Is all publicity good publicity? An examination through the lens of the 1995 Calvin Klein child pornography ad controversy

Open Access
Tennin, Casie Amanda
Area of Honors:
Advertising/Public Relations
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Steve Manuel, Thesis Supervisor
  • Steve Manuel, Honors Advisor
  • Susan Mary Strohm, Faculty Reader
  • Calvin Klein
  • Casie Tennin
  • Publicity
  • Good Publicity
  • Bad Publicity
  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
The purpose of this research was to explore the question “Is all publicity good publicity?” by performing a case study of Calvin Klein’s 1995 “kiddie porno” ad campaign as a standard of measure. First, literary research was done to gain background insight about the power of publicity. This understanding was then applied to the history of Calvin Klein’s controversial brand marketing strategies leading up to 1995. Next, an in-depth look into the 1995 ad campaign was completed. This was done by first researching the setting, target market and desired message of the campaign. Then, the physical content of the print and television ads were transcribed and examined. Lastly, an analysis of the negative media backlash in response to the campaign was completed. While the media condemned Calvin Klein’s marketing tactics and called him a “child pornographer,” jean sales skyrocketed. Thus, the research was interpreted that in the case of Calvin Klein, all publicity is good publicity if it markets to the proper target audience.