French fashion retailer La Redoute has apologised over an image of a naked man behind a group of children advertising beachwear.
Zoom in to the image and you'll see a totally naked man emerging from the sea.
The image has been removed from the web site, but the advertisement for children's T-shirts has been captured on YouTube.
La Redoute, the largest mail order company in France published an apology to avoid further fall out.
"La Redoute apologizes for the photo published on its site and is taking steps to remove it. We have opted to delete all the posts including this picture.
"We are aware that it may offend the sensibilities of surfers. We will strengthen the validation process of all brand communications so this can not happen again in the future."
Competitive opportunityHowever, the faux pas has given 3 Suisses, La Redoute's competitor, the opportunity to have a joke at La Redoute's expense. 3 Suisses modified the original image, dressing the man in one of their items of beachwear. The tongue in cheek caption reads:
"Obviously everyone does not know that we have swimsuits from €9.99"
Others have poked fun at the image using Photoshop to add the man to other images on the web. Parody images show the man in the sea with President Sarkozy. He has also appeared with other leaders.
Cynics might think that the image went through all photographic and PR checks and was intended to be published like this but La Redoute disagrees. Emmanuelle Picard-Deyme said that 'an inquiry had been launched to determine how the mistake happened'.
Marketing ploy?It is fairly obvious that there is someone else in the background of the photo. Was the extra flesh left in the image as a PR stunt or was it a genuine error? Did someone forget to Photoshop the image out?
This could have been an intentional tactic to get more page views. Images of naked people, reflected in shiny objects such as kettles, mirrors and doors used to appear from time to time on auction web sites. These 'Reflectoporn' images became viral and were forwarded widely.
Perhaps the man in the background was not even noticed by the editing team. France tends to have a relaxed attitude to nudity. Perhaps no one actually saw the extra person in the background.
Whatever the error, it's certainly useful publicity for the online retailer. True to its 'everything is allowed' advertising campaign it may have been a deliberate ploy to drive brand awareness and reach.
With the buzz generated on Twitter and Facebook, it certainly seems to have worked.
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