— Media Measurement

The Social Inquirer – Sneaker Pimps

The Social Inquirer is a regular feature from Media Measurement in which we take a recent story or announcement and analyse the reaction to it on social media.

Zappos, the online retailer known for selling shoes, is launching a new campaign utilising a classic advertising technique and the latest gimmick to come to the sector. The timeless advertising technique of using naked women to sell your product is combined with the new craze of QR codes that let the viewer interact with the ad, thus, I imagine, increasing the impact of the naked lady.

The ads, created by Mullen, are designed to spread the message that Zappos also sell other apparel as well as shoes. The areas every teenage boy wants to see are covered with bars stating ‘More than shoes’. The QR codes lead to a video showing what happens to each woman in the particular situation they are in and then lets you dress the woman and buy the outfit for yourself.

Zappos hopes to draw a few more looks with their new campaign.

While the ads may be eye-catching and even interesting enough to be first reported in the New York Times, they also run the risk of offending the members of the public who may perceive the ads as objectifying women. Lets take a look at the reaction to the launch of the news ads on social media.


Tweeters such as @mpchristoffels and @RepresentPledge feel the campaign objectifies women, the latter using language as strong as ‘dehumanising’. @RepresentPledge has also started a petition which has collected 382 signatures so far. Perhaps not a sign of widespread outrage but it is early days.

Many Tweeters, like @jchowjs, seem neutral on the ads but comment on the likely attention. Others, like @FundamentalAmp, praise Zappos & Muller for running a risky campaign that is likely to  garner the brand plenty of attention.

A few posters on VegasInc.com feel that the ads are not attempting sell to sex and draw a distinction between sex and nudity. They say simply presenting nude women is not exploiting them as sexual objects and that the ads are using the beauty and art of the women to sell.

ChipChick and others, highlight the fact that there are plans for a naked man to be introduced in an addition to the campaign in the coming months, the former seemingly light-heartedly excited by this prospect.

There is also praise for the type of model Zappos chose to use. Rick Porter at Zap2It.com praises Zappos for veering from the usual path of using stick-thin models by choosing models of different shapes and sizes. The article from the New York Times has an interview with Tim Vaccarino, the Group Creative Director at Mullen, in which he comments on the decision to use a different type of model. It also features comments from one of the models, Tiffany Payne, who says there are practical reasons for using different models as well as principled ones “Sometimes when I see ads and the girls are 6 feet 2 and skinny, it sort of deters me from buying the product because I don’t think it would fit me right”.


What are your feelings on Zappos use of nude models?

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