When I first saw this post about a Ralph Lauren ad I thought about using the following in my weekly Quotes From Here and There:
… if you are an organization who happens to screw up, you should apologize and move on. Don’t try to cover your tracks or shut your critics up – you’ll just invite mockery and even more attention than you did before.
But I decided that I have a little something to say about it. People who are used to being in positions of power and control have a really hard time with the Internet. Some politicians are starting to get it. They should; they’re in the business not merely of power but of manipulating opinion and you can’t do that if you’re not paying attention. A lot of people though, still seem to be in mid-twentieth century style damage control mode and no matter how many times they are shown that it does not work they keep on trying to lawyer their way through and the effect is like a little kid stomping his feet and screaming, “Stop looking at me! Stop looking at me!”
In the case of Ralph Lauren, the ad in question (see it at Boing Boing) is so laughably bad it’s hard to believe they were stupid enough to release it in the first place. It’s no wonder they’re embarrassed and trying desperately to cover it up. And yet, I’m certain there are probably some young girls out there who saw the ad and feel that that’s what they should look like. I hope Ralph Lauren gets a lot more bad publicity for this. Everyone needs to have it pounded into their heads that those skinny models ARE NOT REAL!
I had never heard of The Streisand Effect before this but of course I’ve seen it in action many times. I have some sympathy for Streisand. If I was a famous and somewhat controversial person I probably would be uncomfortable with pictures of my house on the Web where the whole world could find them. Maybe after this they’ll start calling it the Ralph Lauren Effect instead.
UPDATE: Brian Micklethwait has another (unrelated) example of the Streisand Effect.