Editorial: Marketing, Sleaze or What?

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Not sure that I'm buying Illinois Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood's war with Abercrombie & Fitch and its quarterly magalog. But, first, let's be upfront: I am not a parent, yet I hope my belief in free speech would not change my opinion if I were. This month, Wood launched a Web site, www.StopAandF.com, and is gathering names for an online petition to boycott the company and get it to drop the partial nudity and racier content in A&F Quarterly (see story, page 1). "It is my hope as a parent that my children would be able to peruse a clothing catalog without being inundated with graphic images promoting promiscuous - and potentially dangerous - lifestyles, tips on how to drink irresponsibly and interviews with porn stars," Wood writes.

What the lieutenant governor fails to mention is that A&F Quarterly is not a catalog. Yes, catalogs commonly get mailed to people who don't request them. But this is a subscription-based publication that - because of earlier complaints - is now shrink-wrapped and requires a trip to one of the company's retail stores to buy a copy or start a subscription. And, according to A&F, its clerks ask for proof of age. It's not kiddie porn: These models are clearly older than 18. So it seems that the company is doing everything it needs to do to keep the book out of the hands of minors. At some point, it is the parents' responsibility to take charge of their children.

Wood goes on to complain about how A&F markets itself: "Often these pictures do not include any of the clothing your company so eagerly seeks to sell." So what? I can think of many, many other companies that don't promote their products in their advertising. Obviously, A&F is pushing the envelope here to define its image, and it's working. The company has reported 34 consecutive quarters of record sales and earnings. However, just as I don't think A&F should be censored, I'm not telling Wood and her constituents to shut up, either. This country allows free speech. Therefore, let the market decide. If the boycott works and sales drop, you can bet A&F will change its marketing efforts.

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