In 2009, American Apparel waged an aggressive marketing strategy in hopes to boost sales after their company ran into some financial troubles.  That’s when the government cracked down on their labor force, citing that the majority of them were illegal immigrants.  They soon hired workers that were legal, thus raising their cost and effecting their overall profit margin.

In the wake of these lower profits, the company decided to take an over-sexualized approach to their advertising campaigns.  Instead of actively engaging in the political voting process by supporting gay marriages as they had done in the past, AA decided that they can gain more attention by displaying billboards that were not only provocative but close to being pornographic.  Moreover, AA ignited interactive marketing campaigns by inviting female consumers to upload pictures of their backsides to the company’s website (wearing AA underwear or bodysuits) and then asking people to judge the submissions.  These women were often depicted in little to nothing at all, while displaying clothing that is far more suited for the provocative stripper lifestyle than the overall viewing public.

These type of campaigns are prime examples how marketers promote sexualization and body obsession as a form of girl power. This blatant display of body-parts and porn-inspired media has not only infiltrated the everyday culture but also has seeped into the minds of young innocent girls. The objectification of women/girls in the media and the negative impact it has on them, is essentially wreaking havoc on their psychological, emotional, cognitive and relational lives.

American Apparel is directly and immensely undermining girls’ healthy development by equating confidence with looking sexy, winning with being judged on their appearance, and personal value with 15 seconds of fame.  I guess that why Dove’s “Empowering Young Girls” campaign was so successful.

Darryl J. Gilbert/Michael Norville