GMA: Is Victoria's Secret Too Sexy?

Before 7:21 this morning viewers of Good Morning America were treated to almost two minutes of naked and nearly naked women, included five seconds of Paris Hilton writhing around in a low-cut bathing suit and washing herself with a giant sponge.

All of this was done under the guise of asking whether Victoria's Secret, the lingerie chain, has become “too sexy for its own good.”

The question is actually being asked by Victoria's Secret CEO Sharan Turney, who reportedly told investors the company has “gotten so much off our heritage.”  In reporting the story, ABC's Andrea Canning gratuitously crammed video footage of Victoria's Secret merchandise, scantily clad models and other sexy images into the piece.  In fact, of the entire one-minute-and-55-second package, only 30 seconds did NOT contain visuals that included a female body part, underwear or the word “sexy.”

Underwear-clad models were shown 29 times in the story.  The word “sexy” or “sexiest” appeared 12 times.  Paris Hilton's soft-porn Carl's Jr. hamburger ad (in which the heiress is shown “washing” a Bentley while eating a juicy hamburger) was shown for five full seconds, following a print ad for Abercrombie and Fitch showing naked models sitting in a car.

The point of this montage, presumably, was to emphasize that “sex sells” for many companies but Victoria's Secret is apparently thinking too much sex isn't good for business. 

Canning: When it comes to Victoria's Secret, the word “sexy” is everywhere. And the CEO says that's the problem, it's being used too much. In this latest catalog alone we found it used more than 75 times.

Canning went on to report that Turney had to explain a “dramatic drop” in sales to shareholders.  The footage she used to cover that part of the story was a close-up of a Victoria's Secret print ad in which every model is naked.  All are posed so that no breasts are completely exposed to the camera, but some bare buttocks are on display. Following this footage Canning then cut to the more “modest” ad that ran during this year's Super Bowl and reported that the company is hoping “more sophisticated” images like that will help the company's bottom line.

In the end however, GMA thoroughly exploited the very problem it was reporting on – sex in advertising – to make its point.  And it chose to do so in the first half hour of the program when many families are gathered at the breakfast table before heading off to work and school.  It was a tasteless way to start the day.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.