Diva’s new line of fashion jewellery, announced via a press release, spruiked on Facebook and advertised in its shopfronts, prominently features the Playboy bunny logo on items including earrings, pendants and a black bow-tie necklace that apes the uniform worn by residents of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.
In the company’s press statement, Diva described the range as "the perfect amount of jewels and just the right amount of sexiness Playboy for Diva will have every girl feeling glamorous and red carpet ready."
Irate customers, fans and parents inundated Diva’s Facebook page with threats of a boycott, while women’s and children’s advocacy groups mounted vocal campaigns against the 185-store retailer.
Complaints about the Playboy range have claimed Diva is purposely promoting a brand that supports explicit, violent and degrading pornography to tween- and teenage girls. Diva’s parent company, BB Retail Capital, also sells Playboy-branded accessories and clothing through its Adairs and Bras ‘n Things outlets.
The intensity of the anti-Diva campaign has been unusual, thanks primarily to the ease with which disgruntled members of the public can voice discontent over the company’s Facebook page. Over 91,000 people ‘like’ the page, many of who have been particularly vocal.
“Hi Diva. I will no longer buy from your store until the Playboy range is removed,” one angry Facebook member said. “Shame on you for promoting an adult porn brand in a store that is primarily for young girls.”
“For a company whose primary market is underage females enlisting Playboy as a brand partner is revolting. Selling crap jewellery (and please don't try to pretend that it's anything other than crap) to young girls with a brand on it that does nothing for women except encourage them to be playthings for men is vile,” wrote Facebook fan Kate Finch. “I will never shop at any of your stores again, and I will encourage all of my friends to do the same. Diva - you are disgusting.”
Another ‘friend,’ Angela Street wrote: “Really disappointed with the whole idea of you selling Playboy jewellery. I regularly buy jewellery from you but will not while you stock this new range. It's NOT 'just a bunny' and you know it or you wouldn't even be selling it- it stands for so much more. Give our girls a break and just let them be kids. They don’t need to think about whether they are sexy or not!”
Melinda Tankard Reist, an Australian author and advocate for women and girls with Collective Shout expressed concern over Diva’s new range, saying Diva is endorsing the Playboy brand – alongside Winnie the Pooh charm bracelets, Disney Princess pendants and Cute Cupcakes Best Friends necklaces – to girls as young as nine.
“Playboy is not just a cute bunny, but represents the global brand of pornography,” Tankard Reist said. “As a result many girls are walking billboards for a sex industry brand while thinking it’s just about a cute rabbit.”
Tankard Reist told Jeweller that Playboy deliberately markets its brand to girls as cool fashion chic, using designs clearly intended to appeal to young girls, often decorated with sparkling diamantes or in the shape of love hearts.
Other Playboy jewellery products include ‘Playmate' pendants and Playmate of the month necklaces “which invite girls to think of themselves as pornstars.” In particular, one necklace depicts a Playboy bunny from her backside down, while her upper body, including her head, is missing.
“Diva has become a willing participant in pimping the brand and its values to its
young customers,” she said. “We are calling on Diva to remove all Playboy items from sale. Diva is complicit in grooming girls as consumers of a porn brand which portrays women as 'bitches' and 'whores' to be used for men's sexual gratification.”
Diva's new range of Playboy jewellery has caused havoc across its social networking mediums
Tankard Reist pointed out that no current regulation covers the sale of highly sexualised products to children, and called on individual companies to voluntarily agree not to sell merchandise that contributes to the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls.
“We would like to see Diva - and similar stores - make a decision to exercise corporate social responsibility by not stocking pornography-related and inspired brands in a store with a core customer base of girls aged 8-13,” she said.
Not all postings were negative with many defending Diva’s decision to sell Playboy jewellery. “My oh my. Now that Diva stocks a Playboy range all of our young people will be turned into trashy idiots. It won't be because the parents of these young people spent more time complaining on Facebook than they did teaching and demonstrating good values to their children,” Emily Woods wrote.
Robert Norris Hills posted, “I've never heard of diva before now. But I just bought all my younger cousins gift vouchers for Christmas that should offset the 5 prudes on here threatening to stop shopping there. “
Company representatives were previously addressing complaints aired on Diva’s Facebook page, although the intensity of the expletive-riddled debate saw their replies removed.
“Understands (sic) why you could be upset with our Playboy range but the infamous bunny has become a (sic) iconic brand,” Diva responded last Wednesday on its Facebook page. “Our range is in the name of fashion and Diva products are for girls of all ages.”
"Appreciate your feedback but the bunny is simply a brand targeted at an older audience. Diva products are for girls of all ages,” a representative told another, according to The Age.
Commentary on the page reached an unusually heated pitch, with countless expletives, personal insults and ‘trolling’ from what are evidently young fans of Diva.
One user, Alison Sainsbury, noted that the level of commentary on the Facebook page suggested Diva had in fact lost control.
“As a social media manager and parent of tween and teenage girls, you need to get control of this page urgently,” Sainsbury wrote. “You have 91K+ fans and they're all being exposed to the kind of vitriolic personal attacks that are going on. Hardly a good brand image, regardless of whether or not you want to defend your dubious decision to associate yourself with a symbol of the porn industry.”
The growth of social media in advertising and marketing has left companies open to unlimited amounts of criticism today and Diva could potentially face irreparable damage to its brand as a result.
Social media and marketing specialist, Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus said social networking allows consumers to share information easier and effectively takes control away from the company subjected to criticism.
“Social media has caused a dramatic structural change,” Urquhart said. “Businesses have less control over these matters, and social media has enabled people to publically vent emotional sentiment, essentially re-writing the book on public relations.”
Attempts made by Jeweller to contact Diva for comment went unanswered.