Ditch the Fitch, Sitch
Campaign: Jersey Shore PR stunt
Client: Abercrombie & Fitch
Proof at last. Ever since Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie made icky gestures at farmers, we’ve all marvelled at how shows featuring thoroughly disagreeable people stay so popular. The prevailing theory was that people like watching other people behave abysmally – it gives us a glimpse of vileness while reinforcing our own pristine virtues.
Abercrombie and Fitch has proven this theory right. Its jokey decision to publicly offer to pay Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino to stop wearing its clothes is very perceptive. People don’t look UP to the trashy cast of Jersey Shore, they look DOWN on them. This PR stunt means A&F can continue to be worn and advertised on the very popular TV programme, while simultaneously giving its audience an “out” – letting them buy the clothes while clutching tight the idea that, far from wanting to be like The Situation, it’s THE SITUATION who’s trying to be like THEM. It lets white trash parade clothes targeted to a suburban teenage mass market by persuading those teenagers of their own superiority over white trash.
It also gives those people who DO identify strongly with the Jersey Shore cast a little frisson of wrong. Rebellious co-option of “respectable” labels is a tried and tested way to open new markets. Just ask Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. Abercrombie gets to have its cake and eat it, too.
Listen to MTV’s reaction: “It’s a clever PR stunt, and we’d love to work with them on other ways they can leverage ‘Jersey Shore’ to reach the largest youth audience on television,” it said in an email. Emphasis on largest. Jersey Shore is a broad church.
A&F might have stumbled on this idea by accident. The New York Times quotes a public relations consultant who said “the episode echoed one last year on the same show, when rumors about product placement surrounded Mr. Sorrentino’s cast mate Nicole Polizzi, known as “Snooki,” a brunette with voluminous hair who likes to wear tiny leopard-print dresses. The contention, never confirmed but given media attention nonetheless, was that luxury handbag companies were supplying Snooki with rival brands’ purses so that theirs would not be associated with her.”
Whoever came up with the idea, it’s very slick, and reflects the true nature of reality TV. Those who worry Jersey Shore celebrates sleaze and ignorance shouldn’t. What it really celebrates is snobbery.