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JCPenney Debuts 'Teenage Sex' ad - Or Someone Else Debuts It For Them?

Posted by: Burth Helm on June 23, 2008

There’s an update to this post, below.

Social conservatives have had a field day going after brands lately. Now JCPenney, with this ad from its “Every Day Matters” campaign, seems to be baiting them.

Find more videos like this on AdGabber

JCPenney ‘Endorses’ Teenage Sex,” quips What the ad says about JCPenney, I’m not sure, exactly. But it doesn’t take a weatherman to predict a storm on this one. Will JCPenney stay strong like Starbucks, or crumble like Dunkin Donuts?

UPDATE: JCPenney is now denying it ever knew about the ad, its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, is issuing a denial of sorts, and there’s a Wall Street Journal article about it as well. I’ll do some digging and see if I can get any more of the back story. Official statements from JCPenney and Saatchi & Saatchi are after the jump. Crazy, right? Especially since ad aggregation site Coloribus is listing the spot with full credits.

Right now, I’ll say this: It doesn’t look like it was shot “after hours,” as JCPenney CMO Mike Boylson speculates in the WSJ story – it looks very professional. Calling this ad a “fake” doesn’t fly with me either. “Unapproved,” maybe. But this was created by JCPenney’s regular commercial production company and entered into the Cannes advertising festival, for Pete’s sake.

From JCPenney:

JCPenney was deeply disappointed to learn that our name and logo were used in the creation and distribution of a commercial that was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes. No one at JCPenney was aware of the ad or participated in the creation of it any way. The commercial was never broadcast, but rather was created by a former employee at JCPenney’s advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, solely as an award submission without JCPenney’s knowledge or prior approval.

JCPenney does not approve or condone its content, and we have asked Saatchi & Saatchi to remove the ad from online circulation and to apologize to our customers and our Associates for misrepresenting our Company in this manner.”

-- The JCPenney Corporate Communications Team

From Saatchi & Saatchi:

”Saatchi & Saatchi has a long history of producing principled and respectful advertising for JCPenney and its entire client roster. The Speed Dressing TV commercial, which was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes, was created by a third party vendor without JCPenney's knowledge or consent. It was produced and released to the public without any knowledge or prior approval from JCPenney. Saatchi & Saatchi did not enter the spot and deeply regrets the message this ad presents. Saatchi & Saatchi apologizes to JCPenney, its associates, and its customers. The commercial is being removed from public circulation.”

Reader Comments

Pete Mortensen

June 23, 2008 7:17 PM

Forget what the social conservatives have to say -- this is just a terrible match with JCPenney's brand image. JCPenney is still associated with parents, not teens, and that's not going to change based on one ad. I think it's just a poor brand fit. This ad could easily work for Hot Topic, or even the Gap. But JCPenney? It's like someone getting a mid-life crisis tattoo. Terrible connection with the company's brand image and values.


June 23, 2008 7:39 PM

Oh, come on! That's not THAT bad! I've seen MUCH MUCH worse from PETA!


June 23, 2008 10:24 PM

You don't have to be a conservative to find this ad offensive. Not after the teen pregnancy pact in MA.


June 24, 2008 10:02 AM

Fake. Fake. Fake.

Just google it folks. Saatchi did this for an awards show.

Jeez - you guys will fall for anything.


June 24, 2008 5:27 PM

The spot was created by the production company Epoch Films for the Ad Agency Saatchi & Saatchi and was recently posted (it has now been removed) on the Epoch website:

It was directed by Mike Long, who's other work can be found online at the epochfilms site, including another ad for JC Penney that evokes fears of terrorism:

Stephen A.

June 24, 2008 7:45 PM

If I was 17 again, I'd think this was the most awesome ad in the world.

If I was an ad executive, I'd think this was the cleverist ad in the world, and worthy of some kind of clever award by my peers.

If I was a parent trying to raise my daughter to not be a promiscuous sl&ut and keep her from making a huge sexual mistake in her teens, I'd think this was the worst possible message to send.

If I was a Christian Conservative, I'd simply say "Well, there's the culture again, trashing young lives for profit."

Perspectives, I guess.


