For most companies, a corporate ad that spreads virally on YouTube is nothing short of a dream come true. Not so for JCPenney, which is protesting a racy and unauthorized ad that took the video sharing site by storm — until YouTube removed it.
The purported ad, titled “Speed Dressing,” shows two teenagers timing themselves at home as they race to put on their clothes. Next, they’re shown heading down to the girl’s basement to “watch TV” while her mother sits upstairs. Mimicking Penney’s use of the phrase “Today’s the day to … ” in a series of ads it launched last year, the tag “Today’s the day to get away with it” accompanies that final scene, followed by the company’s “Every Day Matters” slogan.
The video appeared on YouTube on Monday after winning an award at the prestigious Cannes Lions 2008 International Advertising Festival over the weekend.
“JCPenney was deeply disappointed to learn that our name and logo were used in the creation and distribution of a commercial that was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes,” the company said. “No one at JCPenney was aware of the ad or participated in the creation of it in any way. The commercial was never broadcast, but rather was created by a former employee at JCPenney’s advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, solely as an award submission without JCPenney’s knowledge or prior approval.
“JCPenney does not approve or condone its content, and we have asked Saatchi & Saatchi to apologize to our customers and our associates for misrepresenting our company in this manner,” the company added.
Saatchi & Saatchi did, in fact, do just that.
Third-Party Vendor to Blame
“Saatchi & Saatchi has a long history of producing principled and respectful advertising for JCPenney and its entire client roster,” the company said. “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,” it said. “Saatchi & Saatchi apologizes to JCPenney, its associates and its customers. The commercial is being removed from public circulation.”
Epoch Films, a New York production company, was reportedly listed as having entered the ad in the Cannes festival.
“I think Penney is responding appropriately here,” Paul Gillin, blogger, podcaster and author of The New Influencers, told the E-Commerce Times. “You could argue that any type of people talking about you is good, but there are cases where corporate reputation is involved.”
Because the company had nothing to do with producing the ad, “it’s appropriate for them to try to get it removed,” Gillin added. “I wouldn’t let something like this just run on its own.”
Of course, whether it’s really possible to stop such a phenomenon is another matter.
‘This Will Never Die’
“You can’t stop it, of course,” Gillin asserted. “This will never die, but will continue to exist in the video underground for as long as people choose to keep it around.”
Disavowing it, then, is “about all you can do,” Gillin concluded. “Once the cat’s out of the bag, you can’t put it back in, but you can try to make sure the coverage out there is focused on your objections rather than a snickering, ‘gotcha’ type of story.”
The ad is “not necessarily shocking, but it’s certainly inconsistent with the brand image JCPenney has cultivated,” Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, agreed.
Time to Make Lemonade
That said, however, “it might be in JCPenney’s interest to try and make lemonade here somehow,” Sterling told the E-Commerce Times.
All the coverage of JCPenney’s reaction against the ad has generated more attention than the ad might have otherwise had, Sterling explained. So, “rather than demanding apologies and showing outraged statements, they might find a way to take advantage of the visibility and maybe not totally shun the controversy or the ad.”
Instead, the company might be able to do something “to redirect the attention in a way that it views as more favorable,” Sterling concluded. “I think the negative reaction and resistance is fueling the exposure of the ad, which is apparently the opposite of what they hope to achieve.”