Target Photoshops its Way Into Bad PR

target-store_1Target is facing a lot of unwelcome attention today after releasing an ad for girl’s bikinis that raised the debate over body obsession to dizzying heights. The retailer’s promotional campaign for its latest swimwear line featured images of models that were so heavily edited that the final product was a series of bizarrely concocted photos that were anatomically incorrect.

The amateur quality of the campaign would be enough of a reason for Target to take a beating on social media over the ads, which were promptly pulled. But the company’s buy-in of a widely accepted trend to prominently feature skinny women in advertising puts it in the crosshairs of a growing public outcry over female body obsession. Women of all ages, particularly teenage girls, are constantly bombarded with unrealistic physical depictions in advertising. Advertisers want to believe this leads to higher sales, but it often also leads to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.

Target has publicly apologized for the ads, but could this whole mess have been avoided? Where was the person—designer, creative director, advertising manager, agency liaison—who should have said this is a) crudely done, and b) offensive? If a savvy PR professional had been in the room when the ad was being considered, questions about the quality of the work and the message being sent by it would surely have come up. Wouldn’t they? What do you think?

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell