Shoe giant Nine West’s new ad campaign is angering many women, as the company’s website offers shoes for two occasions: starter husband hunting and the first day of kindergarten. The starter husband hunting ad shows a woman in a leopard print shoe, holding yellow-tipped arrows and sitting on a target. The ad copy says to “go get ’em tiger,” and says they have a shoe for looking for “Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now.” The first day of kindergarten ad says that after the kids get on the bus, Mommy cries until it hits her that now she has her weeks off, and Nine West has a shoe for that. The new ad debuted August 1.
Erika Szychowski is senior vice president of marketing for Nine West. She told The New York Times that she expects the ad campaign to get a lot of attention, and that she does not find it offensive. Twitter followers do not agree, responding to the “husband hunting” campaign tweet from Nine West with such expressions of offense as “Are you people serious? This is the dumbest ad campaign I’ve seen. It’s 2014. Husband hunting? It’d take less effort to think.” And another, “You know me so well, Nine West. All I’m interested in is snagging a man. I mean, it is still 1950, right?”
Many of the reactions are from women demanding “shoe occasions” beyond a life of husbands and kids. One tweet asked what about promotion snaring shoes, merger clinching shoes or board meeting shoes. “Too busy serving hubby and raising baby I guess!”
Nine West’s starter husband hunting ad offers women footwear with leather print, high-heeled booties with names like “Meoww Peep Toe Platforms.” The first day of kindergarten ad offers shoes that may not often be seen at the bus stop: Tip Toe black peep toe booties with 4-1/2 inch heels, or Scout peep toe sandals, also with 4-1/2 inch stiletto heels.
Chicago Tribune’s Heidi Stevens calls the ads “archaic,” and a giant step backward for women. She says the company succeeds in compartmentalizing female consumers into only two categories: women looking to land a man and women who have already landed one and now have plenty of free time since the children are off to school.
Angry women are finding the Nine West ad campaign to be reminiscent of vintage ads from the ’50s that advertised “vitamins for pep” because “the harder a wife works, the cuter she looks.” Or an ad for beer showing a woman whose husband is comforting her by saying “don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!” A toothpaste ad reminds wives that “there’s another woman waiting for every man – and she’s too smart to have ‘morning breath.'” Then there is Nine West’s current website page for shoe occasions, promising a “style for every spectacular, splashy, or scandalous affair.”
Jezebel writer Tracy Moore was initially not put off by the ad, saying that she imagined that women she might see wearing these shoes at preschool drop-off are headed to a high-powered and glamorous jobs. When it was pointed out that the ad implies that the shoes were for stay-at-home moms, she said “nope,” they are not stay-at-home mom gear.
Nine West said their new ad campaign is targeting women between the ages of 25 and 49, and Szyschowki said that the campaign is meant to modernize their brand to women who have different ideas of “occasions” than in previous years. She is confident that the starter husband hunting ads will get attention for Nine West’s shoes, and they are, although most of the publicity available shows that the attention is negative and women are angry.
By Beth A. Balen