Magazines, retailers ban racy FCUK scent

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The media and marketing plans behind the launch of the FCUK Him and FCUK Her fragrance lines were scrapped after two teen magazines refused to carry innuendo-laden ads and the country's largest department store de-listed the products.

Shiseido International's Zirh International unit only last month introduced the fragrance under license from British retailer and apparel marketer French Connection U.K. A Zirh spokeswoman said demand for the fragrance has exceeded expectations and production capacity, but that the company is re-evaluating its marketing due to the controversy. French Connection U.K. didn't return calls for comment.

"Internationally, nothing will change regarding the direction or scope of the campaign," she said. "Domestically, we are currently evaluating what our next steps might be." She added that Zirh is shifting some U.S. ad dollars to "store-level execution" and overseas programs.

The "Scent to Bed" print and promotion campaign from Omnicom Group's TBWA, London, raised ire of such groups as the Mississippi-based American Family Association and Minnesota-based Catholic Parents Online. The former unleashed e-mail and phone campaigns against retailers carrying FCUK. The latter threatened a boycott against Target Corp.'s Marshall Field's, which carries FCUK, and even sibling Target stores, which don't.

As a result of the flap, Federated Department Stores, the nation's largest department-store retailer, whose brands include Bloomingdales, Macy's and Burdines, is pulling all FCUK-logo merchandise, including both fragrance and sportswear, from 400 stores. May Department Stores Co. chains "have no current promotions planned" for FCUK but continue to carry the brand, a spokeswoman said. Marshall Field's has scaled back promotion of FCUK merchandise, according to the AFA, though Target Corp. did not return calls for comment.

parental complaints

Among newspaper inserts and in-store collateral for the campaign was a scented ad urging readers to "open here to try FCUK Her" (or "Him").

Parent complaints about a "Scent to bed" ad that ran in October showing a scantily clad young man and woman snuggling on a bed prompted a school committee in Knoxville, Tenn., to review subscriptions for Hearst Corp.'s Seventeen magazine for middle- and high-school libraries. The brand is not even sold in Tennessee stores, according to fcukfragrance.com.

Spokespeople for Seventeen and Time Inc.'s Teen People said they won't run any more of the brand's ad, and the Zirh spokeswoman described placement of ads in teen magazines as a mistake. "The readership of Seventeen and Teen People is much younger than we had understood it to be," she said in an e-mail response. "The core of this campaign was targeted at 18-25 year olds with on-campus sampling, special events and other activities."

She said less than 2% of FCUK's marketing spending went to teen publications, with other ads appearing in such publications as Dennis Publishing's Maxim, Emap's FHM, and Hearst's Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.

Zirh's plans originally called for rolling FCUK into 1,000 stores and backing it with $10 million in marketing. The spokeswoman said the fragrance had only reached 750 stores before Federated pulled the plug, but added that Zirh still was having trouble keeping up with demand. The brand ranked no lower than No. 8 among fragrance brands at Sephora stores and No. 4 at Bloomingdales during its first two weeks, she said.

Zirh still expects Fcuk to reach 61 countries globally by next year and 1,200 stores in the U.S. by spring following a "repositioning," the spokeswoman said.

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