Victoria’s Secret’s ads are notoriously sexy, but some consumers seem to think the retailer has gone too far.
This photo, which was posted on the lingerie retailer’s Facebook page, has infuriated some female consumers.
It’s sexy…but in a way that’s unappealing to them.
“Your customers are women, not porn stars,” one female commenter wrote. “Stop catering to men.”
Another commenter seconded the overtly sexy nature of the photo.
“Am I the only one who notices their pictures are starting to get more trashy? They don’t even look “professional” anymore (photography) they’re just awful….” Another female commenter wrote.
“VS bring back the old angels! Behati, candice, adri and ale. They got the vibe! Not trashy pictures, they bring the high quality pics,” she wrote.
“Sad that you are posting pictures like this. You are depicting your Angels as porn stars,” another woman wrote.
For what it’s worth, Victoria’s Secret was actually created with the intention of catering to males.
As detailed in Slate, the brand was initiated when founder Roy Raymond wanted to buy his wife sexy lingerie as a gift, but was faced with a problem: he didn’t feel comfortable stepping into a lingerie store; he would have looked shady.
The brand switched gears once Leslie Wexner was at the helm, and it started to cater to women rather than their feral husbands.
“Most of the women that I knew wore underwear most of the time, and most of the women that I knew I thought would rather wear lingerie most of the time, but there were no lingerie stores,” Wexner explained to Newsweek in 2010. “I thought if we could develop price points and products that have a broader base of customer, it could be something big.”
But lately, there has been a call for authenticity from female consumers, something beyond pure sexiness.
Sales at Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie brand, have been skyrocketing since the retailer stopped airbrushing their ads. Aerie clearly caters to a younger, more virginal demographic than Victoria’s Secret does, but it’s worth nothing that the ads are not intended for the male gaze; rather, they’re for the young women purchasing the underwear.
Additionally, other brands have begun to forgo traditionally sexy advertisements in lieu of a more subtle version of sex. Abercrombie & Fitch has abandoned its carnal imagery for a more toned down, relatable look, as has American Apparel.
This is a part of a massive cultural shift.
“What is truly sexy is the key, and shifts along with the culture and every generation,” Ruth Bernstein, chief strategic officer at image-making imagery YARD, said to Business Insider this fall. “When you get it right, it still absolutely works and sells. The trick is to understanding that sexy has evolved.”
That’s not to say that Victoria’s Secret should abandon its trademark advertisement to appeal to teens; the brand is, after all, inherently linked to fantasy (look no further than the Fantasy Bra for proof) and the strategy is obviously working — the company’s sales totaled roughly $5.7 billion in 2014 and it holds the majority of the lingerie market with a whopping 61.8%, according to IBIS World. The question is if it needs to recalibrate in order to maintain its customers.
We’ve reached out to Victoria’s Secret for comment.
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