Playboy-branded stationery has become the most popular range with young teenagers at WHSmith. How far should brands be extended across the border between adult and child products?
I asked the girls, who saw it as ‘girls reclaiming the brand for themselves’ (and making it more fluffy bunny than ‘porn’). I think it’s more of an issue for the brand, losing control of its meaning than it is for ‘young teenagers’ – they tend to decide for themselves. Stuart Mackay, Partner, Ergo
I don’t think its right to plaster cigarette brands across other products, even though as a designer I like the iconography of Lucky Strike. It’s responsible marketing not to put brewery sponsorship on to football shirts for kids. That said, kids are pretty savvy about branding. Unprompted, my 13-year-old said, ‘Yuk, I relate it to the chavs in my class,’ and my 17-year-old said, ‘It’s tacky, rank, disgusting; a bad corporation. Children should not aspire to it.’ Nuff said. Keren House, Creative director, AricotVert
The line will be and always has been blurred, but if brands choose to pursue commercial gain at the expense of their brand equity, then so be it. Jonathan Ford, Creative partner, Pearlfisher
In ‘It’s porn, innit?’ published on 15 August by The Guardian, WHSmith enthuses, ‘It’s one of the most popular ranges we’ve ever sold.’ Lucy Tobin from Mizz, a pre-teen girls mag, says, ‘The Playboy brand extensions are one of the most popular with our readers, to them it’s a cool clothing and stationery brand.’ And David Thorpe, from the Institute of Marketing, follows with a letter to The Guardian on the 17 August, describing WHSmith’s effort as ‘a bad marketing decision’ rather than ‘morally loathsome’. The Playboy Bunny, one of the most igenious/insidious marketing ideas created, has successfully re-packaged pornography as fluffy, innocuous fun, to the extent that WHSmith, Mizz and the Institute of Marketing think it’s OK to seduce young teenage girls into buying into an adult porn brand that sells women as sexual commodities; because it is popular. It is not OK, ignorance is no defence. Brands are aggressive and will always push boundaries to make more sales. It is up to all of us, particularly in the business of design, marketing and communication to take responsibility and balance commercial decisions with responsible actions.
Valerie Wickes, Chief executive and creative director, View