Why Calvin Klein hopes you hate its racy new billboard

Are you absolutely out-of-your-mind furious about that new Calvin Klein billboard showing a cluster of half-dressed young folks in what appears to be the prelude to an orgy? A lot of people are, apparently. If you're one of them, here's the best thing you can do about it: Nothing.

In case you haven't noticed by now, your outrage is exactly what the American fashion giant is counting on to sell its products. Every year or so, Calvin Klein manufactures a fresh "controversy" with a button-pressing, taste-defying ad campaign calculated to generate stories on the evening news without quite crossing the line into outright indecency of the sort that would provoke the authorities.

Last year, it was a commercial for Obsession perfume that featured actress Eva Mendes rolling around on a bed naked. TV networks refused to air the ad, allowing Calvin Klein to boast that it had been banned. A billboard featuring a naked Mendes was erected at Broadway and Lafayette -- exactly where the much-discussed "threesome" billboard now resides. A couple years earlier, it was a CK Jeans image of a woman nuzzling her gentleman friend's hindquarters that was bringing local traffic to a halt. And so on, stretching all the way back to a 15-year-old Brooke Shields coyly hinting she wasn't wearing underwear. That commercial doesn't seem quite so outré now, does it?

Coincidentally, the flap over Calvin Klein's new provocation comes just as another well-known piece of marketing from the same intersection -- DKNY's iconic billboard featuring New York City landmarks -- is getting painted over after 20 years. In-your-face sex may sell, but it will never have that kind of staying power.

To see all 10 of Sarah Gilbert's top 10 best and worst naked advertising campaigns, click here.
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