Intimate Apparel

Published on .

Jockey International began advertising men's underwear in magazines such as the Ladies' Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post as early as the 1890s. Over the years, it used print ads with illustrations to introduce such innovations as the Jockey brief, launched in 1935.

In the 1960s, Jockey introduced "fashion colors" to what had previously been a white-only industry. One TV spot, from ad agency Henri, Hurst & McDonald, featured baseball player Yogi Berra in plain white shorts surrounded by his sons, wearing colorful Jockeys and urging their father to update his image. In the 1970s, Jockey worked with Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, for its women's products, developing the "Jockey for Her" campaign.

Maidenform combined innovation and widespread marketing, including the first TV spots for brassieres. The "I Dreamed . . ." campaign ran for 20 years, starting in 1949. The original Maidenform ads were created by Norman, Craig & Kummel and showed women acting out fantasies. In one, a woman lawyer confided, "I dreamed I swayed the jury in my Maidenform bra."

The campaign eventually collided with the social changes of the 1960s and '70s, most notably the rise of feminism and the women's movement's disdain for what it saw as traditional images of women. When young women started burning their bras in the 1970s, Maidenform shelved "I Dreamed . . ." for 11 years.

Playtex Apparel, one of Maidenform's chief competitors in department stores, also went into TV early, starting in 1955 with spots in daytime for its bras and girdles. In 1971, it introduced a campaign from Grey Advertising that featured the well-endowed 1950s film star Jane Russell selling its 18-Hour bra.

It was not until 1987 that Playtex became the first marketer to show its bras on models in broadcast TV spots, via Grey Advertising. The spots showed women walking by and then, for a few seconds, the same shot of the model wearing only her Cross Your Heart bra.

Ads for men's underwear had more leeway to show the product, but the category was not without controversy. In 1986, when Grey created a spot for Fruit of the Loom men's underwear, it had to show a female model holding a pair of briefs across a man's midriff while he wore pajama bottoms.

Celebrities and plain folks

In 1975, Jockey broke ground with a print campaign from Bozell & Jacobs featuring star athletes modeling underwear. The models included Major League Baseball players Jim Palmer, Steve Garvey and Pete Rose. In 1980, Mr. Palmer was chosen as the sole spokesman for Jockey and helped make Jockey sports underwear the No. 1 brand

Fruit of the Loom also tried celebrity endorsements, with a 1990 TV campaign from Grey. Spots featured a jingle ("Whose underwear is under there?") over shots of popular TV stars of the era wearing only their Fruit of the Loom briefs. Fruit of the Loom created its famous logo in 1875, but it was not until 100 years later that it used it in advertising. "The Fruit of the Loom Guys"&mdasha trio of pitchmen dressed as pieces of fruit—first appeared in an ad campaign from Grey in 1975.

Although Grey lost the Fruit of the Loom account in 1992, the agency went on to create a memorable campaign for Jockey that used real-life people as models. Print ads and billboards proclaimed, "Let them know you're Jockey," over pictures of such professionals as doctors, firefighters and—in one controversial ad—women stockbrokers modeling hosiery. The campaign ran from 1996 until 2001, when Jockey once again decided to change direction and moved its account to a new shop, the Octopus Agency.

Maidenform also revived a successful campaign from the past in 1980, when it launched an effort similar to its "I Dreamed . . . " campaign. Ads from agency Daniel & Charles, with the tagline "The Maidenform Woman. You never know where she'll turn up," showed the Maidenform Woman in scenes such as commuting to work, reading The Wall Street Journal and going to the theater—dressed in a matching bra and panties.

Men in the scenes seemed oblivious to her state of undress. But times had changed, and the campaign received a less than enthusiastic reception.

Maidenform tried other approaches, and in 1988, Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver created a radical departure in lingerie ads. The TV spots featured neither women nor product, just male celebrities such as actors Omar Sharif and Corbin Bernsen, breathlessly expounding on women's lingerie and their personal experiences with it. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1997, Maidenform emerged in 1999 with a new campaign and a redesigned identity from Frierson, Mee & Kraft (later Frierson, Mee & Partners). The campaign was built largely around in-store displays and outdoor boards near major retailers in an effort to rebuild relationships with the company's most important vendors.

Catalog and Internet marketing

In the 1990s, traditional underwear marketers were faced with competition on several fronts. Consumers increasingly switched to discount retailers and specialty stores rather than shop in department stores. One specialty store in particular reshaped intimate apparel marketing in the 1980s and 1990s: Victoria's Secret.

The company started in 1977 as a chain of lowbrow lingerie stores and a mail-order catalog better known for steamy photographs than for its merchandise. In 1982, The Limited bought and rebranded Victoria's Secret to market underwear to housewives and career women as an indulgence rather than as practical "foundation garments" or seductionwear.

Victoria's Secret managed to translate its nice-but-sexy attitude to TV with spots by Tarlow Advertising in 1996. The spots were considered so racy that the major TV networks insisted on cuts before airing them.

Although its catalog remains its most successful marketing tool, Victoria's Secret also took steps onto the Internet with a Web broadcast of its popular Valentine's Day fashion show in 1999. The Webcast was promoted with a single TV spot during the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIII, created by Resource Marketing, Columbus, Ohio. Critics condemned the commercial, but response was so enormous that the fashion show Web site overloaded and crashed.

In 1994, Sara Lee Corp. launched its Wonderbra in the U.K. with an outdoor and print campaign from TBWA/Simons Palmer, in which model Eva Herzigova greeted passersby with a broad stretch of cleavage and "Hello, boys!" In response, VF Corp.'s Lily of France unit rolled out its X-Bra with ads from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

As the 20th century came to a close, apparel conglomerates such as Sara Lee and Warnaco joined in licensing agreements with upscale designers such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, respectively. The underwear business became so profitable that it generated legal actions. Calvin Klein ultimately sued Warnaco, claiming the conglomerate had cheapened the designer's brand by selling it at discount stores. Warnaco countersued, saying Klein's provocative and controversial ads, created by its in-house agency, CRK Advertising, had hurt the brand's image.

In 2004, controversy surrounding entertainer Janet Jackson's breast-baring "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl and fines against radio's "Howard Stern Show" for sexually explicit material played a part in Victoria's Secret's decision to drop its hourlong "Sexiest Night on TV" fashion show scheduled to air on CBS and to develop tamer advertising. Other companies also began looking at their campaigns to determine if their overtly sexy images fit with the more serious mood of the world.

Most Popular
In this article: