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Maidenform Bra Company Makes the List of Offenders by Kathy Bruin

March 15th, 1999

This Just In: Maidenform Bra Company Makes the List of Offenders


I had a lot of fun this week writing a letter to Maidenform, the bra company about their new ad campaign. At About-Face we think it’s important to write to companies, but admittedly even we don’t do it very often. I encourage you to give it a try sometime, however, because it sure can be gratifying! You can read my letter through the link, but first a few words about the business of advertising. Few people know the degree of careful planning and manipulation that goes into an advertising campaign by the company and the agency they hire.

Keep in mind that Maidenform now has to compete with Wonderbra, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein and all number of companies that have moved into the “foundation garment” industry in recent years. It is easy to imagine that Maidenform has lost a share of its former market when you consider how ubiquitous are the ads of the companies mentioned above. From the look of Maidenform’s new ads they are clearly spending plenty of money to get our attention.

So this is how it works: A company hires an agency to help make the decisions about what kind of ad campaign to produce, and to decide when, where and how long the ads will run. They also pay great attention to the demographic they will target. The demographic is the group of people sharing like characteristics. All of us fit into many demographics at once. For fashion advertising, a popular demographic to target is young, white, female, a reader of fashion magazines, probably from an affluent family and self-conscious about the way she looks. (That last one is what an advertiser hopes for, not what is guaranteed by the other traits, though you should know that several studies have proven the link between fashion magazine readership and lowered body esteem.) Together the advertiser and agency decide whether to run print ads (magazines & newspapers), billboards (including smaller versions for telephone booths or buses), television, radio etc. Remember that repetition is the key to an ad’s success, so the order and duration of the ad’s run in the marketplace is crucial. The agency develops a series of ads and a recommendation for the campaign itself. Perhaps they launch the campaign in two important markets like Los Angeles and New York with a series of small billboard type ads running on bus stops and phone booths. These ads are highly visible and may be used to prime the targeted demographic for future ads. It is important that the ad get people’s attention even if they don’t read the ad or even know what it is selling.

After the billboard ads run for a month or so in the targeted cities, perhaps it is decided that for largest impact the first print ads will be three pages, rather than just a single page. The ad could start with a lead in on a right hand page, and be immediately followed by a spread. After the initial launch of the print ads, they might decide that in subsequent months, a single page ad will do, but perhaps a single page ad month after month in each of the top fashion magazines. Remember: repetition, repetition, repetition.

There’s one other thing you should know. The particular demographics of an audience are very important to advertisers. They may want to reach young women 15-25 which is the audience reading fashion magazines. They may also want to reach a group that is particularly image conscious, thus the billboard blasts in cities such as LA or New York.

I saw the new Maidenform ads all over New York City on buses and telephone booths. (The ad is also running on bus stops in LA.) It shows a lovely woman standing tall and proud silhouetted against a blue sky wearing a bright, white bra. The words below say: “Inner Beauty Only Goes So Far.” And then, “Perfecting the Real You.” Note that this ad is not (yet?) covering the streets of San Francisco where I live and note that this was a specific tactical decision.

The first print ads are appearing in the April issues of some fashion magazines. The ad is running as a 3-page spread with a striking close up of the model on the first right hand page and the words “Inner Beauty.” The ad sets you up nicely with positive expectation, and then punches you in the stomach with the finish: You turn the page to see the full image of the proud, tall, bra clad woman across two pages and the words “only goes so far.” Thud!

A friend in West Hollywood was the first to find the print ads and tell me where to look. But interestingly, the new 3-page ad isn’t in the San Francisco copies of the same magazines. Hmm, that’s funny. Remember that a very conscious decision is made about where to run those expensive 3 page ads. It is highly likely that San Francisco was just not pegged as an important demographic for this round of advertising. So, look around for the ads in your community. Did you make the targeted demographic? Which ads are targeted at you in your community and in the magazines you read? And how do you feel about it?

My letter to Maidenform
Maidenform’s response to me

Please write to the companies who annoy you or please you. They want to hear from you because you are their valuable potential customer. Don’t feel badly about saying what you think. Companies are in business to sell you stuff and you, as a consumer, can help to guide them in their business endeavors. And we at About-Face would love to see copies of your letters too!

Maidenform can be reached at:

Maidenform Worldwide
Paul Mischinski-CEO
154 Avenue E
Bayonne, NJ 07002

Maidenform Worldwide
Manette Scheininger-Dirctor of Marketing
154 Avenue E
Bayonne, NJ 07002

Frierson, Mee, and Kraft Advertising Agency
Janice Turecki
141 5th Avenue
NY, NY 10010