News and PR Insights from 5W Public Relations CEO Ronn Torossian

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Ratings Fall in Wake of Bad Press

victoria secret pr

Recently, cultural news program 1A on National Public Radio devoted at least an hour-long segment, essentially, to arguing that the Victoria’s Secret fashion show is not a good look. The arguments made both by guests and by callers and posters on social media touched on the style of the garments, the look of the models, the quality of the products, and the expectations consumers feel when they see a standard Victoria’s Secret advertisement, even one as slickly produced as the fashion show.

In the same segment, guests and callers frequently and loudly promoted VS competitors that are considered, especially by Millennials, to be both more socially conscious and “woke” to socio-cultural trends.

This segment may have only been an hour, but it’s a reflection of a trend that’s been building steam in consumer America since VS announced the air date of their annual fashion show, in which Victoria’s Secret “angel” models strut their stuff to promote the company’s more alluring selections.

In past years, ratings for the program were solid to good, and the run-up publicity gathered loads of excited new fans. Not so much this year. The fashion show was bumped from CBS to ABC and aired to the lowest ratings in 17 years. In fact, Nielsen said the program has lost “more than half” of its audience in just the past two years. This year, TV critics didn’t decry the fashion show’s “campiness” or “overt sexiness” as in years past. Instead, they described the program as “dull,” “boring,” and “cliché.”

So… what’s happened in the past two years? Many different things, both in retail markets and in the culture that drives consumer choices. First, mall shopping is down overall, and that’s very bad news for brands, like Victoria’s Secret, which thrive on mall traffic. The rise in competitive brands and easy internet shopping has also hurt VS store sales.

Many consumers feel they now have more options, especially for “every day” undergarments, which have been Victoria’s Secret’s bread and butter since their beginning. And therein lies an important messaging disconnect. While the brand promotes what one Victoria’s Secret marketing exec recently described as “a fantasy,” most of their sales have traditionally been more practical garments for everyday wear. Since many more people are buying these items online, those sales are declining.

In addition, Victoria’s Secret has become a target for social justice activists, fashion bloggers and commentators, all of whom are working to promote different options and what they consider to be more responsible and better choices for brands to support.

So far, VS hasn’t done too much to push back against this narrative. After a marketing executive made a comment about “selling a fantasy,” the company apologized, but it didn’t make any noticeable changes to its actual campaign styling, trusting loyal customers to keep coming back…

Except, they aren’t. Sure, there are a lot of reasons for this, but when sales are down, your company is getting pilloried on social media, and your traditional holiday special just saw its lowest viewership in nearly two decades on the air, it’s perhaps time for your company to reconsider how the current message is being perceived.

-5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian

5wpr ceo ronn torossian

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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