Is this the new normal? Risqué ad slammed for 'woke marketing'

Elise Solé
·3 min read

Is a risqué ad campaign by Suitsupply that glorifies casual sex the future of pandemic dating?

On Thursday, the Amsterdam-based menswear brand unveiled a preview of its spring/summer 2021 line — a sweaty stack of bodies contorted in knotted positions. "The New Normal is Coming," read the caption. "Get Ready to Get Closer."

A new advertisement by menswear brand Suitsupply is raising eyebrows. (Photo: Instagram/Suitsupply)
A new advertisement by menswear brand Suitsupply is raising eyebrows. (Photo: Instagram/Suitsupply)

The advertisement would horrify public health experts, who still recommend social distancing and face masks while vaccinations roll out across the United States — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.3 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with President Joe Biden stating there will be enough doses for every American adult by the end of May. However, states like Texas and Montana are dropping mask mandates and social distancing requirements, which Biden has called "a big mistake."

Some Instagram commenters called the photos "fire" and "shockingly beautiful." Others joked, "So about this suit, does it work as advertised?" "I want the old normal back!" and "Almost made me want to buy a suit that I will not wear for at least another year" as stay-at-home life continues.

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Most were disoriented. "Who exactly is your target audience with this campaign if I may ask?" read one comment; as another wrote, "I don't get it. Is participating in an orgy the new normal?" And a user wrote, "You guys have been trying way too hard. Nothing about this makes me want to buy a suit or clothes. I am just confused on what the message is."

Others remarked, "They are not wearing masks," "Stick to what you are good at! An attempt at woke marketing is definitely not it" and "Does the new normal not include Black people?" Some claimed Suitsupply borrowed inspiration from designer Tom Ford, famous for his own racy advertisements: "Copy+Paste [=] Tom Ford."

Suitsupply founder and CEO Fokke de Jong tells Yahoo Life in a statement. “The campaign is simply a positive outlook on our future where people can get back to gathering and getting close," while a brand statement added, "Post-pandemic life is on the horizon. Social distancing for extraordinarily long periods of time have conditioned us to fear proximity of others and that is perfectly justified."

The company's sexually explicit ads never fail to upset — its 2010 "Shameless" campaign was NSFW and its 2016 "Boy Toy" spot featured men utilizing women's bodies as oversized props. "I think our press release and idea about the campaign says a lot," de Jong told BuzzFeed at the time. "It's called toy boys depicting the men as little dolls together with giant beautiful women that play with the men. Sexism implies inequality, If you want to read any form of sexism in here than it has to be towards the men they obviously do not have the upper hand here."

Mental health experts are concerned about the psychological outcome of prolonged isolation, loneliness and even boredom. So what will "the new normal" entail? Experts forecast continual work-from-home employment, an emphasis on recreational activities and a move from expensive city life to smaller communities. How people date may change too, with the introduction of Zoom sex parties, an emphasis on online chatting and bargaining of health priorities.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases even predicted that two vaccinated people might be able to socialize normally without posing too much risk. Although, perhaps not quite how Suitsupply envisions.

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