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June 5, 2013 9:44 AM   Subscribe

There was good reason behind Sagmeister & Walsh's shocking nude staff photos, according to its founders. (Links NSFW, unless you work at S&W)
posted by monospace (127 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shocking? You keep using that word &c.
posted by dersins at 9:49 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "good reason" appears to be "it got us a lot of attention the first time so we're doing it again!"
posted by elizardbits at 9:50 AM on June 5, 2013 [22 favorites]


Which you have to admit is a pretty good reason, if you're looking to attract attention. And / or clients.
posted by dersins at 9:53 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Particularly if what you want are clients whose tastes and sensibilities aren't permanently mired in the 50's of myth and legend and TV sitcoms.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:55 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am unsure why these people merit attention, unless one is in the market for marketers. Which, then, yeah.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sagmeister. heh.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


The only conclusion I can draw from this is that he actually has a very tiny penis indeed.
posted by Mizu at 10:00 AM on June 5, 2013


"Our creative vision is that naked people sell stuff. In this case, us, but in your case it could be like, beer or body spray or all kinds of things. This is a totally new concept, of course. We are super creative that way."
posted by jacquilynne at 10:00 AM on June 5, 2013 [21 favorites]


People sending nude photos of themselves...over the Internet?


I am shocked! SHOCKED!
posted by FJT at 10:01 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Their plan worked.
posted by ColdChef at 10:07 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


An Ad Agency does something unorthodox to get attention? WHAT UNIVERSE IS THIS???

Oh, wait, the same one I've always been in.
posted by GuyZero at 10:10 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


"OMG, DUDES WE FINALLY HIRED A GIRL! THIS WILL BE SO MUCH LESS AWKWARD THAN LAST YEAR!"
posted by klangklangston at 10:10 AM on June 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


See, this kind of thing actually depresses me. What happens if they have a chubby intern? Or an intern with a physical disability? Or, god forbid, they've hired someone who has physical flaws? Or someone with a history of abuse who doesn't want to be in naked pictures on the internet but also doesn't want to lose their position? Or is it just that "their office culture" is that if you're not ready for a publicity-worthy nude shot on the internet, they just aren't going to hire you no matter how talented you are?

I mean, it's gross. It's like American Apparel writ large - where you have to be cool with having your boundaries violated in a whole new way just to be a plausible hire/keep your job.

I think this is basically the wave of the future, though, because the internet just seems to make things worse and worse on this front.
posted by Frowner at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2013 [91 favorites]


The only conclusion I can draw from this is that he actually has a very tiny penis indeed.

The photos show pretty pig pixels.

Also, is he huge or is his partner super tiny?
posted by GuyZero at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2013


Was this the agency hired by Rep. Christopher Lee?
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:12 AM on June 5, 2013


Mizu: "The only conclusion I can draw from this is that he actually has a very tiny penis indeed."

I guess you're saying this because of the huge black bar joke? Given that the subsequent photo shoots were released without black bars (and were blurred by business insider and huffpo, not the ad agency), you can judge for yourself (NSFW, obviously).

Whether his penis is tiny or not, he clearly doesn't have any issues about it.
posted by mokin at 10:12 AM on June 5, 2013


NEXT WEEK ON MAD MEN

Don: What?
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on June 5, 2013 [38 favorites]


"We blurred parts of the image after some readers complained."

uhm... readers complained after they clicked a link that was preceeded by a bold text saying "They're not gratuitously sexual, but they're not safe for conservative workplaces either."?
what did they expect?
posted by bigendian at 10:13 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing actually depresses me.

Me too, for all the reasons you stated, Frowner. It makes me angry, too -- for all the reasons you stated.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 10:17 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My takeaway from all this: I want NASA pajamas now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:17 AM on June 5, 2013


Or, god forbid, they've hired someone who has physical flaws?

They wouldn't do that.
posted by borges at 10:19 AM on June 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


"Mr. Sagmeister, we have the Anthony Weiner for Mayor campaign on line 2."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


god forbid, they've hired someone who has physical flaws

God would forbid it, actually. Mind you, they worship the God of Avarice.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see he's healed up nicely since a previous self-promo effort.
posted by Mcable at 10:44 AM on June 5, 2013


I mean, it's gross. It's like American Apparel writ large - where you have to be cool with having your boundaries violated in a whole new way just to be a plausible hire/keep your job.

I'd completely agree with you if it came out of the blue and you had to do it to keep your job. But nobody has to apply for a job there. Presumably the only people who apply are those who are okay with it.
posted by Justinian at 10:47 AM on June 5, 2013


I'm sure it was a decision discussed among employees. It's a small design studio, so the hierarchy of decision making is not as formal.

