“I’m sorry, our network only features prefabricated breasts. If you’re a woman with a healthy body image, you’ll need to step to the back of the line.”

Or so I expected to hear from networks ABC and FOX after reading a BrandWeek post this morning.

Reportedly, on Lane Bryant‘s blog, Inside Curve, the company claims, “ABC and Fox have made the decision to define beauty for you by denying our new, groundbreaking Cacique commercial from airing freely on their networks. …these are the same networks that have scantily-clad housewives so desperate they seduce every man on the block — and don’t forget Bart Simpson, who has shown us the moon more often than NASA, all in what they call ‘family hour.'”


All commentary on the objectification of women in advertising and how “big girls” are portrayed aside; I want to address this from a branding, marketing and public relations standpoint.

First off, to Lane Bryant, I’m on your side, BUT I wonder if the approach to this issue was handled with passionate brand focus and the community your brand serves in mind.

That said, here are a few things Lane Bryant should think about (as well as any brand that serves a specific, sensitive demographic):

Your brand lives on and grows through your community. Help them advocate for you!

While doing research for this post, I, of course, wanted to see the spot in question. From all angles, I found a lot of Lane Bryant brand advocates voicing their opinions on being slighted by the networks (here, here and here). But when I looked for Lane Bryant’s discussion or a YouTube video with commentary, I find a membership-only site and the “groundbreaking” spot taken off YouTube.

Why? They’ve pulled their community (their advocates) out of the conversation.

This is a perfect public relations opportunity for Lane Bryant. Lena Bryant (the original voice of plus-sized women everywhere) should be rolling in her grave at the idea of the big boy networks slighting the integrity and creativity produced on behalf of the legions of women looking for fashions complimentary to “real women.”

Does your brand have the “Balls” to fight the big girls? If not, don’t pretend it does.

While this is purely speculative, I wonder if Lane Bryant’s marketing and public relations crew simply doesn’t want to play in the same court as the brands that they imply get “preferential treatment” from the networks – referring to their comments on Desperate Housewives, The Simpsons and their comment on the über-sexy Victoria’s Secret spot:

“While it’s no secret that Victoria’s Secret ‘The Nakeds’ ads are prancing around on major networks leaving little to the imagination, steaming up TV screens and baring nearly everything but their souls, our sultry siren who shows sophisticated sass is somehow deemed inappropriate … Does this smack of a double standard? Yep. It does to us, too.”

GREAT argument, but if you walk up to the playground bully and slap her on the cheek, you’d better be prepared to defend yourself. Again, what good is it to complain and then withdraw all access to a productive dialogue? I get the impression that Lane Bryant, while advocating for the “poor big girls out there,” seems to be content playing the victim.

Social culture is harder to change than marketing culture. Advocacy for cultural change needs to come from the heart and not from the bottom line.

Bigger picture – like it or not, “little” girls in risqué attire have been a standard in advertising since anyone one of us can remember. We complain. We protest. Shaking our fists at the TV, we swear off beer, sports cars and restaurant chains. But when it really comes down to it, changing the American culture is much harder than it looks.

Culturally, changing the perspective of the “Big Girl Taboo” needs to be an effort driven outside commercial aspirations. Since Lane Bryant has a stake in changing how “real women” are perceived, driving the message through marketing and advertising, (while trying to compete in the same vapid market as Victoria’s Secret) may not be the best approach.

Food for thought:

While I have no idea what FOX was thinking, ABC IS owned by Disney. While that doesn’t explain the hypocrisy of Desperate Housewives and other spots we’ve seen on their network, they can still wave their “Family-friendly” flag with a modicum of legitimacy.

Without seeing the spot, your comments can only be formed by my post and your perspective of Lane Bryant. But I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Do you think Lane Bryant responded appropriately? Do you think ABC and FOX have a responsibility to respond to accusations of “favoritism or discrimination?”

I’d love to hear from representatives from Lane Bryant on some of the points I’ve made here as well. Are there set plans or processes in place for reacting or have we seen it?

Until next time,

Keep Cooking (big, beautiful, brand-driven decisions)!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef

Additional Articles on the networks’ decisions to ban the Lane Bryant spot:

Fox News | Styleite.com | zimbio.com | BrandWeek