Deceptively Skinny

How can a company or brand draw traffic to its website? How can a retail store capture people’s attention? Maybe by doing this:

Released on March 20, 2013, American Eagle invited us to go to their website to purchase our own pair. If this is the first time you have seen or heard about this commercial, you might be wondering what is going on with those jeans and what is American Eagle doing? Thankfully, they are not actually trying to sell these “limited edition” Skinny Skinny jeans. The “jeans” featured in the commercial are in fact spray paint on the models, which American Eagle isn’t trying to sell either. I don’t think anyone wants that trend to start! Their goal with this ad campaign is to grab our attention, which I think it did. The commercial leaves viewers slightly confused and wanting to know more, and the obvious place to look for answers is American Eagle’s Website, which draws in traffic.

Here you see the two “styles” of jeans, which are indeed spray paint cans. Prior to April Fools Day, it appeared you could buy the spray paint, but it was (always) out of stock. However, you could sign up to receive an email when more paint was available, resulting in the company capturing your email address. Now when you go to their site, you can receive a coupon for $10 off REAL American Eagle jeans.

This campaign, while strategically deceptive, seems to be successful. As James Twichell explains in Lead Us into Temptation, “What advertising does and how it does it has little to do with the movement of specific goods.” This commercial was strategic in this way because it does not advertise a specific product, or even a product at all. The campaign, I feel, had more to do with American Eagle’s brand image and drawing attention to the brand. As Bob Holobinko, American Eagle’s vice president of brand marketing, said, “we just wanted to have fun, and have fun with our fans, and it was a good opportunity to kind of push it from a brand standpoint and the response has been incredible.” Taking a risk to deceive yet entertain their audience was worth it.

While I commend their creativity and think this campaign is quite clever, I wonder what the impacts are for the future of advertising, especially the lines of deceptive advertising. While entertaining, it is deceptive from the commercial to the appearance that you can indeed purchase the spray cans. However, people tend to find this acceptable because it is rather funny and ten days later:

AE April Fools

So, do you think this kind of deceptive advertising is acceptable because of its entertaining and playful nature? Or do you think advertisements like this could lead to more issues and mistrust about the nature of advertising?

Laura Tippett