As for the publicity...yeah Sagmeister is well known for BIG STATEMENTS. These new nude photos are a riff on Sagmeister's first mailer announcing his new studio. This does not seem to be a company ritual that employees are forced to undergo, as Business Week is reporting it, it's a one off campaign to commemorate the change from Sagmeister Inc. to Sagmeister & Walsh.
posted by quosimosaur at 10:49 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


They are great designers, but I'm really glad I don't work there.
posted by freakazoid at 10:49 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sagmeister? Is he this year's Don Drooper?
posted by MuffinMan at 10:50 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Either Stefan Sagmeister is really tall or Jessica Walsh is really tiny.
posted by Justinian at 10:51 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What happens if they have a chubby intern? Or an intern with a physical disability? Or, god forbid, they've hired someone who has physical flaws? Or someone with a history of abuse who doesn't want to be in naked pictures on the internet but also doesn't want to lose their position?

We're playing the what if game? What if the chubby intern is totally down with it? And the intern with the physical disability? What if they weren't down with it so they just stopped doing it out of respect for that person? I don't see why this has to be depressing or why they have to be jerks who would never hire an unattractive person.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sagmeister? Is he this year's Don Drooper?

Dong Draper?
posted by Think_Long at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh! Leggy Olson
posted by Think_Long at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can we not jump to conclusions here? There's a lot of outrage and dismissiveness throughout this thread that doesn't seem justified to me.

"Our creative vision is that naked people sell stuff. In this case, us, but in your case it could be like, beer or body spray or all kinds of things. This is a totally new concept, of course. We are super creative that way."

This campaign and the one it references have nothing to do with sexuality. So, yes—this is a relatively new concept.

edit: okay maybe it's just a little bit of outrage and dismissiveness
posted by quosimosaur at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2013


I don't see why this has to be depressing

OK, how about now?
posted by dersins at 11:02 AM on June 5, 2013 [42 favorites]


OK, how about now?

Whoa. It must be weird to live with no humanity.
posted by bongo_x at 11:07 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, how about now?

Well, there goes my argument.
posted by quosimosaur at 11:13 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ugh. I don't care at all about the nude publicity shots. dersins' link is the real upsetting story here.
posted by naju at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2013 [21 favorites]


Ugh. I don't care at all about the nude publicity shots. dersins' link is the real upsetting story here.

Yes and yes.
posted by josher71 at 11:17 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bangers & Mash
posted by Kabanos at 11:19 AM on June 5, 2013


OK, how about now?

ARGH WHAT BUTTON DO I PRESS TO SEND A PUNCH THROUGH THE INTERNET CANT LOOK UP THE ONLINE FAQ AS MY MONITOR IS ALREADY CRACKED AND BUSTED AND MY FINGERS KEEP CURLING INTO FISTS
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:19 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The agency that wants my business needs to show penetration and deliver a money shot. I can pay my own people to stand around with their dicks hanging out.
posted by humanfont at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Paging Joan Halloway, Joan, you're needed for the staff photo.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


And now we have all looked at and talked about this guy's ding-dong, which is all he ever wanted and probably the real reason he started a design firm in the first place
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


*starts design firm*
posted by josher71 at 11:27 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


visually quoted the postcard

No, stop that at once, say "recreated" or I will punch you.
posted by elizardbits at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


aaah the rest of that article is even worse.
posted by elizardbits at 11:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


More of a design limp judging by the pixelation.
posted by humanfont at 11:30 AM on June 5, 2013


I'd completely agree with you if it came out of the blue and you had to do it to keep your job. But nobody has to apply for a job there. Presumably the only people who apply are those who are okay with it.

This is a bad argument.

Sure, everyone knows the owner of that business expects his secretaries to sleep with him, but presumably the only women who apply there are those who are okay with offering some really personal services to their boss.

Sure, second hand smoke is dangerous and unhealthy, but the only people who work in bars and restaurants that allow smoking are people who are okay with getting lung cancer.

Sure, that sweatshop owner is a total jerk, who expects people to work 14 hour days without much of a break and beats them if they break a needle, but presumably the only people who applied to work there are okay with those conditions.

Maybe the privilege-possessing creative types who want to work for design agencies don't deserve much sympathy on a wide variety of fronts, and there are lots of people who are dealing with bigger problems, but asking your staff to get naked for an advertisement seems totally over the line. Maybe really, truly not one of the people involved had even the slightest qualms about getting naked on camera for the whole world to see. And maybe they did have those qualms but felt they had to go along with it because they're trying to break into a competitive field, and they need this internship.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:31 AM on June 5, 2013 [29 favorites]


hes not nude hes wearing socks but
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:32 AM on June 5, 2013


asking your staff to get naked for an advertisement seems totally over the line.

