Insights / advertising

H&M’s Advertising Scandal

Everybody knows today’s modeling industry is a tough business. Top stores like H&M, American Eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Victoria’s Secret won’t use anyone who is beyond a size two. Add to this the constant Photoshopping, and one has to wonder how it is affecting society?

H&M wanted to use one of today’s most talented stars, Beyoncé , as one of their models and “touch up” or “fix” her already flawless figure. Apparently, Beyoncé was too curvy for their liking. H&M learned firsthand Beyoncé’s diva rage when they tried to make her less bootylicious.  To her credit, she demanded that the photos they use were only her natural ones.

With a top-notch star like Beyoncé firing at H&M, what could they do? H&M commented that they were only discussions about the photos, and that everyone was thrilled with the final results. Has advertising really gone that far down? Additionally, H&M was in the news once again for using child labor in Bangladesh.  According to reports, workers were being beaten and cheated on their wages. “H&M is the largest single buyer of Bangladeshi garments and imports about $1.5 billion of readymade clothes from the country,” according to trade officials.

Low- cost labor has enticed manufacturers to make clothes and shoes for Western brands, but working conditions and continue to be an issue and appear to be getting worse. This month, two workers in Cambodia were killed at a factory making running shoes for Asics when part of a warehouse fell in on them.

A series of deadly incidents at factories in Bangladesh, including the collapse of a building last month that killed more than 300 people, has brought renewed attention on safety in factories in Asia that makes goods for Western companies. H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson spoke out about its operations in Bangladesh, “The factory collapse was horrific, but our code of conduct bans use of factories in residential areas, so this was not an H&M supplier. But we’ve been working to improve conditions in Bangladesh for a long time. You can never be 100 percent sure. Accidents happen everywhere.”

Accidents happen? Looks like H&M is having a more difficult time keeping its practices under wraps from the public. And the CEO isn’t exactly making his best effort to try and fix things. But is this going to keep people from buying its clothes and stop H&M’s unhealthy and possibly misleading advertisements? Probably not as long as business is strong.

By Courtney Zorena
Mason Intern, Summer 2013