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On January 4th, 2012, French mail-order fashion retailer La Redoute unknowingly published an advertisement on its website for children’s T-shirts, which featured four children modeling on a beach and a nudist man casually wading in the background of the photograph.
The controversial advertisement appeared on the official website for several hours before it was noticed by several visitors and subsequently taken down by the company. The marketing oversight was further amplified by the magnifying glass tool enabling viewers to zoom in on the image for details.
La Redoute’s Reaction
The news of French retailer’s slip-up was instantly dubbed an “epic PR fail” and spread virally via Twitter. Initial speculations of the image being a hoax was quickly debunked after the company issued an apology via Twitter: “La Redoute apologizes for the photo published on its site and is taking steps to remove it. We have opted to delete all posts, including this picture.”
A similar status update was posted onto the company’s official Facebook page, which received over 1,000 responses from the readers. An unnamed spokeswoman also said an internal inquiry had been launched to determine how the error had happened:
“We are aware that it may offend the sensitivities of web surfers. We will strengthen the validation process of all brand communications so this can not happen again in the future.”
A range of reactions to La Redoute’s ad began to circulate on Twitter, many expressing disappointment at France’s largest mail-order fashion retailer for failing to notice the nudity before publication. One user tweeted “SCANDALE!” while another user labeled the incident as an “epic fail.”
Some of the more skeptical commentators raised an alternate motive behind the mistake, suggesting it was “a publicity stunt by La Redoute’s web team ahead of the sales” on the company’s official Facebook page. A number of professionals in the public relations field also chimed in on the controversy through contacts at Huffington Post, including Sean Dougherty who said he “suspects someone at La Redoute might have been ballsy enough to post the naked-guy photo intentionally.”
“The company either did it on purpose, à la Benetton or Abercrombie & Fitch, to use controversy to call attention to its brand, or it’s historically sloppy in quality control.”
In late 2011, international fashion retailer à la Benetton launched the scandalous advertisement campaign “UnHate,” which featured risque photographs apparently depicting leaders of countries kissing each other on the lips.
“Holyday” Spelling Error
As the photoshop meme continued to develop, other users noticed another unrelated error on the same product page, in which one of the t-shirts had a spelling error on its embroidered text “Enjoy Holydays.”
The incident soon inspired a single topic Tumblr titled “La Redoute en mode Pedobear,” curating a notable selection of photoshopped images that were created by the news readers.
Huffington Post – Naked Man In La Redoute Children’s Clothing Ad Gives Company PR Pain