The brand unveiled the ads on January 4, instantly prompting a swell of online chatter that intensified after the images of the actor were plastered on Calvin Klein’s iconic billboard in the center of New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Throw in a video ending with a dozen doves bursting into the sky alongside White spread on a couch, wearing nothing but his cotton stretch briefs and sneakers, and the campaign became a full-blown media moment.

The strategy was classic Calvin Klein, a brand which has been synonymous with sexy, conversation-starting campaigns since the 1970s.

And the data shows it’s an approach that works. According to data insights company Launchmetrics, in just 48 hours the White ads generated $12.7 million in media impact value (MIV). For comparison, their research also found Bottega Veneta’s Pre-Spring 2024 campaign featuring paparazzi shots of Kendall Jenner and A$AP Rocky generated $2.8 million in 48 hours.

But the White ads were just the start of the headlines for Calvin Klein. On January 10, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned a Calvin Klein advert starring musician FKA Twigs, stating that the images focused on her “physical features rather than the clothing, to the extent that it presented her as a stereotypical sexual object.”

The decision quickly drew backlash, with critics decrying the agency for policing female sexuality and a woman’s body. The ongoing praise for White’s ads — which were not banned — provided a stark contrast. So did the fact that the agency said images of Kendall Jenner from the same campaign were “unlikely to be seen as irresponsible,” which elicited charges of racism from some commenters online.

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