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I suppose that the Calvin Klein jeans ads aren't any worse than the suggestive lyrics and provocative strutting in record videos, but what galls me is the hypocritical balderdash that companies put out to justify their actions.

Get a load of CK's feeble rationalization: "The inspiration of the new jeans campaign was the idea of amateurism and media awareness-and the strength of personality and self-knowledge of young people today. What these people show is that they know how to act, how to control a situation and how to respond in their own way."

What a crock! The only self-knowledge the kids in the ads displayed was that their bodies were being exploited and they were getting paid. I guess it's OK for them to do anything they want as long as they're aware of what they're doing and in control.

That certainly opens up vast possibilities. Self-awareness, we are led to conclude, makes all things possible.

My own feeling is that Calvin Klein's advertising philosophy is less esoteric: The more you shock, the more publicity you get for your ads.

As our ad critic Bob Garfield told The New York Times: "Calvin Klein has made a career out of stepping over the line, shocking consumers to create word-of-mouth. This time he vaulted over the line and beyond the pale-and even he has now discovered there are places you dare not go.

"Maybe this will put an end to some intentionally outrageous and provocative advertising and make people think twice about shocking a million people to impress nine."

Fat chance, Bob. The reason Calvin Klein pulled the ads was the company didn't want its fancy new store on Madison Ave. (which won't sell jeans, by the way) to be picketed.

Basically, the only reason companies like Calvin Klein and Benetton will change their ads is because they cause financial disruption. And it's got to hurt their bottom lines severely before they act because their small ad budgets get a lot of extra mileage with all the publicity their outrageous ads provoke.

Benetton, I suspect, answers to some secret voice. Store owners have filed suits against them because of lost business, consumer groups have boycotted stores and the company itself admits its tasteless ads diverted its attention from moving merchandise. Still the ads continue, the latest one depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and a climbing boot. Benetton claims its ads are supposed to call attention to social inequalities.

The ads' creator, Oliviero Toscani, has said the object is not to increase sales but to show that all is not sweetness and light in the world. "If someone from another planet visited Earth in a few hundred years and judged from the ads he'd think our life consisted of idyllic families and luxury goods," he told The Toronto Star this summer.

But Benetton is selling luxury goods, no matter what nonsense the retailer chooses to dish out, and Calvin Klein is selling jeans. Visions of child pornography and the war in Bosnia impede that basic mission.

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