“Do you know anything about the new huge advertisement on the corner of West Broadway and Warren that’s basically a close-up of a woman’s cleavage?” emailed Hope Flamm. “It seems to be an ad for bitemeny.com, which says that it has something to do with Bon Appétit, but what and why? Furthermore, how can we get it removed so my two kids and I aren’t forced to look at a two-story high cleavage shot with no explanation or context as we’re walking to school?”
I called Bon Appétit’s media relations rep, Frederika Brookfield. “Bite Me is an ad campaign that we’ve launched. And as you can tell, it’s an irreverent and unexpected campaign.” She explained that if you go to the site being promoted and click on the image, the image pulls back to show that the breasts in question are not (necessarily) those of a tramp (that’s my word, not hers!), but of a woman hanging out with friends and enjoying a cocktail, and you can enter to win the necklace. There are two other images, neither of which is provocative (unless you’re provoked by the words “Bite Me”).
Bon Appétit has a new editor and a new publisher, and it’s trying to regain some buzz; last week the New York Times ran an article about the campaign (and why Bon Appétit, said to be performing sluggishly, might be craving attention). Brookfield seemed surprised that people might take offense. I told her that there might be lingering discontent over the Skyy vodka ad (which offended me), and she said she’d try to find out if there was a specific reason why the location was selected.
Leaving aside (a) the tastefulness issue and (b) the strategy of creating a new brand in order to promote an older one, what surprises me most is that the whole campaign (the ’90s necklace, the semi-crude phrase, the tattoos in one of the other images) is a little downmarket. Bon App is a fairly mainstream brand, granted, but I would think that if they see their competition as Rachael Ray and the Food Network mags they’d try to own the upper-middle ground. I guess they’d rather be young than rich.
Update: Brookfield called back: “The strategic reasoning behind the acquisition of that billboard is that it’s in a central location for several of the agencies and businesses that we wanted to reach out to—specifically, OMD, MPG, Wieden + Kennedy, and several others.” That may help to explain my confusion: The folks who often buy advertising (on behalf of other companies) tend to be young.