Imagine you are a Reebok ad executive facing flat sales and an even flatter image problem. Do you:
a) design an ad campaign based on the product you were given and its proven benefits
b) quit your job because it’s too hard
c) spend the whole day watching episodes of Mad Men on Netflix Instant to channel inspiration
d) based on little to no scientific evidence, claim that EasyTone footwear will measurably strengthen the muscles in the legs, thighs and buttocks, and then design a sexist and objectifying ad campaign based on this faulty claim that promises the shoes will, among other things, “make your boobs jealous of your ass”??
If you chose d), congratulations! You did the same thing as the real-life Reebok ad folks.
Not that it was legal. You may remember that almost a year ago, I wrote a silly pun-riddled post quoting the New York Times takedown of the bunk science behind Reebok’s claims. Well, now the AP reports that Reebok must pay $25 million in customer refunds for what amounts to false advertising.
I don’t know if it bothers me more that this ad campaign sought to exploit women’s insecurities and culturally normative standards of beauty, or that they lied about their product’s benefits to do so. But it is encouraging that their actions were found to cross a line.
And although $25 million probably amounts to a drop in the bucket for Reebok, considering that toning shoes were the fastest-growing segment in the footwear industry last year with a $1.1 billion market share, it’s a start. And in addition to the financial returns for people who purchased the product, the case serves as a good and necessary reminder to all of us folks trying to live our lives in the most deliberate and informed way possible to question the images and claims we encounter on a daily basis…especially when they come from corporations who aren’t technically in the business of caring about anything except profit.
Soo in conclusion…Occupy Wall St anyone??