JCPenney Accused of Sexism Again With Phoebe Cates Spot

'Fast Times' scene offends

Headshot of T.L. Stanley

JCPenney, have you learned nothing lately? The answer will be obvious once you watch this new commercial, via Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, for men's clothing sold at the giant mall retailer. It uses a split screen to run a Fast Times at Ridgemont High scene of an 18-year-old Phoebe Cates soaking wet in a red bikini next to images of clothes targeted at men old enough to be her dad (as represented by the ad's spokesman, ESPN's Kenny Mayne). As if the ad needed more ick factor, the tagline is "Everybody wins." Oh, where to begin? It's head-scratching that the marketer launched this campaign so shortly after the hubbub over its T-shirt that said, "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me." Just in time for back to school! After an online furor, the retailer apologized for that shirt and axed it from its teen-girl fall fashion lineup. Now, there's this dirty-old-man ad, clearly aimed at guys who remember the iconic stoner flick and might have replayed that Cates scene in their heads a million times. That was almost 30 years ago. Using the pubescent Cates now is not only weird and random, it's just plain pervy. What, wasn't Gisele available? (Responding to one complaint on Facebook, JCPenney wrote: "We apologize that our advertising offended you. That certainly was not our intention. We have confirmed with our Marketing team that this particular ad campaign is scheduled to conclude at the end of [September] with no plans to re-air. Additionally, we have forwarded your comments to our Marketing team for consideration as they develop future advertising campaigns.") 

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@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.