Every four years, we look forward to presidential elections, the Summer Olympics and objections to a provocative, highly questionable ad campaign from Equinox.
Just as it did in 2008 with its "Happily Ever" ad campaign that included nuns drawing a nude male model, New York-based Equinox has christened the New Year with a new set of NSFW (not suitable for work) photos.
In one of the company's newest clubs in Irvine, CA, a club that was purchased last year from the Sports Club Co., Equinox placed one of the photos at the entrance to the kids club, according to the Orange County Register. The photo is of a man in his boxer shorts lying on top of an almost undressed woman on a sofa. C'mon in, kids!
You really have to wonder about the thought process that went into the approval of these ads. At least one Equinox executive had to come up with the idea, and at least another Equinox executive had to say, "Yes! I like it! Let's do it!"
We tried to reach members of the Equinox corporate office, but they ain't talking, and they haven't been returning messages to other media outlets, such as The Huffington Post.
The Register did obtain an email response to a member complaint sent from Michael Conigliaro, the Equinox general manager in Orange County.
"We understand that some might find a certain execution too provocative," Conigliaro said in the email. "These images are in all our locations. ... In all cases our members have not had issues with our campaigns."
Oh, really? Try checking the Equinox Facebook page. There were more than 40 comments, some from members and some from nonmembers, and most of the them went like this:
"Another couple million spent on the degradation of women. Good work fitness guys."
"After looking at your ads for your recent ad campaign I just hope you never open up a gym in Colorado!! Fire your ad agency and get real!"
"These ads make me think of a bordello, not a fitness club."
Photographer Terry Richardson, who shot the photos in the ad campaign, also shot photos for last year's Equinox ad campaign. This year's campaign has generated more buzz, though. To get an idea about the kind of guy Richardson is, look no further than his mug shot. And if you want to read about an allegation of one of his practices at a photo shoot, read the story, if you can stomach it.
There's an old adage in the advertising game that bad publicity is still publicity. But this isn't the publicity that Equinox, one of the most successful companies in our industry, needs right now.
UPDATE: The Orange County Register reports that the Equinox club in Irvine has taken down the exterior photos from the club's entrance but some photos remain inside the club.