Anti-Rape Activist Campaign Hijacks Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret is an extremely popular brand, but it’s better known for its shameless Photoshopping than its promotion of healthy body images.

This is why journalists reacted with skepticism to this week’s “announcement” that VS would be re-tooling its message “to lead the country in the next sexual revolution” by way of a new line called “PINK loves CONSENT” focusing on the importance of consent in all sexual relationships.

This campaign was a hoax, but it certainly wasn’t a joke: It included an impressive fake website populated by models who you’d never see in a VS catalog and a press “representative” who insisted, after several phone calls, that she really is a Victoria’s Secret employee. We don’t know that we’ve ever seen such commitment to a PR stunt.

Turns out that the whole event was organized by anti-rape activists at a group calling itself “FORCE: Upsetting the Culture of Rape”. Their goal was to “promote a national conversation about consent” by hijacking Victoria’s Secret’s social media forums and encouraging fans to congratulate the company’s media team on its great new messaging efforts. Based on the group’s re-working of the famous VS Pink line, we’d guess that they don’t have a particularly positive view of the brand and its influence on our culture at large:

The campaign’s message strongly implies that Victoria’s Secret is not doing enough to counteract a prevalent “culture of rape” that encourages men and women to “think about the persistence of rape as ‘just the way things are’”. The organization’s page states that, while VS claims “to have written and distributed pamphlets about consent”, they have a responsibility as the world’s best-known maker of lingerie to educate young women on the value of sexuality as self-empowerment and the importance of consent in all sexual relationships.

In their own words, they believe that our world would be a better place “if we put as much time and thought into sharing ideas like consent as we do into selling underwear”—but “it’s going to take some work to keep on fighting against the messaging from giants like Victoria’s Secret.”

We can’t quite call this a PR disaster for Victoria’s Secret (it obviously had no effect on last night’s fashion show, and Twitter already suspended the offending account “for culture jamming”), but the fact that comments on the stunt have been overwhelmingly positive might just say something about VS’s future messaging efforts. This campaign, in the words of its organizers, “has only begun.”

What do we think?

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: December 5, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT