Creative Critique

Breasts R Us
The world according to supermodels
In this latest Victoria’s Secret campaign, a series of supermodels are asked, “What is Desire?” Now this is a tough question; most people would just stammer or be embarrassed or mumble something about love and madness.
Still, it’s not a trick question. There’s a lot more latitude here. (Desire, you see, is the “new shape of sexy,” the name of the bra the company is pushing.)
A distinguished British voice queries supermodel Stephanie Seymour, who takes the question so seriously, and considers it so deeply, she actually seems to rack her breasts in response. In fairness, though, the ads are closely focused and framed, and the models recline horizontally. We see their faces and then get disembodied shots of their chests. All of their cups runneth over.
But you’ve never seen heaving and cleaving until you see Seymour at it. She gets the most worked up of any of the Desire-clad oracles, thrashing her hair and touching her lips; some of the shots and her answers are replayed in a mechanical, porn way, whereas a few of the other models merely laugh girlishly. Eva Herzigova also laughs, but tells us,”Desire can never be satisfied, but it keeps me going.”
There’s that creepy men’s magazine vibe of “women we love” here that tries to pick up on the model’s high spirits, to mix a little wholesomeness and personality with the sex, to make the viewer (voyeur) think he actually is interacting with this model, when it’s poignantly clear he’s not.
Come on, you say, Victoria’s Secret is advertising bras! How different could the ads look?
The last time I covered VS ads, the company had just run its Super Bowl spot, featuring models and their cleavage pounding down the catwalk. It promoted a Web site fashion show, to which 1.5 million people tuned in. It accounted for “the biggest collective behavioral shift in the history of mass communications,” according to Ed Razek, president of Intimate Brands, the parent company. But the spot was polarizing to women. Leo She, a division of Leo Burnett, polled women in Peoria, Ill., about the ad, and 80 percent hated it. One who liked it said, “I could be brainwashed already. I want those boobs.”
In that vein, perhaps the company has done more to sell plastic surgery, both to men and women, than it knows. On the other hand, aesthetically speaking, this Desire series goes for something higher than mere ba-boom. Unlike the Super Bowl spot, this campaign has a foreign movie quality, shot in black and white, with title cards. There’s the obvious intention to be more arty, intellectual. Let’s call it “boob noir.”
Indeed, boob noir fits right into our new, atavistic culture in which, in the media at least, we worship alpha males and supermodels, who are the only women allowed to be sexual beings. In a recent New Yorker story, Rebecca Mead explained that “principles of evolutionary psychology have filtered into mass culture. Everyone understands that men are slaves to their genetic predisposition to seek out beautiful women and then to be unfaithful to them with other beautiful women.”
The whole thing smacks of a Donald Trump sensibility. He’s already promised, if elected, no cellulite on the babes in the White House. That was the whole problem with Clinton, he said. It wasn’t that he had sex with an intern and lied about it, but that she was fat. Had Monica been a supermodel, Trump claims, everyone would have understood.
Maybe, in the future, we will harvest only supermodel eggs–regularly shaped women will not be allowed to reproduce–which will also insure the future of all Victoria’s Secret lines.
Because reading between the lines of TV these days, our female breasts are our nation’s future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. K
Victoria’s Secret
Intimate Brands,
Columbus, Ohio
Agency: in-house
Creative Director: Ed Razek