So color me confused (and slightly disheartened) by the response to the new ad campaign by Zappos. Like any good fashion merchant, Zappos has concluded the best way to sell togs is by stripping them from the models that would otherwise wear them. In reality, it’s a fairly tame campaign designed to educate folks about Zappos’ foray into clothes as well as shoes (who knew?).
The conceit of the ads displays naked individuals with strategically placed color-bars informing the viewer that Zappos sells “more than shoes.” In the print campaign, viewers are encouraged to clothe their otherwise birthday suited brand ambassadors in the offerings now available from Zappos. The company has made a fairly big deal about their using “real-sized” models versus the fashion norm. For example, a naked woman riding a scooter in one spot is only five feet tall, as opposed to the six-foot, string-bean Amazons most fashion houses employ. Cue the naked outrage.
Except there wasn’t really any. At least, not the kind you’d figure on hearing. “What about the children?” or “What kind of message are we sending?” or “Sell clothes not sex!” Nope, nope and nope. The catcalls in this case appear to be centered in the artistic community and for a reason you’re never going to believe.
According to AdRants, a popular purveyor of edgy marketing and advertising news, some are complaining that the Zappos nude campaign is a direct rip-off of the works (NSFW) of Erica Simone (still NSFW) , who (apparently) is an artist specializing in the presentation of regular folks going about their days.......naked. I’ve read that artist Erica has said it’s like her work, which might then suggest that Zappos could be treading in the realm of infringement on what she claims as her own. Say what?
Now while this may seem ridiculous it’s actually quite a big deal. A ways back, AT&T got into some PR trouble with the artist Christo their “saffron fabric covering the world” ad. They were accused of infringement on the artist’s previous work (specifically his beautiful Central Park installation known as “The Gates”) and received quite a mess of complaints. In the end, I don’t believe any monetary settlement was ordered but AT&T did start running their ads with disclaimers, informing viewers that the artist Christo had nothing to do with their commercial.
So, while I would have expected the nudity itself to be the issue I never would have guessed that the noise of objection would actually emanate from the artistic community versus the moral majority. Is nudity really copyrightable? Some figure Simone ought to be compensated due to the similarity it bears to her work. Personally, if the discussion is public displays of flesh I would submit the collective works of Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton or even Lady Gaga. Perhaps the ladies might collaborate on a (sexy) class action suit? Paging John Edwards......
No matter what, I don’t think I’m cool with the idea of public displays of nudity belonging to artists anymore than to faceless corporations. Obviously, this whole copyright business is fairly tricky stuff but some things ought to remain clear. Let’s say I strip naked and set myself up in the park like “The Thinker.” Am I guilty of infringing on the works of Rodin or public indecency? It seems crazy that my exposed dangly bits might somehow be more guilty of artistic insensitivity than of actually grossing folks out but if the sentence is more lenient I’d be a fool to argue.