Further over the line: some of them are interns.
posted by dersins at 11:33 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: “The photos show pretty pig pixels.”

Easily my favorite typo of the week at least.

Also: yeah, they're douchebags. As others have said, not the nudity so much as the really, really gross stylized images.
posted by koeselitz at 11:33 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously confused by the CDs. What do they represent? I mean, I know what they show, but how is it related to the CD inside, or the "visual identity" of the firm? Blowjobs and vomiting? What am I not getting?
posted by thinkpiece at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of surprised they didn't put their logo on actual douchebags. With racist instructions. But I suppose that would have shown too much self-awareness.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:45 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I was running low on people I dislike.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:48 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jacquilynne, that's a slippery slope argument. But that only works if you consider posing naked for an advertisement to be inherently bad in the same way that working in a sweatshop is bad, or that smoking is bad.
posted by Justinian at 11:52 AM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


The stuff in the other links is way more of a problem than a nude photo.
posted by Justinian at 11:53 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's an interview with Jessica Walsh. They discuss the Sagmeister & Walsh promotion at 24:00. Walsh says that the CD covers were partly in response to suggestions that she'd slept with Sagmeister to get her position (apparently, there's a three year wait just for internships). She doesn't address the accusations of racism.

There are also three with Stefan Sagmeister [1][2][3], though they're much older.
posted by quosimosaur at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2013


quosimosaur: "Walsh says that the CD covers were partly in response to suggestions that she'd slept with Sagmeister to get her position "

Well, that's certainly the professional way to deal with rumors like that in a way that doesn't demean all parties. Oh wait...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:04 PM on June 5, 2013


The racist penis pencils are the only thing here that strike me as especially troublesome. Nude photos? Whatever, that's fun. The blowjob CD cover is obvs their response to all of the people who thought it was suspect that Jessica Walsh was becoming a partner with one of the most famous independent designers there is.

This is far less controversial than that time Sagmeister carved an entire poster for a design conference onto his body. The man is brilliant and somewhat fearless.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:11 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, that's certainly the professional way to deal with rumors like that in a way that doesn't demean all parties. Oh wait...

Yeah, I'm not convinced either. The thing is, there's such demand for the two designers that they, not their clients, get to set the terms of employment.
posted by quosimosaur at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2013


where you have to be cool with having your boundaries violated in a whole new way just to be a plausible hire/keep your job.

This may presume that there is one universal set of boundaries. I get what you're saying and I hear you, but I disagree with the implied premises. I'd love an all-naked MeFi staff photo (my suspicion is that this is not a widely shared feeling among staff) and it would make me happy and cheery, if it was okay with everyone else. If not, well then we wouldn't do it. Maybe this is just me being pollyannaish but it seems like there's some projection about how other people view their own boundaries and the display of their own bodies.

There are a lot of unknowns in the S&W story (my own personal line gets drawn someplace around the racist pencils) and to presume that someone with a disability or physical flaws would fall in the "I don't want to be naked though I do want a job with a really edgy button pushing design firm" seems like an odd place to draw the line. It's not Hooters. It's not even Abercrombie and Fitch.
posted by jessamyn at 12:13 PM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Jacquilynne, that's a slippery slope argument. But that only works if you consider posing naked for an advertisement to be inherently bad in the same way that working in a sweatshop is bad, or that smoking is bad.

The argument I'm trying to make though is not about the inherent badness of posing naked for advertisements. It's about the fact that 'nobody has to do the job if they don't like the shitty things it entails' is a terrible argument because a) people need jobs and often don't have the luxury of making those choices and b) the shitty thing under discussion is not in any way a necessary part of the job.

I agree that sweatshop beatings and second-hand smoke are inherently bad. Sex is not inherently bad, but it is if it's not completely optional for all concerned. And I just can't see a situation with a power imbalance like firm partner and intern as being the kind of situation where there's ever truly a state of completely optional about it.

And really, if getting naked for advertisements was some kind of obvious good, it wouldn't be the kind of titillating thing that would have got them publicity in the first place. It's the slightly transgressive nature of the photo that gets it attention, but the same aspect makes it, in my mind, not something you can appropriately ask of an underling.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Frowner:
I mean, it's gross. It's like American Apparel writ large - where you have to be cool with having your boundaries violated in a whole new way just to be a plausible hire/keep your job.

I think this is basically the wave of the future, though, because the internet just seems to make things worse and worse on this front.
This is nothing new. It's a repeat of what Sagmeister did when he initially opened up his agency.

Also from that irritating Businessweek slideshow article:
"We decided to make a re-make of that original mailer," Walsh says. "Within an hour of sending out that email blast we were getting thousands of blogs and retweets.

