The real you is a sexy man. Or are you? Is this a joke or is it real? Just when I thought we'd invented a new form of advertising: Poe's Lawvertising, nah, I remember the time of year and it's just another April Fool's joke. It was meant to be a uh, light-hearted take on body positivity which American Eagle takes very seriously. Which almost makes sense, kind of, because the video sure seems like it's trying to be funny in a really ironic self-absorbed millennial kind of way. But the problem is, if you are trying this hard to be funny, and then you later claim that you take body positivity seriously, well, it doesn't hold up because it actually seems like you're making fun of fat dudes. The whole thing's a bit open to misinterpretation.
And while women have always had it bad in the objectification department of advertising, men are perpetually portrayed as dumb, as in dumb dadvertising who can always be blamed for raiding the pantry who only do stereotypically man things who can only give up their beloved sports to go shopping with the girlfriend if they see the beer beacon at the end of that ordeal. In other words, your rationale doesn't matter. By making fun of dudes, you have made fun of dudes.
The reason I mention the later claim that American Eagle takes body positivity very seriously is because the April Fool's joke kind of blew up in their face once it hit social media. The problem is compounded now, because the intent was so misinterpreted it made Twitter lose its shit, and once you've offended the easily offended-- especially those who aren't your target market and have never shopped in your store--it's game over.
So then American Eagle had to do some underwearsplainin'* and go, "hey y'all no really, calm down. While it's true we never gave a crap about body image until 2014 when we jumped on the bandwagon and stopped retouching our female models for Aerie, now we're totes gonna do the same for the bros, too. Check out their website announcement about the campaign.
It's safe to say some aspects of #AerieMAN were just for laughs, but body positivity for girls and guys? That's something we take very seriously. In addition to donating 25K to NEDA, a non-profit that supports those affected by eating disorders, we're making a commitment to stop retouching men's underwear and swim by the 2016 Holiday season. For real.
This might have started out innocently enough as a jokey way to let people know Aerie sells men's underwear. But then it all went horribly wrong. Now I don't know if the whole pr spin and donation was always a part of the mix, or if that was a PR damage control reaction to the pitchfork crowd on social media or not. I would not be surprised if it was the latter as the pitchfork crowd will never be happy unless your head is on such pitchfork. I'm surprised they didn't try to get someone fired over it.
Either way, I'm glad April Fool's Day is over.
— American Eagle (@AEO) April 1, 2016
*Underwearsplaining or *Underwearsplainin' are terms I just coined for this article. They are my gift to you.
Client: American Eagle