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Media Guy Slips Into Coma; Are Print Ads to Blame?
Weekly Commentary From The Media Guy
Ad Age
Simon Dumenco
August 29, 2005


Remember the recent past, when magazine ads often used to be sexier and more compelling than the edit? Well, even Calvin Klein is letting us down these days with the new Obsession Night campaign (shirtless male and female waifs soaking stiffly in a dark pool of water... and looking all depressed about having to languish in a watered-down version of CK ads).

In fact, just about the only print ads I've consistently engaged with lately are for American Apparel. Say what you will about AmAp and its famously pervy founder, Dov Charney, who is the mastermind behind the ongoing campaign. His ads are not only hot (they show his sexy employees modeling the merch) and briskly reinforce the brand message (which is about well-constructed, no-frills, eminently wearable, sweatshop-free clothing), but are refreshingly not celebrity-obsessed. And the ads, which have become staples of indies like Vice (which makes AmAp sort of a newer version of Absolut Vodka—a corporate Medici for provocative magazines), have a genuinely interesting narrative through-line (the new "¡Viva Mexico!" ad, for instance, stars a guy named Eduardo who is helping to open AmAp's store in Mexico).

Meanwhile, while most magazine ads are boring us all to tears, there's rising talk about marketers trying to get—expecting to get—product placement in editorial. Yeah, great solution: The ad agency you're paying is totally letting you down, so try snookering the editors at the magazines you're paying to run your lousy ads, all in an attempt to assuage your crushing disappointment in your own brand image.