"In that aspect it was quite a functional piece of design," Walsh says.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:17 PM on June 5, 2013


I am curious how asking your employees to pose naked for a photograph avoids being sexual harassment.
posted by windykites at 12:19 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


You'd have to prove it created a hostile work environment and wasn't related to performance of your job duties. Which I don't think is a slam dunk for this firm.
posted by Justinian at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2013


Also someone would actually have to sue. Maybe nobody wants to sue?
posted by Justinian at 12:22 PM on June 5, 2013


What do they do on casual Fridays?
posted by octobersurprise at 12:22 PM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


And, considering the reputation Sagmeister has as a designer (again, his most famous work involved him CARVING AN ENTIRE POSTER INTO HIS BODY—the dude is famously extreme), I doubt his tiny studio employs people who are extremely shy about this.

I disagree with you, jacquilynne, that these are meant to be titillating. They're far too stern to be that. What they're going for is shock, certainly, but in a way that's more rude or inappropriate than your average "naked person in a photograph" ad. Again, Sagmeister's been known for a certain level of immaturity in his work, always deliberately inserted into places that are meant to be polished and tasteful; it's a deliberate part of the high-low nature of his work. But his work has never been "let's show a girl in a bikini to sell beer" – people who're looking for that level of work aren't going to bother paying Sagmeister to do it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am curious how asking your employees to pose naked for a photograph avoids being sexual harassment.

Well, Walsh says she volunteered to go nude in the interview. Sagmeister originally suggested that she should be clothed conservatively. Of course, maybe he was playing some reverse psychology mind games, but at some point, we have to grant Walsh some agency. The situation with the interns wasn't mentioned.
posted by quosimosaur at 12:23 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I gotta admit I thought there was some degree of euphemism involved when Rory said "carved a poster into his body."

Nope.

Given that, posing nude comes off as pretty pedestrian.
posted by GuyZero at 12:24 PM on June 5, 2013


I am curious how asking your employees to pose naked for a photograph avoids being sexual harassment.

That none of them feel harassed?

I mean, they could feel harassed, that's their prerogative. But they certainly don't have to.
posted by GuyZero at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2013


I am totally fine with the pictures of the two partners posing naked. I mean, I think it's a lame ploy for attention and I sort of wish we hadn't given it to them, but if two equal business partners wish to get naked on film together, that's their call.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't care what the guy himself chooses to do with his own body, but I do care if his employees are made to feel as though they have to do something they're uncomfortable with as a condition of their employment, or even just to "fit in".
posted by elizardbits at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


But there's no evidence that happened!
posted by Justinian at 12:29 PM on June 5, 2013


Right, that's why I said "if".

but also lbr would they admit it if that was the case? prolly not.
posted by elizardbits at 12:31 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have no proof to back the following statement: If everybody in the world would shed their clothes, the world would be a much better place.

If humanity was always nude, as God intended, I am betting that there would be far less sex crimes, people would be healthier (in the long run), there would be far less self-doubt, lies and deceit (the deceit we tell others, and the deceit we tell ourselves). People would be more courteous. And it'd put a brake on, if not a full out stop to our consumerism.

(but what about the children?)
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:35 PM on June 5, 2013


There's a good chance they wouldn't admit it. We can't be sure. But do you think the type of people who intern for Sagmeister are likely to mind appearing in a nude photoshoot? There's a good chance they wouldn't.
posted by quosimosaur at 12:36 PM on June 5, 2013


And it'd put a brake on, if not a full out stop to our consumerism.

Yeah, but what we'd save on clothes we'd spend on heating bills.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:41 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a page on Sagmeister & Walsh's homepage dedicated to answering questions about the naked photo, by the way:
Whose idea was the naked promotional photo?

Jessica: Stefan had the idea to do a postcard that was a nod to the original announcement he made when he opened the studio 19 years ago. His idea was that i'd be dressed in conservative clothing, and he'd be naked. I had an immediate gut reaction that it'd be better if we were both nude, and that's what we did.
(Let me take a designer pause for a moment to geek out about how wonderful everything about that site's design sensibilities are, by the way. They changed their firm's logo to an ampersand as a way of emphasizing how big-deal it is that Sagmeister has a partner now? And their front page is a live webcam feed of their office, with all the navigational links painted into the floor? It is very, very hard to stand out as a designer, and Sagmeister is one of the few contemporary designers who pretty much all designers know of. Pretty much everything he touches turns to gold.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:44 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


If everybody in the world would shed their clothes, the world would be a much better place.

So. many. subway. skidmarks.
posted by GuyZero at 12:44 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Handbag manufacturers and non-chafing lube manufacturers would rule the world.
posted by elizardbits at 12:50 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, it's gross to sit on the sofa nude.

