CBS pulls the Plug on Calvin Klein Ad

On this day in history (1980) CBS banned a racy Calvin Klein ad featuring model/actress Brooke Shields. 15 year old Shields delivered a line in the advertisement that lives on in infamy…

Do you know what comes between me and my Calvin’s? Nothing.

The fashion line has been most prominently known for its history of racy print and billboard ads in black & white featuring supermodels and actors; Justin Beiber, Eva Mendes, and Mark Wahlberg.

Calvin Klein

CBS, known as the “Tiffany Network” for their high-quality broadcasting and the aims of CK were misaligned in a pop culture study which has been noted as, Art v. Obscenity.

As the old saying suggests, “Sex sells,” a fact that Calvin Klein has definitely taken into consideration with their marketing. Unfortunately, a number of these ads have featured underage models (Brooke Shields, 15; Kate Moss, 17) and has drawn criticism of the clothing brand and resulted in their marketing collateral being labeled, “kiddie porn.”

Due to concerns about the states of undress of models in their advertisements, in 1995 the FBI launched a formal investigation into the brand; Calvin Klein ultimately opted to pull the ads.

Other brands such as Aeropostale and American Apparel have run similar campaigns, but feature relatively unknown models of age. Nonetheless, Calvin Klein continues to toe the line between what is artful and tasteless in creating controversial marketing collateral.

Today, the focus of the marketing world has shifted primarily from legacy media to the internet and social media as the pervasiveness and resulting censorship of lewd or vulgar material falls into gray areas. 

What’s your take on the advertisement featuring a 15 year-old Brooke Shields? How do you feel about the messages conveyed in these ad campaigns, be they towards adults or children?

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. 


Check out this different approach by the city of Chicago (IL) in promoting safe sex featuring teenage boys that struck up mild controversy in 2013. 

For more controversial ad campaigns in 2013, click here