Calvin Klein

Teen Girls Said Ads Are Risque But Not Pornographic

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They mainly wear Guess? and Girbaud, and frankly, they don't see what all the fuss is about.

But many of the teen-agers interviewed by Advertising Age at stores in the New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco and Memphis areas say the controversy over the Calvin Klein jeans ads just might get them to try on a pair.

And most say if the price were right--and they had the right bodies--they wouldn't have any problem appearing in a similar ad themselves.

"It's just another commercial on TV," said Amy Lang, 16, of Brooklyn, who wears Calvin Klein. "I've seen worse-have you seen `NYPD Blue'? Commercials matter [to influence what teens buy] to a certain extent. It really deals with what's in fashion. Right now, it's Calvin Klein. I buy jeans that look good."

Karen Florez, 15, from Queens, buys Levi's and vintage jeans, but said she'd go with Calvins if she could afford them.

As for the ads, she said, "I thought they were funny. That guy behind the camera was asking some stupid questions. I didn't get why he was asking those questions. It's definitely a sexual thing, but to say child pornography is stupid."

In Richmond Heights, Mo., near St. Louis, Debbie and Meghan, both 16, were aware of the controversy but saw nothing wrong with the ads.

Shown an ad of a young man with his shirt unbuttoned and wearing only his underwear, the girls pronounced him "cute" and wanted to keep the ad shown them. Also, both said they would appear in ads like the ones from this Klein campaign.

At the same mall, Brian, 13; Judsen, 13; Dan, 15; and John, 15, all said the ads didn't trouble them in the least; that they would participate in such an ad; and that their parents wouldn't mind.

In Chicago, Libby Ellis, 18, was buying a pair of Calvin Klein jeans at the Marshall Field's in Water Tower Place.

"I looked at the ads in the magazines and the models were skinny with long legs, and I figured, I'm skinny and I have pretty long legs. I just figured that was me, so I bought a pair."

As for the ads: "They don't bother me," she said. "But I don't think it's in good taste that they show young models who are so thin and unhealthy looking." Asked if she would pose for similar ads: "Probably not in the eighth grade.... I'm not sure why they are doing these ads [with young models]. Levi's is catering to the same age group, and the models are skateboarding and playing outside."

Ben Thorp, a Memphis 15-year-old, said the ads were "sort of risque" but nowhere near pornographic. "Those were teen-age models, and they were getting paid to model.... to sell to teen-agers."

He said he wouldn't appear in such an ad "unless I got a large sum of money."

If the price were right, Andy, 14, in Minneapolis also said he would have appeared in the ads. "It would have been cool," he said.

But his mother, J.D., shopping with him, said there's no way she would have allowed that.

"Calvin Klein's ads have always been on the cutting edge, promoting sex," she said, "but these ads are just child pornography."

That was the reaction of most adults, including Marcia Ellis, 48, of Washington, who was shopping in New York with her daughter.

"I'm more attracted to advertising that's age appropriate," Ms. Ellis said.

A Boston TV station's call for viewers to express their opinion about the ads sent Kathleen O'Meara to the phone immediately.

Ms. O'Meara, a financial consultant in Gloucester, Mass., and a former Saatchi & Saatchi Holdings financial manager, said she tried to call several times to say the ads were sexually exploitive of children, but couldn't get through.

"But my side still won, something like 72% to 28%," she said.M

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