Brands partnering with celebrities and influencers to champion a social cause is no new trend. We’ve seen brands do this in past editions of Finn on Purpose and though the potential reach of a message can be amplified by celebrity involvement, it can also backfire.
Calvin Klein realised this in its latest campaign, “My Truth”, which sees various celebrities and influencers talk about the things that have made them the person they are today, insecurities and all on show.
One part of the campaign in particular has created negative sentiment; supermodel Bella Hadid’s appearance with Instagram influencer Lil Miquela.
For those who don’t know, Lil Miquela is an influencer based in California with over 1.5 million followers on Instagram. She’s also a robot and fictional character.
This isn’t what sets Lil Miquela apart though, we’ve seen other virtual influencers, it’s instead the admiration she receives from fans of all demographics. Young people aspire to look like Lil Miquela, the aesthetically perfect robot.
In the Calvin Klein ad Miquela is kissed by straight supermodel Bella Hadid after she explains that “life is opening doors, creating new dramas that you never knew could exist.” It’s faced a huge backlash from the LGBT community for several reasons…
Firstly, the ad sexualises lesbianism and positions it as an object of fantasy for the target audience. Secondly, Bella Hadid isn’t a lesbian so for her to refer to it as a “drama that you never knew could exist” distances the people who have the authority to talk about it. Finally, Lil Miquela isn’t even a real person, yet Calvin Klein used her flawless, unattainable image to sell its products to a young audience.
From the offset this part of the “My Truth” campaign feels disingenuous. Calvin Klein recently responded to the backlash by explaining that the campaign was to promote “…freedom of expression for a wide range of identities…” The problem here, is that neither of the influencers used are representative of the identity the brand is trying to promote. If Calvin Klein wanted to promote freedom of expression for a wide range of identities, it should have actually used two genuine lesbians, because if they can’t even express themselves in an ad with the sole purpose of doing this, how can Calvin Klein promote the cause?
The whole escapade is a real shame because the rest of the campaign has been a success, with many praising the other influencers involved. It just goes to show that for a purpose led campaign to work, every component must feel authentic!