Gemma Styles: Why Does Christmas Bring Out The Worst In Marketing Execs?

Bloomingdale's got it so badly wrong - how do so many dodgy ads and marketing campaigns get signed off for Christmas?Photograph by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Gemma Styles

by Gemma Styles |

Halloween has passed and vast quantities of pumpkin lanterns are well on their way to rotten in the bottom of garden waste bins across the land; with the changing of the calendar has come the annual onslaught of festive advertising.

Aside from being bombarded with lots of shiny things that we can’t afford and feeling the pressure to find gifts perfect enough to make elderly moon-dwellers weep (thanks John Lewis), I don’t have too much against this extra festivity on telly. Seeing the Coca Cola Christmas advert always puts me in the mood for tinsel, my mum’s trifle and drinking too much Baileys before passing out on the sofa. A bit premature perhaps but, eh, at least it fills us with the required fear to spur on Christmas shopping/crafting/wrapping paper selection.

However, thanks to the global village we’ve cultivated online, there’s always time to be alerted to the inevitable fuckwittery of an advertising department somewhere in the world. Somewhat surprisingly, the Christmas ad story hitting social media this week is the beyond-questionable offering that featured in Bloomingdale’s’ holiday catalogue. As you might expect, it features an attractive young man and woman, all dolled up in their Christmas party finest. ‘What a lovely jacket’, the nation cried, ‘I must get to Bloomingdale’s immediately!’ The surprising part, especially given the hugely well known and established brand though, is the slogan accompanying it. With the woman happily enjoying a laugh and drink, she looks away – while the guy stares intently at her under the message 'Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.'

Is date rape particularly festive? All part of the merriment?

Understandably people have reacted with pretty much universal outrage. Promoting both date rape and non-consensual drug abuse is never going to get you many customers – not the kind I’d want anyway – and why must you tarnish our holiday parties with insinuations of such horrendous things? Is date rape particularly festive? All part of the merriment? You can sod (as far as possible) off, thanks.

One of the things that makes me so livid about this sort of thing is the amount of people this would have got past before it went to print. The person who pitched it, the people who nodded in agreement, the team leaders and advertising heads and designers and marketing executives. They all thought this was a great holiday message to be sending out? WHAT DOES IT EVEN HAVE TO DO WITH CLOTHES? Girls are supposed to be flattered?

'Daaaamn girl, you look good enough to drug and take home.'


I’m a bit of a stickler for dodgy advertising in general. On a couple of occasions when asked what my ideal job would be I’ve decided – advert critic. Mainly because of the frequency I sit in front of my TV going ‘pshhhhhht’ at the latest ridiculous claim or misleading pseudoscience or just plain annoying jingle. The amount of money that people pay to make adverts and the amount of tripe that gets churned out I do find genuinely infuriating. This particular ad isn’t just irritating though – it’s harmful and so indicative of the insane views and jokes of some people – apparently including those in Bloomingdale’s’ advertising department. There’s nothing funny about date rape. There’s nothing seasonal about lusting after your best friend and trying to trick them into bed.

Some people who read this story will turn their outrage into empowerment

A positive however, thanks to the good old interwebs, is that we’ve all had the opportunity to make noise about it. The fact that we can use social media to so quickly spread the word about current events around the world is really valuable; yes, in this case, you might say it’s ‘only’ an advert in a catalogue, but it has sparked wider debate and awareness of the issues it raises.

Some people who read this story will turn their outrage into empowerment, some people will keep a closer eye on their drinks this Saturday night – and some people will be educated on the kind of language they use that’s unacceptable. This lot should have known better, but hopefully by using our online connections to talk about it, it’ll help a whole bunch of people know better in future.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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