Although, if we didn't have clothes, we probably wouldn't have sofas, either.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:51 PM on June 5, 2013


Really, all this does is drive home the ratio of penises to vaginas and that makes me sad.
posted by annekate at 1:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let me take a designer pause for a moment to geek out about how wonderful everything about that site's design sensibilities are, by the way.

It's a very pretty site. However:
"Sounds familiar and I started working freelance, mostly direct with clients. This proofed a fantastic learning ground as it’s very similar to running a very tiny design studio."
Typo. Not exactly a pants-down moment, but the fly's undone.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:09 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're designers, not proofreaders! Naked designers.
posted by Mister_A at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2013


LOL pants-down moment indeed.
posted by Mister_A at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2013


ANyway, hate the penis pencils and fellatio pictograms, but shit like this is terrific.
posted by Mister_A at 1:18 PM on June 5, 2013


Also, it's gross to sit on the sofa nude.

...It....is?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:39 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


for myself, i have no problem with the nudity, pencils, or CD covers, but i can see how people could be offended by it.

i'm asian and don't particularly care if as a race we do or don't on average have smaller penises. or whether white/blacks/browns/reds/etc are bigger or smaller. all i care about is whether it pleases my partner or not.

and if it was a cunnilingus guy/girl or girl/girl pictogram? or a gay blowjob? not a problem, although i'd be curious as to what they're trying to say.
posted by kuroikenshi at 1:41 PM on June 5, 2013


My problem with the fellatio deal is that, as depicted, it's a symbol of years of workplace discrimination and harassment. Now I don't think Ms. Walsh 'slept her way to the top;' she seems to be a very accomplished designer and would have no need to do such a thing. It's just that this clumsy ironic sense with which they're apparently offering these things is really off-putting. This isn't much different from Confederate flags at county courthouses or Nazi halloween costumes. It's thoughtless provocation. That Levi's billboard is far more thoughtful.

OTOH I like naked people.
posted by Mister_A at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real of this is that if they had a fattie (or even a saggy Old) on staff, they would not have done this promotion, because creative people are ruthless and the internet is ruthless in a different way and that would not have generated "wow this is transgressive", it would have generated cruelty and laughter. And part of this type of branding is to show that not only is the work you do good work, but you are also a certain type of person. Certain physical characteristics become necessary for being "a certain type of person". Certain personal beliefs become necessary for being "a certain type of person", including willingness to get naked at work and the willingness to conceal any qualms in order not to seem uncool. Like, this is an ad agency that cannot be the kind of place that hires women who practice modest dress.

Now, on one hand, if they had a fat person or a person with some non-standard body on staff it would not have occurred to them to do this photoshoot*. On the other, now that they've done this naked people photoshoot, it becomes less likely that they will hire people who don't fit into fake-radical-body-transgression**. And the creative class being what it is, you know that in tens of thousands of expensively-yet-casually coiffed heads the train of though that goes "I have to look really good with my clothes off, better than I do now, those people are my competition in body work as well as in ad work, I bet I don't look as good as that person, would anyone want me to sleep my way to the top" - that train of thought is leaving the station.

And that's capitalism for you - it's not just that there is no region of life or the body that can't be monetized, it's that as capitalism effloresceses, the monetarization becomes mandatory.

When I was a young girl, I often reflected that I wished I was good-looking enough to work as a stripper - not because I wanted to work as a stripper, but because I thought that "being good enough" was a minimal condition for womanhood. That is, I'd already internalized that the measure of woman was not just desirability, but the ability to succeed in the market via desirability, and that this mattered even if you didn't actually strip for a living. That's compulsory capitalism.

*Of course, there are ways to monetarize and eroticize non-standard bodies - but that's not compatible with presenting yourself as a "cutting edge" ad agency.

**Why is it fake? Because it's not showing you anything that's actually uncomfortable. It's just showing that whoa, attractive creative class people who work really hard at being attractive and have succeeded in an industry that privileges body conformity are, whoa, attractive. All this bullshit capitalist "transgression" - it's the equivalent of those magazine articles that are like "oooh, the scandal of fashion models without makeup, we're really challenging the beauty myth here". It's not transgressing - it's colonizing. It's saying "here is one more realm where capitalism will rule - you will be required to show your body, and you will be required to do lots of work to have a beautiful body, and you will be required to pretend that this is natural and not the result of work or political economies of beauty and health, and you will be required to disappear if you don't or won't comply". The key is that we move from being able to monetarize something into being obligated and that the "being able" is merely the precursor to "being required" - just as one is obligated to have a cell phone and virtually obligated to have a smart phone and any one who has the least bit of a responsible job has not just the option but the obligation to check email from home and on the weekends. Capitalism expands, that's what makes it capitalism. There's always a new frontier.
posted by Frowner at 4:00 PM on June 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


if they had a fattie...

if they had a fat person...


