NEW YORK — Victoria’s Secret, which pulled out of its annual $10 million televised fashion extravaganza on CBS in April amid a national debate over sexually explicit broadcasts, is headed back to the tube as part of a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign for the holiday season.
The $3.8 billion lingerie specialist is sponsoring a nationwide tour called Angels Across America that will chronicle the journey of supermodels Tyra Banks, Gisele Bündchen, Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio for a one-hour special on VH1. The promotion is intended to boost the brand through a sexy message of holiday cheer to thousands of consumers, kicking off Nov. 8 at the Victoria’s Secret flagship at Herald Square here and then hitting Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
A VH1 “All Access” TV special on Dec. 13 will document the trip, including footage of the Angels in their private jet and daily appearances at each city, as well as unseen footage of the former Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, supermodels, and behind-the-scene images that were too racy to air on network TV.
Victoria’s Secret’s CBS show, billed as TV’s “Sexiest Night,” drew criticism from viewers, and the Federal Communications Commission investigated the brand for some of the on-air antics, but ruled they weren’t indecent. The shift to cable TV is viewed by industry experts as a savvy move for Victoria’s Secret and Viacom, parent of CBS and VH1. It represents a change of distribution from federally regulated CBS to privately operated VH1, while giving Victoria’s Secret exposure on a cable channel that penetrates about 85 percent of the U.S. market.
“I doubt Victoria’s Secret made this decision,’’ said Todd Mitchell, media and entertainment analyst at New York-based Blaylock & Partners, L.P., an investment banking firm. “I’m sure CBS did. I think it’s a smart move on the part of Viacom because they can say ‘We’re not shoving this down your children’s airwaves, but at the same time, we’re not getting rid of content that many people want to see.’”
Victoria’s Secret’s decision in April to drop the show, which began in 1995 at the Plaza Hotel, shifted to Wall Street, the Cannes Film Festival, Bryant Park, and the New York State Armory for the last two years, came after the backlash triggered by Janet Jackson’s breast baring during halftime at the CBS-televised Super Bowl. The FCC has fined the network $550,000.
Industry executives questioned whether Victoria’s Secret would try a new strategy of modesty, as the lingerie specialist acknowledged it planned to market the brand into “something bigger, bolder and better in terms of bolstering the brand for holiday sales.”
Victoria’s Secret has a substantial foundation from which to expand. The brand’s signature 1,009 stores make it the largest subsidiary of Intimate Brands. Retail sales in 2003 totaled $2.8 billion, while direct catalogue and online sales yielded $995 million. It is regarded as the top specialty retailer of women’s sexy bras and panties, and about 395 million Victoria’s Secret catalogues are mailed worldwide annually.
The new promotion will have the supermodels fly in a customized logoed “Angels” jet. They will wear one-of-a-kind tour jackets for each city that will feature a trademarked logo, said Monica Mitro, spokeswoman for Victoria’s Secret. The supermodels will present a new luxury-oriented gift collection of lingerie and bath and beauty products in each city, meet fans at store events, donate promotional memorabilia and attend sports events.
Earlier this year, she said Victoria’s Secret hosted three sports events. “Gisele threw an opening pitch at a Boston Red Sox game, Tyra threw a first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game and Anna Kournikova threw the opening pitch at a Texas Rangers game wearing our sports line, Shock Absorber,” she said. Victoria’s Secret sells Shock Absorber sports bras at select stores.
Las Vegas promises to be a big party. On Nov. 11, the Angels will be inducted into the Hard Rock Hall of Fame at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The Angels will then donate one-of-a-kind Victoria’s Secret memorabilia which will be displayed in the Hard Rock lobby. An event at the Bellagio Hotel will feature a “Santa Baby” synchronized music and pink-color water fountain show, followed by a performance by the Black Eyed Peas at the Palms Resort & Casino, which will be “wrapped” in a Victoria’s Secret building banner.
The week-long event will end at the Grove in Los Angeles where the Angels will do a “Walk of Fame” number and leave a cement handprint.