Published March 31, 2011
Cleavage-baring supermodel Lara Stone appears in nothing but underwear in the latest Calvin Klein billboard.
Nothing new there.
What is causing controversy in the streets of lower Manhattan is what parts of her body and parts of the background might be spelling out.
The super-sized advertisement, erected on the intersection of East Houston and Lafayette, appears to subliminally spell out the F-word, although you may need to look twice.
There’s a small table in the background of the image, which is partially blocked by Stone’s leg, thus creating an “F” shape. The model is strategically leaning forward, and the top of her black briefs strategically creates a “U” and then Calvin Klein’s “ck” signature is cunningly placed alongside.
Coincidence or carefully constructed?
“In an act of advertising desperation, it appears Calvin Klein hired an ad agency run by 13-year-old boys eager to show how creative they are with newly discovered words,” Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “Sadly, children can recognize (the obscene word.) The immaturity of that ad guarantees it. Calvin Klein is just part of the whole media and advertising trend to push our children into growing too fast and as immoral as possible.”
Steve Hall, Editor of AdRants, doesn’t think the billboard will turn away consumers.
“It won't hurt the brand because CK isn't a brand people look towards to be ‘sensitive’ or ‘politically correct’ or just plain ‘nice.’ No. It's a fashion brand and by design, fashion brands push limits,” Hall said. “It’s by no stretch a new level of low. It's just a simple swear. Other fashion and non-fashion brands have pushed much more sensitive buttons. Adding a swear word to an ad is nothing to what many brands have done before.”
Calvin Klein did not respond to our request for comment.
But does the eyebrow arching billboard really come as a shock? After all, the high-profile label has employed scandal-driven marketing tactics for decades.
In 1980, Calvin Klein ignited a massive uproar with a campaign featuring a then 15-year-old Brooke Shields purring "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." In 1995, the label was condemned by consumer and child welfare advocates for using pubescent models (some reportedly as young as fifteen) in provocative poses – prompting many to question whether CK had crossed the line between fashion and pornography.
Four years later, Calvin Klein was forced to pull ads for their children’s underwear label due to heavy criticism that the images of young boys and girls playing around in their briefs bordered on child exploitation. MA1 In 2008, a 30-second TV spot starring Eva Mendes hawking the company’s perfume “Secret Obsession” was widely panned (and banned) given that the actress caresses herself, rolls around on a rumpled bed and just so happens to have a nipple slip.
Then just last year, the Advertising Standards Bureau in Australia ordered the removal of yet another racy CK campaign featuring Lara Stone lying down while shrouded by male models, one of which is gripping her hair, with officials claiming the image encouraged rape and violence.
And even though Gainor is appalled by the latest Stone swearing ad, he isn’t pushing for it to be removed.
“Taking it down now is exactly what Calvin Klein wants," he said. "They get the edgy buzz from a truly infantile exercise in free speech."
- Deidre Behar contributed to this report.