Parents are outraged by the spring-break themed ads, pointing out that the models look really, really young, and accusing the lingerie giant of sexualizing young girls. College-age women, on the other hand, are shocked that younger kids are interested in Victoria's Secret products at all.
"Victoria’s Secret PINK is a brand for college-aged women," the company said in a statement on Monday. "Despite recent rumors, we have no plans to introduce a collection for younger women. 'Bright Young Things' was a slogan used in conjunction with the college spring break tradition."
Which would be fine, if a Victoria's Secret executive hadn't already said otherwise.
“When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be?” Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said at a conference in January. “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK.”
It's also part of the magic of marketing. In the past, Victoria's Secret has featured artists like Marc Anthony and Sting in their super-sexy fashion shows; last year, teen-idol Justin Bieber was crooning as models wearing bras, panties, and stilettos walked the stage around him. As mom of seven Amy Gerwing points out at TheBlackSphere.net: "The not-so-subliminal marketing message was sent: I like Justin Bieiber, Justin Bieber likes Victoria’s Secret, and therefore I should buy Victoria’s Secret."
While teens may clamor for the new collection—which includes pink lace undies emblazoned with the word "Wild," lace thongs with "I Dare You" on the front, and polka-dotted hip-huggers with "Feeling Lucky" printed on the back—parents are not amused.
"As a father, this makes me sick," wrote the Rev. Evan Dolive of Houston, Texas, in an open letter to the lingerie company. "I believe that this sends the wrong message to not only my daughter but to all young girls."
"You are selling out a generation of young women to make a buck with your 'Bright Young Things' line," Linda Johnson Kaplan told Victoria's Secret in a Facebook message. "It is irresponsible and disgusting to market that level of sexually suggestive items to girls. As an adult, I will no longer be shopping in your store."
Kevin Wagstaff, the founder of Keira's Kollection, a clothing company aimed at empowering girls and women, told Yahoo! Shine late Monday that the Bright Young Things campaign left him "speechless" but not surprised.
"Large companies continue the sexualization of young girls because they feel there is a market for it," he said. "The talks to little girls about what defines beauty need to happen earlier. Parents must be aware of just how early advertising effects young girls."
"The forgotten piece to this is young adults, college students, and even high school students," he continued. "If they are the ones teens and pre-teens look up to, then we need to encourage more activism from them. Find a way to help them become more conscious and socially aware of their purchases and what they support and stand for."
But while parents are up in arms at the idea of a lingerie company targeting tweens, college-age women are outraged that parents would be letting kids buy Victoria's Secret underwear to begin with.
"I've gone into PINK and VS where there are 12 year olds with their parents buying bras and underwear. There are a ton of parents who allow it," wrote Catarina Louro-Matos on Facebook. "Little girls who don't have boobs, either. If it was underwear, fine. It's underwear. But it is usually always bras. Some parents really do need to reconsider their parenting skills instead of blaming marketing for it."
"If you were letting your underage kids shop here before this campaign even started then YOU guys are the one who need to reconsider your parenting skills," posted Perla Mariela on Facebook.
"Whether or not Victoria Secret is advertising to tweens and teens is irrelevant," wrote Ethan Jordan in response to critics on Victoria's Secret's Facebook page. "You have a problem with the line? Don't buy from it. VS is just (potentially) capitalizing on a market that society has created. Younger girls want to feel sexy. That's not VS's fault, but they'd be stupid business people if they didn't take the opportunity. Just be good role models and parents and do the best you can for your own girls. It's really that simple."
When a mom quipped that Jordan obviously didn't have a daughter, he agreed.
"I just live in a generation where parents' first inclination is to blame the world around them for everything that's wrong with their child," Jordan replied.
What do you think? Does it make good business sense for Victoria's Secret to market to younger customers, or are they just sexualizing teens and tweens?
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