JC Penney Bangs Out Ad Controversy

Mother, Jugs, And Speed Edition

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It’s not true there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but it is true that not all "bad" publicity is bad; sometimes bad (better, controversial) publicity plus free plus plausible deniability is a winner. Also true: teenagers have sex, always have, and parents aren’t thrilled about that.

Mother, Jugs, And Speed Edition

Not all truths are welcome, though, even if universally understood in the back of one’s own memory of adolescence—oh, the things we got a way with in our teen years! In light of recent so-called pregnancy pacts and teenage idols in bed sheets, parents likely would rather Madison Avenue and JC Penney not give their presumably chaste progeny any ideas.

Enter "Speed Dressing," the title of what appeared to be a JC Penney advertisement depicting two teenagers practicing putting their clothes on in their respective bedrooms until they whittled it down to dressed in 18 seconds. Boy* shows up at Girl’s house, Girl tells Mom they’re headed to the basement to "watch TV"**. The ad closes with the slogan "Today’s the day…to get away with it."

The ad, credit for which we’ll get to in a minute, won a prestigious advertising award in Cannes, presumably because Europeans are cool with the teen sex thing. The ad can be seen at the Cannes Lions winners website, downloaded at the Advertoblog, and also streamed from YouTube in at least three separate places. The news headlines currently generating about the ad have been relatively boring and/or typical, so the headline award ends in a tie among bloggers:

JC Penney: Where Moms Go To Help Their Kids Make Whoopie


JC Penney Hearts Teen Fornication

The Wall Street Journal and other publications, though, report the ad is, somehow, "a fake," and JC Penney execs are none too happy with it. Given the guaranteed viral status of the ad, the coolness factor among the valuable fashion-conscience teen demographic enhanced only by the fact their parents will hate it, and the precious impact on branding value, that deniability seems not only convenient but golden.

Even the ad agency in charge of the JC Penney account, Saatchi & Saatchi, to whom the buck was passed, is denying responsibility, suggesting it belongs to an unnamed "after hours" producer at Epoch Films, who entered the ad into the competition without anybody knowing about it until Middle America stood a chance of being outraged.

JC Penney and Saatchi are reported to have had a "serious discussion" about this, but the retail chain’s management said their relationship is not in any kind of jeopardy. JC Penney has asked Saatchi to track down the ad where it exists online and have it removed.

Good luck with that.

If this little viral fiasco wasn’t invented by Saatchi and JC Penney, then it was an incredibly fortunate accident from a branding and viral marketing perspective as the blogosphere and news circuits bat it around awhile, just increasing JC Penney’s coolness ratio by the video stream.

Somebody’s up for a promotion, I bet.

*Fathers and future fathers of daughters join me in renaming Boy to Kid Who Better Stay The Hell Away From My Daughter Lest He Wants A Free Of Charge And Imprecise Sterilization Procedure.
**All this time and the euphemisms haven’t changed…In college, this morphed into "Come over and watch a movie," which was code for "My roommate’s out of town" or "The RA is cool about stuff."  

JC Penney Bangs Out Ad Controversy
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  • http://blog.impactmt.com BigPappa

    “Saatchi & Saatchi has a long history of producing principled and respectful advertising for JCPenney and its entire client roster. The Speed Dressing TV commercial, which was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes, was created by a third party vendor without JCPenney’s knowledge or consent. It was produced and released to the public without any knowledge or prior approval from JCPenney. Saatchi & Saatchi did not enter the spot and deeply regrets the message this ad presents. Saatchi & Saatchi apologizes to JCPenney, its associates and its customers. The commercial is being removed from public circulation.”

  • Roger Makak

    I beg to differ. Crispin Porter Bugusky has no problems selling and producing viral work that attracts attention and build brands with the full endorsement of its clients.

    So why do Saatchi have to produce scam work to prove how creative it is when it continues to produce run of the mill ads for real clients? Why continue to praise it?0

    And given that viral videos’ hit value is very short term and transcient, this scam ad certainly adds little to the brand while alienating its key clientele i.e. parents and adults.

    I’ve already lost count of the number of hit viral videos that I see for this year already.

  • Joseph

    I actually think it’s an agency’s duty to their client to try and create the best work for them. Sometimes it starts with a creative brief and sometimes it’s an agency initiated effort to make things happen.

    Of course, this shouldn’t have been entered in the awards show, but that was the production company’s fault – not the agency.


  • BlackDog10

    This isn’t the first "controversial" JCPenney ad – remember the JC Penney ad that was on TV a few years ago where the teenage girl gets dressed in "hip hugger" jeans and then her mom takes the waist band to shimmy the jeans lower on her daughters hips (since her mom is really "hip")?  That one caught a lot of flack and was off the air rather quickly. 

    • Guest

      Do u remember an ad just before the speed dressing one that was about a guy and a girl left the public park feeling “frisky” and end up in a dark apartment making out and when they cut on the lights a minute u can tell from the pictures on the walls that th eplace belongs to NEITHER OF THEN and they cuit of the lights and go “back at it”??? i am trying to located this because i think it is what a dirty old man in our neigborhood showed my 8 yr old daughter and asked her HOW WOULD U LIKE IF I DID THAT TO YOU? please help me find the video if u have seen it!!!!
      susan d. in alabama

      • Guest

        please reply to me at:
        susan d. in AL

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