20080624 teen girl jc penny spoof 18
Screenshot of a teenage girl in a spoof on a JC Penny ad campaign. The racy spot shows the girl and a teenage boy timing themselves getting dressed -- and meeting once they do it fast enough. - 


Scott Jagow: Say you're the CEO of a big retail company, and an ad your company didn't design goes viral on the Web. It's all over YouTube and other sites.
Might be a good thing. Well, JC Penney's in that position. There's just one little problem: The ad seems to encourage teenage sex. Steve Henn has more.

Steve Henn: The ad called, "Speed Dressing," features two teens standing alone in their bedrooms, getting dressed again and again. They're timing themselves, racing against the clock. When they're fast enough, the boy heads over to her house. Cute smile, then a shot of Mom.

Teenage girl: Hey Mom -- we're just going to go down to the basement and watch some TV.

Uh oh . . .

Across the screen, you see run the words: Today's the day to get away with it. Fade to Penney's logo.

Penney's executives are reportedly furious. But Jonah Berger at the Wharton School of Business says it's probably impossible to make this ad disappear, no matter how many lawyers the company hires. And from a marketing standpoint, that might not be a bad thing.

Jonah Berger: This attention gets them play among the people that they'd like to be reaching in a little bit more racy or interesting way. But if their regular consumers say, "Oh my God, this isn't my JC Penney's," They can say, "Well it's not ours either -- we didn't put the campaign together."

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.