So easy to hate on the hypotheticals. What if they were all racists too?
posted by GuyZero at 4:45 PM on June 5, 2013


If this agency was a band, this photo would earn them at least a 7.5 rating on Pitchfork.
posted by jonp72 at 4:51 PM on June 5, 2013


QueerAngel28: "And it'd put a brake on, if not a full out stop to our consumerism."

Let's see...what consumerist products (i.e. nonessential products) have I bought since Christmas? A fan, a Lego toy, a few video games, some home decorations. What would I have bought had I been naked? All of them.

There may be some arguments for universal nudity, but not only is there no evidence for it halting consumerism, there isn't even, as far as I can figure, even any tendentious logic. Might as well say that if we all went naked poop would smell like roses or cancer would prolong lives instead of shortening them.
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 PM on June 5, 2013


Now, on one hand, if they had a fat person or a person with some non-standard body on staff it would not have occurred to them to do this photoshoot.

In general that's probably true; in this particular case I can't say with certainty that Sagmeister wouldn't have found the opportunity to photograph a naked obese person, or a naked person in a wheelchair, or a naked amputee, etc. as much or even more appealing.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:21 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner: "I mean, it's gross. It's like American Apparel writ large - where you have to be cool with having your boundaries violated in a whole new way just to be a plausible hire/keep your job."

Frowner: "The real of this is that if they had a fattie (or even a saggy Old) on staff, they would not have done this promotion"

Well, which one is it? Is it horrible because they'd make overweight employees disrobe and violate their boundaries in order to keep their job, or is it horrible because they wouldn't make overweight employees disrobe and violate their boundaries in order to keep their job?

Frowner: "Now, on one hand, if they had a fat person or a person with some non-standard body on staff it would not have occurred to them to do this photoshoot*."

And your evidence for that is...? Given what everyone here is saying, it seems like this is totally the type of agency who would do a photoshoot like that.

What I'm mainly getting from you is "I don't like capitalism and I don't like the pressure society puts on people to look a certain way. Since this involves an ad agency (and therefore capitalism), then clearly the naked people must be an example of society's pressures to look a certain way, and therefore horrible."
posted by Bugbread at 5:28 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, it's gross to sit on the sofa nude.

...It....is?


Kind of? I don't really want to sit/lay down on a couch that has someone else's naked ball/vag sweat on it. Nor would I want someone to sit/lay on my Summer In NYC swamp ass residue.
posted by elizardbits at 5:42 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kind of? I don't really want to sit/lay down on a couch that has someone else's naked ball/vag sweat on it.

We’ll just have to disagree on that.
posted by bongo_x at 5:44 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


note to self: never sit on bongo_x's couch
posted by elizardbits at 6:21 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


What If they were all racists too?

I thought the pencils had already answered that.
posted by item at 7:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner thank you for expressing my own thoughts so eloquently. I'm not sure why some people here just don't seem to get what the obvious problem is.
posted by moorooka at 8:03 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


moorooka: "Frowner thank you for expressing my own thoughts so eloquently. I'm not sure why some people here just don't seem to get what the obvious problem is."

If you really mean "I'm not sure why", the answer is "because the problem is obvious when you start with certain initial assumptions, and other people are not starting with those same assumptions".
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Also, as far as I know, we're talking three different issues here: the nude jumping photo, the blowjob/vomit logo, and the penis length pencils. Some people are saying all three are problems, some are saying all three are ok, and some are saying that some of those are problems, and some are not)
posted by Bugbread at 8:46 PM on June 5, 2013


The relevant assumptions are that:

there is unequal power in workplace relationships (especially where interns are involved).

that this power relationship was likely involved in the decision to involve staff in a workplace group nudity exercise (even a 'voluntary' one).

that the aesthetic physical qualities of the staff was a consideration in the decision to do this, and to put it on the Internet.
posted by moorooka at 9:21 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right. And from what I can tell, not everyone agrees with assumptions #2 and #3, hence they disagree there is an obvious problem to get.
posted by Bugbread at 9:33 PM on June 5, 2013


I don't disagree with assumptions #2 and #3 but, I disagree that any nude photoshoot is inherently exploitative because these inqualities exist.
posted by quosimosaur at 10:34 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right. And it is because assumptions #2 and #3 are merely stating the obvious (although maybe not to you) that I said "I'm not sure why some people here just don't seem to get what the obvious problem is".
posted by moorooka at 10:44 PM on June 5, 2013


Okay, I'll help elucidate why, at least in my case, I don't get the "obvious problem": We're dealing with an ad agency that is apparently considered fairly creme of the crop. Folks who know something about the agency have said that it isn't the kind of agency that would use straight titillation. Plus, the fact that the agency has done this to create buzz.