June 24, 2008 9:28 PM

i see no element of sex at all. and im a teenager. to me it looks like they were getting dressed IN THEIR OWN BEDROOMS!!
people overthink things waaaay too much these days.


June 24, 2008 10:48 PM

I use to spend a lot at Penney's- but because of the terrible type of ad--I am through.


June 24, 2008 11:15 PM

anything that shows teens and sex is wrong!even if you say it was fake.teen sex is not a joke.


June 25, 2008 12:13 AM

Oh please, screw social conservatives! This ad wasn't even that bad. I actually liked it, seems to have
brought what little creativity America has left in its shallow system to the field. And honestly, social conservatives are hung up on this crap while Tila Tequila's going around spilling her vodka and making out withe girls?
Please, give me a break.

Mauricio Duque

June 25, 2008 1:19 AM

As a future Public Policy analysis, I understand that social conservatives strongly disagree with JcPenny's new marketing campaign to teens.

We as Americans, we have to look at through a prism.


June 25, 2008 3:30 AM

Rednail, it says plainly in the article that a former employee of JCP's ad agency cut it and placed it for consideration at Cannes. That's all, we know that. No one faults JCP. Here's the thing: the ad is TERRIBLY IRRESPONSIBLE on the part of ANY COMPANY who would aim it at the early teen market. And it doesn't take a genius to understand that IT IS AIMED AT EARLY TEENS. In case you hadn't noticed, there's a real problem in this country with teen pregnacy and the mental and emotional problems that teens ALWAYS HAVE when they get involved in sexual activity before they're mature enough to understand the consequences. Even if it is fake to the extent that it was never intended for broadcast, IT STILL demonstrates a callous disregard and respect for the parents of the early teens at which it is targeted, implies that sexual activity at 15 or 16 years of age is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, and a willingness to use any means, even preying upon a teenager's obvious hormonal confusion, to earn a buck. Sad, really sad case.


June 25, 2008 7:51 AM

Shame on you JC Penney's...
You've taken retail to a whole new level. The gutter.


June 25, 2008 10:43 AM

clear cut case of agency running amok and no one at Penny minding the store.
the clothes there suck anyway, who wears that crap anyway?

Stephen A.

June 25, 2008 4:53 PM

Note to Chelsea: The kids were indeed in their bedrooms. They were practicing getting their clothes back on quickly. The next scene showed WHY, as they popped down in the basement for a 'quickie.' Very irresponsible behavior. One can imagine no 'protection' was involved, either.

And Willem is right. JC Penney has horrible clothes, bad prices and is about as relevant today as the Sears Roebuck catalog.


June 26, 2008 12:56 PM

In a world covered by 70% water, 10% moralists, 10% civil societies and 10% the government, if those people want to censor a thing like this, who is going to censor the moralists, civil societies and government, funny world is it, well lets look, JC penny wants the teenage market but its not positioned for the kids!!!! well try it folks....a nice ad but my friends never got a feel of what the Ad was about, but then i am from India and here its worse


June 26, 2008 9:32 PM

Commericals don't make people have sex. I doubt it will influence any teens at all. Please kids had sex long before tv.

roger makak

June 26, 2008 11:14 PM

Saatchi should know that Crispin does such viral ads for real and which is paid for by the client.

This ad does not work with the sign-off. It seems to be creative for the sake of being creative for award submission…

An ad should do more than just attract people to see it and leave it as that.

After all, when you ask them to see it, the next question is what do you want me to do after seeing it?

Poorly thought out. Draggy storyline. Such badly thoughout scam work should not be encouraged.

And blaming the production company? So BS!

No production company would have submitted it without checking with the ad agency, unless the production company no longer wants to work with Saatchi.

Truth is Saatchi approved this ad for submission.

Jason Rahall

June 27, 2008 6:56 AM

Whether one considers the aforementioned ad offensive, irresponsible, etc., no one is being relieved of their inherent responsibilities. Specifically, people (teens are people, too) are responsible for their own sexual practices and choices. Further, parents are responsible for the teaching of morals, values and sex ed. At no time should any parent expect a teacher, advertising agency or department store chain to be responsible for anything beyond teaching educational basics, producing advertising media and the selling of merchandise, respectively. Too many parents want the status conferred by a litter of kidlets, yet they abdicate themselves from raising the kidlets. Welcome to the idiocracy.


