These photos of Victoria's Secret commercials over the years reveal why the store is struggling in the #MeToo era

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty ImagesVictoria’s Secret is going through a rough patch.
  • Victoria’s Secret is closing 53 stores in North America this year.
  • The brand has struggled in recent years – sales have slipped, and its provocative ads are being criticised by some as being tone deaf in the era of #MeToo.
  • Here’s how much its commercials have changed over the years.

Victoria’s Secret is struggling, and critics say it’s because it’s alienating customers with its racy ads.

On Wednesday, its parent company L Brands reported fourth-quarter earnings and announced that it would be closing 53 of its Victoria’s Secret stores this year, following 30 closings in 2018. Same-store sales were down 3% at Victoria’s Secret during the quarter and in 2018 overall.

The brand has struggled in recent years and has increasingly been accused of losing relevance among shoppers as its hypersexualized ads and racy runway shows have failed to resonate in the era of #MeToo.

Though some of its commercials have become more tame over time, the reality is that the brand has largely not adapted to the times, and its scantily clad, airbrushed models are still the main feature of its campaigns.

We took a look back at the brand’s commercials to see how much they have changed over the years:


The brand was created by Ray Raymond in 1977. Raymond named the brand after the Victorian era in England, wanting to evoke the refinement of this period in his lingerie. The term “secrets” refers to what was hidden beneath.

Victoria’s Secret

Source: Slate


The brand was bought by its current parent company, L Brands, for $US1 million in 1982 with its current CEO, Les Wexner, at the helm.

Nicholas Hunt/GettyLes Wexner.

The overtly provocative nature of Raymond’s Victoria’s Secret was slightly altered when Wexner took the helm of the brand – but make no mistake, lingerie still abounded.

The brand held its first runway show in 1995.

Source: L Brands


The idea of the Victoria’s Secret “Angel” came into play in 1997 after a commercial featuring Helena Christensen, Karen Mulder, Daniela Peštová, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks ran to promote its “Angels” underwear collection. From then on, the term Angel become synonymous with the brand.

Victoria’s Secret

Source: The Cut


In the early commercials, the models were heavily made up and scantily dressed.

YouTube/Derek Dahlsad

The commercials were full of cheesy lines. “The best thing about being an angel is you could fly,” Christensen said in a whispery voice.


The narrator had a British accent.


From the early days, Victoria’s Secret’s well-known push-up bra featured prominently in the commercials.


In the early 2000s, the ads became a little more racy …


…and the music sped up.


Models such as Adriana Lima and Gisele Bündchen joined the brand.


The Angels ramped up their whispery voices.


The apparel and sleepwear commercials were just as racy.


At times, the commercials have focused more on femininity …


… but the majority continued to be racy.


In 2014, American Eagle’s underwear label Aerie swapped its airbrushed ads for unretouched photos and launched a body-positive campaign known as #AerieReal.


Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret showed no signs of adapting to the times.


Starting in the third quarter of 2016, same-store sales at Victoria’s Secret started to slide.

Source: L Brands


Though the ads today have lost their whispery voices and cliched lines, the focus is still on sexiness.

caption
“Join the Victoria’s Secret Angels for the sexiest holiday yet!” the commercial said.


The premise is almost identical to what aired over 20 years ago, indicating that very little has changed even in the context of #MeToo.

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