Since I don't know anything about this agency firsthand, I can only go with the evidence that has been presented in-thread, and that points to assumption #3 being incorrect.

(That said, the other two issues, the blowjob/vomit and the penis size thing, I find reprehensible, and I haven't seen any evidence to the contrary)
posted by Bugbread at 11:05 PM on June 5, 2013


Out of curiosity, Bugbread, have you ever had a body that was the object of ridicule by others?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:05 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Neither the fact that the agency is creme of the crop, nor that it is not doing this for titilation have anything to do with #2 or #3.

2 is about it being a workplace.

3 is about this being done to create the Right Type of buzz.
posted by moorooka at 12:11 AM on June 6, 2013


moorooka: "3 is about this being done to create the Right Type of buzz."

And what people who are familiar with the agency are saying is the Right Type of Buzz is not the "we are attractive people" type of buzz, so I think it does have to due with titillation/physical appeal.

I'm not trying to convince you I'm right/you're wrong. You just couldn't understand why people didn't agree with you, so I'm trying to explain that. The most satisfactory outcome here is probably "Now I understand why people disagree with me, but I still think they're wrong", not "I've managed to convince the other people that they were wrong". That goes for both of us.
posted by Bugbread at 12:15 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't disagree with assumptions #2 and #3 but, I disagree that any nude photoshoot is inherently exploitative because these inequalities exist.

To clarify, I agree that nine times out of ten, a nude photo shoot with employees is unacceptably exploitative. In this case however, we can assume that nobody was taken advantage of. This is likely because small design studios (S&W isn't an ad agency) operate more democratically than regular workplaces and because they've explicitly desexualised the nudity. We've already established that the identity campaign, which purposefully sexualises the creative union, is a separate issue and a piss take in response to the rumors.

Most people don't go out of their way to expose their themselves in public, but in this instance, everybody benefits. S&W get mountains of publicity; their branding is strong and consistent; they come across as bold and transgressive in a way that remains irreverent and vulnerable. S&W's interns become immediately recognisable throughout the design profession. You might think that it's a bit crass, but I can't see the problem here, in this instance.
posted by quosimosaur at 12:43 AM on June 6, 2013


Jerry, has been working at Sagmeister and Walsh for a year now. His work has been... good. Not great, not exceptional, but good. He knows some of his collegues produce better outputs than he does, even work longer hours, but he's got a lot of stuff going on at home.

One day an email goes round. Jerry doesn't read it first, one of his collegues does. Steve. Everyone likes Steve, he's the golden boy of the office. Always knows the right thing to say, can always make everyone laugh.

He's smiling. "Hey Jer, seen the email?"

"Er, no..." Jerry opens the email. His boss is proposing a naked photo shoot, with all the staff members. It'll be "transgressive". Jerry looks up. Steve is smiling.

"What a hoot, eh?"

Jerry smiles nervously. His mind flashes back to his humiliation in the changing rooms, the other kids mocking his slim physique. He had never been comfortable, had tried to get in and out as quick as possible. He looks around. The rest of the office is smiling and chuckling.

"Yeah... a hoot. Sure...."
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:45 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The 'good reason' for this campaign seems like the adult equivelant of a joke I made up when I was a kid: Why does a cow give milk? Because she wants to and feels like it.

And Walsh's pronunciation of some words in the video drove me nuts! Iron fillings? Really?
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:29 AM on June 6, 2013


In this case however, we can assume....

....absolutely nothing.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:22 AM on June 6, 2013


So some guy comes up with an idea that your average 15 year old would think is funny/creative...and some people think it's brilliant?

I get the feeling that these people probably get drunk and then sit around shouting "Penis! PENIS!!", and then they laugh uproariously.

Also, my understanding is that they sent out postcards with the fully nude version. Basically, they forced porn on people without giving them the choice of whether or not to view it. Sexual harassment, anyone?

To sum up: these people are immature and rude.

Also, they are assholes.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:26 AM on June 6, 2013


MexicanYenta: Basically, they forced porn on people without giving them the choice of whether or not to view it.
Nudity != porn.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:47 AM on June 6, 2013


It is a matter of personal perception, and they definitely crossed the line for a lot of people. If someone walked into my job naked, they'd get thrown out. These people "walked" into multiple businesses naked and forced their nakedness on people who very well may have been offended. I certainly would have been.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:28 PM on June 6, 2013


What is so hard to understand about how wrong this is?

