptocurrency than their white counterparts. About one quarter (25%) of Black Americans own crypto, and when examining investors under the age of 40, that number jumps to 38%.

The Black community, Garfinkle adds, has a longstanding distrust of the establishment financial system. Crypto offers “[the] draw of gaining financial independence with a low barrier to entry . . . further enhanced by celeb endorsements.”

So, to recap: Americans apparently believe that Mr. Do The Wrong Thing, who has leeched off widespread losses by Black investors in cryptocurrencies, is more credible than, say, CNN’s Don Lemon?

That’s gotta leave a sour taste, no?

Why Is a Missouri Senate Candidate Issuing ‘RINO Hunting Permits’?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and checking out CNN’s Reliable Sources nightly newsletter, when I came across this item.

Wait, what? This guy is encouraging Missouri voters to hunt down Republicans who aren’t MAGAts? This is really a most dangerous game – don’t you think, Doc?

– Rinoblasty

Dear Rinoblasty,

Yeah – Eric Greitens: rhymes with frightens.

Here’s the ad.

Not surprisingly, the spot has gone over like the metric system in normie circles, as the Reliable Sources newsletter noted.

Missouri news outlets did not mince words about Monday’s new campaign video from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Greitens. “Gun-wielding Greitens releases violent ad targeting other Republicans,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said. An article by the Kansas City Star was even more blunt, calling it “Greitens’ people-hunting video.”  . . .

Greitens is not a fringe candidate. He is the disgraced former governor of the state. As Jake Tapper said on CNN, “You would think a candidate who has been accused of spousal and child abuse by his ex-wife… might consider a less violent appeal to voters.” His guest S.E. Cupp pointed out that Greitens is “leaning in” to the controversy, “very smugly promoting it,” even though the ad is “crazy, creepy and chilling.”

As the Doc has chronicled on several occasions, fondling firearms is now the two-drink minimum for red-state GOP candidates (see here and here). Greitens, however, is taking the gun gambit to a new, and lethal, low.

Remarkably, there’s nothing local broadcasters can do to stop him, given federal regulation of the public airwaves. This piece by Jerry Carnes at Fox54 provides details.

When it comes to qualified candidates who are on the ballot for federal office, television stations can not refuse their ads for any reason, including content.

According to Federal Communications Commission laws, stations can’t edit or censor.

“They have to take that ad, and the network is not liable for airing that even if it’s potentially slanderous or libelous,” explains Joseph Watson, Professor of Public Affairs Communications, Advertising & Public Relations at the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism.

Slanderous, libelous . . . or murderous, apparently.

Greg Greitens is the GOP’s ultimate Accessory Before the Fact. But we’re guessing he’s not the only GOP candidate who’ll trigger some Squid Games karma before the 2022 elections are over.

Was Biting Evander Holyfield’s Ear Really Mike Tyson’s ‘Most Notorious Moment’?

Well the Doc opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out.

Dear Dr. Ads,

There I was, minding my own business and scrolling through Ad Age’s Media Buzz when, I came across this piece by E.J. Schultz.

MIKE TYSON POISED TO GROW ‘MIKE BITES’ CANNABIS BRAND THAT RECALLS EAR-BITING INCIDENT

Mike Tyson seems intent on building a brand around one of the most infamous moments of his career—when he took a bite of Evander Holyfield’s ear in a boxing match 25 years ago. Tyson’s cannabis brand recently came out with ear-shaped marijuana edibles, called Mike Bites. And now a trademark filing indicates the boxing legend wants to expand the brand into a range of products, including keychains, pillows, rolling papers, vape pens and more.

What the hell, Doc? Is this guy high on his own supply?

– Ivonder

Dear Ivonder,

First off, let’s look at that “most infamous moment” of Mike Tyson’s monumentally infamous career.

Granted, that was decidedly not Tyson’s finest hour, but in no way does it eclipse his 1992 conviction for raping 18-year-old Desiree Washington in an Indianapolis hotel room.

(Just FYI: Tyson’s highest-profile defender at the time was – wait for it – one Donald J. Trump.)

Regardless of all that, a couple of months ago Tyson launched Mike Bites, as CNN’s Zoe Sottile reported.

Mike Tyson is selling ear-shaped cannabis-infused edibles called ‘Mike Bites’

(CNN) – More than two decades after Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear at the 1997 WBA Heavyweight Championship fight, the legendary boxer has released a line of edibles — in the shape of ears.

The cannabis-infused gummies are called “Mike Bites” in homage to Tyson’s most notorious moment.

Again – not Tyson’s most notorious moment. Rape is way worse than ear-biting, yes?

Anyway, also from the CNN piece: “Tyson hasn’t been shy about his strong relationship with cannabis. The former heavyweight champion admitted in 2019 that he spends $40,000 a month on weed at his 40-acre cannabis ranch.”

That’s almost half a million dollars a year up in smoke. How many gummies would you have to sell to feed that habit?

Then again, not everyone has found Mike Bites palatable, as Matt Audilet noted last month in The Spun.

Tyson’s product is already on sale in California and his company, Tyson 2.0, has plans to expand to other states around the country. But, one state has already outlawed the “ear shaped” gummies. “Mike Bites” aren’t able to hit the shelves in Colorado because of a law against selling “human-shaped” edibles.

Tyson’s fans, according to Audilet’s piece, bit back at the ban: “The sports world took to Twitter to react to this news. ‘Boooooooooooo. Let the people eat Eardibles,’ one wrote. ‘This just keeps getting funnier with each new word you read,’ another added.”

The Doc doesn’t think that anything about Mike Tyson is in any way funny. (You can see his latest spasm of violence here.)

But maybe that’s just the Do No Harmist in us.