The advertising industry on THAT Calvin Klein ad with Jeremy Allen White

By Ruby Derrick | 11 January 2024
Credit: Mert Alas for Calvin Klein.

Calvin Klein's Spring 2024 campaign featuring the face and toned body of actor Jeremy Allen White wearing only underwear has taken over the internet.

The advertising industry took to social media, both supporting and critiquing "Jeremy Allen White stripped back in Calvin Klein". 

White, a New Yorker, who grew up with the famous Calvin Klein billboard, wore just the white and tight underwear as he meandered across rooftops.

The campaign was directed and filmed by photographer Mert Alas in a series of stills and videos. 

On social media platforms, many deemed the ad a masterclass in authenticity, while others felt the core idea was lost. 

LinkedIn took off with one user saying "Just went for a jog in nothing but my Calvin Klein underwear. Now I'm on a list. How could advertising do me dirty like that?".

Industry figure John Hegarty, co-founder and creative director of The Garage Soho and The Business of Creativity, expressed his thoughts of the ad on LinkedIn.

His post, which has garnered industry-wide attention and has been reposted more than 70 times with hundreds of comments, applauds the casting, credit and authenticity but stated it was a shame there was no actual idea. 

“There isn’t one. And that is a shame. If this ad was expressing some kind of truth, or insight this would be a true classic,” says Hegarty.

“Creatives in the fashion industry should re-familiarise themselves with the dictionary definition of an idea: 'A thought or plan formed by mental effort'. Note: mental effort.

“Art without truth is just decoration.”

Creatives in the industry responded to Hegarty's thread with differing opinions. 

One user said: “Imagine an advertisement featuring a talented actress with an incredible body modelling ladies' underwear. The advertisement has no particular idea behind it, but it's beautifully crafted. Let's consider the female version of White's advertisement. Would it be as widely accepted as the current one?

"Nowadays, could the female equivalent be aired on TV without being criticised? I personally have no issues with this advertisement (in fact, I love it), and I would have no concerns about the female version. However, sometimes I wonder if, by striving for 'equality', women have lost part of it."

Another said “I don’t even want this ad to come with a bigger idea. The idea is that it’s hot AF and none of the ladies are mad at that. Only the guys. Never heard them crying 'no concept' when it was a woman in their underwear. Weird how that’s working, Isn't it?”

In opposition of Hegarty’s opinion, one user reasoned that the ad was for Calvin Klein men's underwear, meaning “No creative concept is required".

“Just a super popular star almost naked. Mission accomplished. Not everything needs an 'idea' to work,” they said. 

Despite mentioned criticism of the work, one user simply put it that the entire world is talking about this ad and reposting. 

“It definitely put Calvin back on the map! I just bought a pair. We can pick this apart all we want but it was simple with a massive impact. A success in my book,” they said.

Frederico Roberto, ECD at TBWA\RAAD Dubai, shared his support of the campaign on LinkedIn.

"So what's up with this campaign, that's going massively viral? No apparent big idea, no message, no nothing that we always try so desperately to sell to our clients. Is it because it's underwear? is it because it's Jeremy Allen White?," says Roberto.

"Is it because its catchy, "You don't own me" girl power soundtrack? New York shot with perfect lighting? all the above? Is this craft at its best for what's intended? well, I believe so. See you in a bit. I'm off to buy some pants."

Freelance copywriter Jordana Sackel responded to Roberto's post saying she thought it was adorable how miffed men are by this campaign. 

"Definitely struck a chord not just from the gay/female gaze, but from hetero men feeling that they don’t measure up. Particularly Adland hetero men have their Calvins in a twist bc perhaps it debunks the myth they’ve clung to so tightly that there needs to be a clever big novel idea in every campaign vs just giving the people what they want? Also this is the formula CK has always used… this IS the DNA of their brand. Sooooo what exactly is the problem?," says Sackel.

On X (formerly Twitter), fans dominated the feeds with humorous tweets in approval of the White x Calvin Klein collaboration. 

“There’s a big moving billboard of Jeremy Allen White’s Calvin Klein ad on sunset and thank goodness I wasn’t driving tonight!!,” said one user. 

Another took to the platform saying “Good morning to Jeremy Allen White for Calvin Klein and I don’t even need to embed the pictures because we have all seen them”.

Another X user added;Given the success of the recent Calvin Klein ad I'll be conducting presentations in my pants. Although, tbh, I've been doing this since March 2020".

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