Over the past few years, many people have lamented how children’s clothes are getting sexier and sexier as short hemlines and even push-up bras make their way down the ages. But this week, a new diaper ad for Huggies seems to beg the question: when is enough, enough?
The video ad, which was produced for Israeli TV audiences, has come over fire for making infants look, in a word, sexy. A toddler girl model strikes poses similar to those of high-fashion models in the ad — or at least, to the extent that her dimpled legs will allow them — and both babies accessorize the new product, denim diapers, with guitars and sunglasses. For many, the ad has been reminiscent of the controversial show Toddlers in Tiaras.
Woman-focused website The Gloss points out that the problem with the commercial is fairly specific. “It’s not the fact that the kids are wearing underwear,” says Samantha Escobar. “It’s the fact that they are being posed to look like adult models.” Some have gone so far as to call the campaign “pornographic” on both the company’s Facebook and on Twitter.
According to Alan E. Lawrence Kazdin, a professor of child psychiatry and psychology at Yale University, this ad shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. “This video is in a long string of similar ads,” he explains, citing everything from greeting cards, to dolls, to television shows that showcase sexy or romantic imagery of very young children. “Who’s watching these? There is huge sexualization all over the place,” he adds.
“Since we launched a special edition of the fashion Huggies jeans commercial celebrating color and fun a few weeks ago in Israel, a small number of consumers have shared negative reactions with us, although the response to the product and the commercial remains overwhelmingly positive,” said spokesman Bob Brand, speaking on behalf of the Kimberly-Clark diaper brand. “We certainly regret that anyone might have been offended, that was never our intent.” The company does not plan to pull the ads.
“As a marketer and brand specialist, I can appreciate the advertiser’s vision in this campaign. In America we are very sensitive to exploiting children. This commercial struck a cord with many moms – the very consumer whom they are trying to target,” says Milena Lyons, Branding Specialist at CMG Creative. “The negative PR awarded to this ad in my opinion makes it a failure. A more wholesome approach to this campaign would have driven home the message with great results, and positive PR. I don’t think this is a win-win for Huggies. Product sales will determine the true success of the ad.”
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