June 28, 2008 8:30 AM

They are in their own room, ok.
They are in 'training' to get dressed in
short time (18 sec) for what...?
They do not want to be caught naked?
Doing what?
JP clothes help that with designs?
Maybe I do not understand the video.


June 28, 2008 12:36 PM

I buy JC Penney Stafford shirts all the time. I'm late 20s and only wish I had sex in high school--it would be so much more meaningful. (No regrets, all the same).

On a side note, girls that wait frequently cannot reach orgasm. Why would you deny them that? You should be promoting monogamy, good selection, protection.

There is nothing to imply anything different than their "deceit" was for privacy. Would you have it any other way?


June 29, 2008 3:01 PM

I think it is quite funny how upset people get over ads like this. Teens are going to have sex with or without ads promoting it. Plus, this ad is hardly suggestive, shall we talk about the half-naked photos of teens hanging throughout stores like Abercrombie and Fitch. Why not be in an uproar about something like that....(which i still find to be fine. Advertising and advertising)

Aaron Keller

June 29, 2008 10:20 PM

Interesting. I wonder how many of the people involved in this production were born from teen pregnancy? I wonder how many had to experience it in their lives? I wonder how many have teen age daughters or sons? I wonder what percentage of those people will worry about their children experiencing teen pregnancy?

And, last, I wonder how many of the individuals involved (agency, client, production,etc.) are wondering why people don't watch television and restrict their children's internet usage? No need to wonder now.

Design a better world.


July 4, 2008 12:36 PM

We all know that without TV, music and movies there would be no such thing as teen sex.

Oh wait... Those humans aged 13 to 19 have been having sex for the last 70,000 years and only in the 1950s did this become a problem in the United States and Europe because lifespans increased dramatically and we now consider the same people as kids.

Kids have sex because they want to, not because some commercial, some movie or some TV show says so. Outrage about this follows the typical social conservative pattern of closing their eyes and ears, then screming about how things that happen every day are weird, unnatural, never happened before TV and movies and are the fault of anyone more liberal than they are.

John Mayer

July 6, 2008 3:26 AM

It’s been a long time since I had my first teenage sexual experience, but, if I remember correctly, it had nothing to do with TV ads, sex in cinema or comic books (yes, that was one of the claims). It had to do with strange new urges inspired by the girl I was with. And even then we knew about condoms; they used to vend them in almost every men’s room.

I think this commercial is rather... sweet. I may just have to make a point of picking up a few things at Penney’s, just to even things out. Lighten up!

Dwayne Tucker

July 6, 2008 3:16 PM

Aaron Keller you could have left a better comment have to agree with you.

Dwayne D.C. Tucker II


August 7, 2008 8:40 AM

I thought the ad was clever. The only reason we are opposed to fifteen and sixteen year olds having sex is because we no longer approve of them marrying and having children at the same age. This is, after all, the reason we have quincineras and sweet sixteens.


September 2, 2008 11:32 PM

I think it's a great commercial! It's funny, witty and not unlike the typical older teen's life. JC Penny needs to attract the group of teens they're losing to Abercrombie, Hollister, AmEagle, Aeropostale, and Pacsun and Zumiez. It sure attracted me to JCPenny, and i've never shopped there before. If it worked for me, itll work for other teens too.


September 18, 2008 6:48 AM

I'am responsiable for my kids not jcpenneys. this add dosn't stop me from shopping at jcpenneys. if it is a mistake it is just that. sometimes people play games that person should be fired.


October 22, 2008 3:15 PM

what's that Dunkin' Donuts link that's broken?....anyone?

Burt Helm

October 22, 2008 3:59 PM

Hey b, Thanks for the heads up on the broken link. I've updated to a story on the Boston Globe's website. "Crumble like Dunkin Donuts" refers to their quick ditching of a Rachel Ray ad after a conservative group complained that her scarf looked like it belonged to a terrorist..

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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