Truth In Advertising
By Richard Vincente
Watching the U.S. presidential debate the other night, I was (like so many others) horrified by the steady stream of half-truths, exaggerations, misquoted promises, outdated arguments and other hyperbolic rhetorical devices used by both candidates to slyly smear each other.
I’m Canadian, and while we have our own brand of political gamesmanship up here, the utter mendaciousness of the U.S. campaign is both foreign and reprehensible to us Canucks.
And I’m familiar enough with the American political scene to know that much of what’s coming out of both the Democratic and GOP campaigns this year has been twisted, distorted, whitewashed and manufactured to disparage one’s opponent and make your candidate appear more attractive by comparison. As a result, it’s increasingly difficult for the public to know where the truth really lies.
Negative advertising is one of those toxic cultural phenomena that poison everyone. It turns election candidates into liars and makes audiences feel slimy for listening. Even worse, it gives people the wrong reasons for making a choice. If I was an American voter, I’d be tempted to scream: “Just give me one honest candidate!”
You wouldn’t think it, but this sort of thing happens in the fashion world too, and especially in lingerie marketing.
Because I get a lot of press releases and marketing material from lingerie brands, rarely does a week go by in which I don’t see someone subtly slagging their competitors as a way of trying to boost their own profile (you other lingerie bloggers out there will know exactly what I mean
The typical scenario goes something like this:
An enterprising designer decides to launch a new label, and they need a “story” to tell the press and public in order to promote their venture. They write a script that says: “I decided to create my new [insert category here] line because of my personal frustration in trying to find this kind of product on the market today. No one makes [this] so I decided to fill the void.”
I’ve seen variations of that argument dozens and dozens of times in the past couple of years. I created SqueezeMe because no one else is doing shapewear that is both functional and stylish … or … I designed Hot Mama because there is no sexy maternity lingerie available on planet Earth … or … After years of searching in vain for quality vintage stockings I invented Betties for myself … or … Since the lingerie market does not offer fashionable styles to plus-size women, I decided to start Big Beauties … or … I launched Beddy-Byes because I was frustrated by the complete lack of quality silk pajamas available today.
Seriously, the variations are endless but the message is always the same, and always just as dopey.
You’ll see rationales like that pop up in media reports from time to time. And, to my own shame, I fell for those arguments the first few times I was spoon-fed them, regurgitating them dutifully in my columns for Lingerie Talk. But no more.
The worst offenders are sleep, lounge and shapewear brands, who would have you believe they invented their category themselves. But this kind of promotion is almost always untrue. There are very, very few products that are truly revolutionary and original. You might like to think that your concept for a bra with four straps instead of two came to you in a dream like Twilight did for Stephanie Meyer, but the truth is that both you and Stephanie are plowing a well-tilled field.
And there are plenty of good reasons why we should all agree to a moratorium on negative advertising in the lingerie world. If you need to use underhanded digs at your competitors to increase your own profile, it’s hard to project a positive message of any kind (just ask Mitt Romney). Besides, consumers are much, much smarter than this and they know condescending hype when they smell it. If they see another stretch lace bandeau tube pitched as a groundbreaking fashion revolution, they’re bound to think you’re just plain stupid.
The fashion lingerie community is small corner of the fashion world and it’s filled with very creative, hard-working and accomplished people. There’s enough glory to go around, without slagging competitors to get your share.
Besides, if fashion marketers start projecting more positive and honest messages and ditch the self-serving hype, maybe our politicians will follow suit.
Richard Vincente covers lingerie news for Lingerie Talk.