A double mastectomy? Yes, remember when ads showed those scars to remind women about breast cancer?
Now, Burberry pulled an image from its latest campaign ‘B:MINE’ after heavy criticism because of the reactions to the double mastectomy scars. Trans groups representing trans people have slammed the brand for trying to “profit from our image” while feminists, mothers, "republicans"*, and parents, in general, have slammed Burberry for promoting a serious and life-changing surgery.
* "Republicans," I say because in the United States that means conservatives, while the same term in Europe means someone who doesn't want Royalty running their country. Insert "the more you know" rainbow here, kids. Anyway.
The headline "New Burberry ad sparks Republican meltdown" and tweets from the Republican Kingsley Cortes as well as the famous Twitter account "Libs of Tiktok" jumped on the ad.
Kingsley noted that the history of the brand looks rather... Different these days. Clearly completely unaware of Chad culture and the 2000's in general. Perhaps she was just a baby then.
Burberry then. Burberry now. pic.twitter.com/V4RZzFTvls
— Kingsley Cortes (@KingsleyCortes) January 25, 2023
The "LibsofTikTok" account said that Burberry was promoting mastectomies.
— Libs of TikTok (@libsoftiktok) January 25, 2023
Sarah Vine of the Daily Mail asked in her Op-ed: How many vulnerable girls will see this Burberry advert and think a double mastectomy is something to aspire to, like a new handbag? which, honestly, is a great question. As with any "lifestyle advertising", one wonders how the brand fits in.
Why are big brands promoting life-changing surgeries over their own products? What do they get out of that? Are people with double mastectomies more likely to spend £500 on a pair of gloves or a scarf that they can wear for a decade or two? Are they simply tagging onto the Benetton idea of "shock" for attention's sake, without noticing how quiet the shockvertising brand-father and his former brand are today? Attention for attention's sake is nothing but a cheap trick, and like the bubbles in that glass of champagne, it'll go to your head. And it will give you a brand hangover.
More importantly, if I'm celebrating a "straight" Valentine's day, should I seek out another brand for my outerwear? These might become important questions for any kids who inherited Burberry clothes. Will that familiar pattern equal Gilbert Baker's rainbow now?
Latching onto something that "conservatives" reject used to be quite the smart way to expand your market - I used to sell shirts here that said "your rebellion is my marketing strategy" - but when you reach too far into a political area you risk 167 years of heritage for the latest fad. And that is just pure hubris. Who walked into the creative office and said that Burberry should do this? Who bought this? How does it sell Burberry? Do clients no longer ask these questions?
Burberry has now changed the ad and edited out the controversial couple from the print and banner ads. I wish I could have bet money on that happening.
It was in 1856 when 21-year-old Thomas Burberry, a former draper's apprentice, opened his own store in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England. By 1870, the business had established itself by focusing on the development of outdoor attire. In 2023 someone decided that it would be a terrific idea to have only "queer" couples snog in an Instagram ad.
Adland has reached out to Burberry for a statement but has not received a response at the time of publishing.