Even though I spend most of the show behind a desk, I always put some thought into picking out my shoes. Because I love fancy footwear! I even have a whole shelf of shoes in my office. Some are my show-hosting shoes– others are for when I’m running errands or just doing my morning run with my youngest daughter in her stroller.
For every occasion there is a shoe. So I understand the intent of Nine West’s new ad campaign and what the company’s senior vice president for marketing meant when he said, quote:
“We have to change the way we talk about occasions because women are modern now and shop for a different reason.”
Only I’m not so sure Nine West’s campaign really represents modern women – which is why the company is getting my letter of the week.
Dear Nine West,
It’s me, Melissa.
The display window at the Nine West near my studio here at 30 Rock is my happy place. Because your shoes are two of my favorite things–affordable and fashionable. And I always get the best customer service from the Nine West clerks who spend all day on their feet–taking care of other people’s feet.
Which is why I was so distressed by what I saw the last time I checked out your store window. Because the company’s message to women in your new ad campaign seems to have gotten off on the wrong foot.
One ad features leopard-print pumps with the tagline, “Starter Husband Hunting.” Now there’s nothing wrong with a woman strutting her stuff–or as you say “looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now.” But why call it the shoe for “Starter Husband Hunting?” In an era where the woman is the main breadwinner in four out of 10 homes–is this really what women are on the hunt for? A husband and not even one she plans to keep?
There’s also the print ad that shows a woman with a pair of flip-flops peaking out of her fashionable Nine West bag with the tagline “Anticipatory Walk of Shame.” Now, I always celebrate women’s right to enjoy their sexuality. But if you really want to appeal to the modern woman– why shame her? Why not call it the stride of pride! If men had a shoe for the morning after, you know that’s what they’d call it.
And then there’s the shoe for the “First Day of Kindergarten,” with this tagline “The Bus Arrives”–and so do the waterworks. Then it hits you: “Mommy now has the weeks off.” Unless of course “Mommy” is among the women who make up nearly half of our nation’s workforce. Those women are likely heading back to the office after dropping the kids off at school.
And that’s the real issue with this ad campaign. It seems woefully out of touch with the modern woman it’s supposed to celebrate.
“Husband hunting”? Shame after sex? Who do you think is wearing these shoes, June Cleaver? If you’re really trying to stay in stride with the 21st-century woman, why not sell them on shoes that are in step with women from all walks of life?
Like the “I March For Justice” shoe. Or the “Look Who’s Boss” boot. How about the “I Am a Champion” shoe. The “I Ran and Won” shoe. Or shoes for women on the move. For those taking a stand for women’s rights–no matter how long it takes–or redefining our understanding of the right to be a woman. For those who have to stay on their toes. For the modern woman who brings the funny, and makes the money. And shoes for women who woke up like this!
I know, as one executive explained, the ads are meant to make noise and get attention. But Nine West, if you want to get the right kind of attention from women, you cannot have one foot stuck in outdated ideas of the past. Even if that foot is wearing a really cute shoe.