Calvin Klein Ad Taps Foursome Sex

Photo: Calvin Kleinâ??s Hot Three-Way Action Makes Soho Blush

Edgy is Calvin Klein's middle name.

And now, once again, the fashion company is shocking and titillating passersby with a new ad campaign in New York City's Soho neighborhood, a place where young mothers with strollers mingle with artists and hipsters.

A giant 50-foot-tall billboard advertising Calvin Klein jeans features two young men and a young woman entangled half-clothed (a male and female kissing) as a third man lays at their feet, either undressing or putting his pants back on.

 Video: New Calvin Klein ad causing controversy.

Some say they find the ad so outrageous they won't buy Calvin Klein products again. Others have called it "disgusting."

"Not only the billboard, but a company -- a corporate giant in America -- feels it appropriate to put a semi-nude photograph in a major billboard in a high-traffic area where tens of thousands of children see this kind of activity going on," said Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the American Family Association, a Christian organization that promotes preservation of traditional values.

"If it were going on in the back of a parking lot with steamed windows, they would be arrested, and yet they broadcast it to a whole city," he told

The organization has launched an appeal on its Web sites – and, whose members have sent off more than 15,000 e-mail complaints to the company.

Tapping Into Cultural Outrage

Calvin Klein's in-house agency, CRK Advertising, has a history of tapping into that cultural outrage.

In 1981, a coquettish Brooke Shields told consumers, "You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing."

And just last year, one of its ads starring Eva Mendes was banned because of the hint of a nipple.

Retail sales of products sold worldwide under the Calvin Klein brand names generated more than $5 billion in revenue in 2007. Its 55 licensing agreements for fragrances, handbags and even furniture bolster $156 million of those sales.

Calvin Klein Ads and Porn

Shields and actor Mark Wahlberg, who modeled male underwear, were the early poster children for the designer's haute couture line. Photography was shot by Bruce Weber, known for his equally sexualized work for Abercrombie & Fitch.

Consumers protested in 1995 when the company planned to air 30-second interviews with young men and women in front of cheap wood paneling as an unseen adult asked provocative questions about their physiques.

The ads were dropped after television stations refused to air them, and retailers threatened to drop the Calvin Klein label. The FBI even investigated the company for potential child pornography charges.

But the campaign didn't hurt the bottom line. In 2003, Calvin Klein was sold to Philip Van Heusen for more than $600 million. And that didn't even include the jeans line, which had been sold earlier to the Warnaco Group.

Calvin Klein Inc. did not return calls from, but has earlier said its "intention was to create a very sexy campaign that speaks to our targeted demographic."

Some of those younger consumers are less judgmental about gender roles and have a more tolerant view of their sexuality, embracing gay marriage in larger numbers than their parents and, perhaps, seeing a threesome or even foursome as no big deal.

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