There is nothing wrong with John Lennon and Yoko Ono posing naked together. Or Gilbert and George, or even probably Sagmeister and Walsh, if we're convinced both principals are 100% on board their "transgressive" marketing collaboration. After all, it's their firm, and they make these decisions together freely.

But employees? Interns? Wage laborers who work at a firm because it was their least shitty job offer? Interns who are there because it was their one paying offer this summer? Expecting these employees to show up and belt it out on karaoke night is borderline exploitative. Asking these employees and interns to donate to the office United Way campaign is plainly exploitative. Requiring these employees and interns to nominate family members for sales pitches is downright exploitative.

Running a shop where these employees are expected to pose nude for the marketing department is orders of magnitude more exploitative.

I write this as a presently partially nude person who would love to be in more nude situations of my own choosing. Which, by definition, means situations separate from any involving the firm that extracts nudity-irrelevant wage labor from me.

Nude collaborations among creative partners? Fine! Nude collaborations that recruit members of the payroll? Not so much.
posted by gum at 12:37 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


gum: "What is so hard to understand about how wrong this is?"

Okay, I feel like I'm repeating myself here, but, if you are really asking that as a question, and not just using that as an expression of exasperation, I'll try again. And, again, I'm not trying to convince you that you're wrong or other folks in this thread are right, but just trying to move you from "I don't understand why you don't agree with me" territory to "I understand why you disagree with me, but I still think you're wrong" territory. It comes down to this statement:

gum: "Running a shop where these employees are expected to pose nude for the marketing department is orders of magnitude more exploitative."

There is disagreement about whether or not employees were expected to pose nude. Some people are assuming that the idea was floated, the employees were cool with it, and the project was done. Other people are assuming that the idea was floated but with an undercurrent of "you have to say you're cool with this, even if you really aren't", and that at least one employee was actually not cool with it, but went along with it anyway.

Neither party making either of these assumptions can really convince the other party that they're right and the other party is wrong. Hence people are coming to different conclusions.
posted by Bugbread at 12:52 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bugbread, it is impossible to know whether "employees were cool" BECAUSE THEY ARE EMPLOYEES. They are receiving wages for cooperating with requirements. They are not creative collaborators who can be "cool" about posing nude -- they are waged laborers who can be coerced to understand that it is in their waged interest to pose nude.

Non-principal employees of a firm are not in a position freely to negotiate whether posing nude is or is not a formal expectation. If this is the first week of your internship or the first month of your new job and everyone's headed to the conference room for the nude photos, you are not in a position to express freely that this is "cool" or not cool for you. Your paycheck, your promotion is in the balance.

Again: What is so hard to understand about how wrong this is?
posted by gum at 1:06 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


gum: "Again: What is so hard to understand about how wrong this is?"

I'm sorry, but I don't know how else to express what I've been saying, and the thread is winding down, so I don't know if anybody else will be able to answer your question.
posted by Bugbread at 1:13 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are pretending that this is way more complicated than it really is. The relationship between employer and employee is unequal and coercive mostly in one direction. I could threaten to quit if the firm makes me sing karaoke, but I won't because I have to pay my mortgage. That doesn't make me "cool" with karaoke night, but I'll still sing if it pays my daughter's tuition. If it meant my daughter staying in school, I might sing karaoke and pose nude, too -- and even joke around about how "cool" I am about it, even though the unequal terrain of the workplace means I have little control over the actual temperature of my consent to this.
posted by gum at 1:36 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


gum: "You are pretending that this is way more complicated than it really is."

I'm not pretending anything, as far as I know. You asked why people don't agree with you, and I tried to explain, to the best of my ability. I understand what you're saying, and you're indicating you don't understand what I'm saying, and I just don't have any other words to help you understand.

Or, kinda rephrased, "What is so hard to understand about what is so hard to understand?"
posted by Bugbread at 1:48 AM on June 7, 2013


Though, on reflection, maybe you answered your own question? Perhaps the answer to the "what is so hard to understand" (or rather, "why is it so hard to understand") is "It's so hard for y'all to understand because you're making this way more complicated than it really is".

The more I think about it, the more I think that's the answer to your and moorooka's questions.
posted by Bugbread at 1:52 AM on June 7, 2013


Other people are assuming that the idea was floated but with an undercurrent of "you have to say you're cool with this, even if you really aren't", and that at least one employee was actually not cool with it, but went along with it anyway.

Actually, my position is more "given the inherent undercurrent of 'you have have to say you're cool with this' in an employer/employee/intern situation, there is no way to accurately determine that none of the employees were not cool with it."
posted by jacquilynne at 7:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right, sorry, I didn't mean that to be a comprehensive list of all the different positions people have on this topic.
posted by Bugbread at 7:09 AM on June 7, 2013


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