American Apparel is sorting out the tumultuous departure of CEO Dov Charney. The man, known for being politically incorrect and often nude, was allegedly fired for misusing company money and allowing another employee to post nude photos of a former female employee who had sued him.
The recent events highlight the company's marketing strategy, which like Charney, is known for being politically incorrect—something the brand has used in its own ad copy—as well as hypersexualized. According to the company's website, "the majority of [American Apparel's] creative content is conceived somewhere between the second floor and the factory rooftop, and overseen by our founder and CEO, Dov Charney, who first introduced our un-airbrushed aesthetic more than a decade ago."
With Charney's complicated ouster, Adweek checked in with director of marketing Ryan Holiday to see if, in light of recent events, the company would be making changes to the way it goes to market.
First off, does American Apparel work with any agencies?
American Apparel has always done its campaigns in house—our own photos, our own ads and our own copy, even our own buying. This was always an investment in our future and now we're going to be able to continue to benefit from those decisions early on because we have a clear aesthetic and brand to guide us. We have a great team of creatives, and we're excited to continue to produce work that makes people talk, speaks to what our brand represents and sell our products.
How would you define AA’s marketing strategy?
Our advertisements have been provocative and interesting from day one—but not for the reasons that everyone thinks. Our commitment to being logo free on our garments was controversial, our use of real girls and guys instead of professional models was controversial, and so have our political messages, lack of Photoshopping and everything like that.
With Charney’s departure, will there be any changes to AA’s marketing?
We're going to continue to push the envelope and speak to our customers with our advertisements, as we always have.
So the marketing will continue to have the same aesthetic and message?
Our ads have always been diverse and interesting—and contained many different messages and aesthetics (only some of which get covered online, as you can see here). Are we going to continue with that approach? Yes.
Will there still be a sexual element to some of the ads? Has there been any discussion about toning it down?
I think that sexuality and evocative imagery, done authentically and honestly, has always been a critical part of the American Apparel aesthetic, and there would be no reason for us to abandon the brand that we've built and that our customers love.