JC Penney Speed Dressing Down

JCPenney, the US department store chain, is playing catch up in the wake of a Bronze Lion being awarded for “Speed Dressing”, a television commercial in which two teenagers prepare for making love in the basement. It appears as though the advertisement was prepared by Saatchi & Saatchi New York and Epoch Films but was never approved by JC Penney, let alone aired on public television. The company is now concerned that the viral spread of the ad will damage their reputation for high standards. Too late! Despite efforts by the client and agency, the spot is likely to keep turning up on YouTube for the foreseeable future.

Teen girl with clock in JC Penney Speed Dressing ad

The 60 second spot shows the boy and girl each reducing the time it takes to get dressed from underwear only to a standard accepted by any parent who may happen to knock on the door. He manages to make it in 18 seconds. Fast enough to call around at her house and head down to the basement.

You would think every day matters for JC Penney. It’s now three months since I first saw the JC Speed Dressing spot on Epoch Films New Work. At the time I put together a draft for this post then thought better of going any further. At the time there was no indication that the spot had been aired. The final tagline, “Today’s the day to get away with it” has applied to every day between then and this month when the ad went public at Cannes International Advertising Festival, winning a Bronze Film Lion.

Today is the Day To Get Away With It in JC Penney Speed Dressing ad


According to the entry details at Cannes, the Speed Dressing spot was developed at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, by chief creative officer Gerry Graf, executive creative director Kerry Keenan, copywriter Craig Love, art director Shayne Millington, agency producer Zamile Vilakazi, account supervisor Natasha Williamson, agency executive producer Colin Pearsall.

Filming was shot by director Mike Long (Michael Long) via Epoch Films, New York, with director of photography Stephen Blackman, and editor Joe Guest.

Teen girl with clock in JC Penney Speed Dressing ad

Mike Long’s Background with JCPenney

Mike Long signed up with Epoch Films after working as art director for Leo Burnett Chicago and Saatchi & Saatchi London, and creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi New York. In 2007, while at Saatchi & Saatchi NY, Long helped make over JC Penney’s brand image with the “Everyday Matters” campaign, a series of what he calls “mini-films”. See Calendar House, Aviator, Magic, Heart Doodle, Zombies, Crowd Surfing and Train Station. Once Long began as a director (a long time ambition) at Epoch Films, he put together “Wake Up“, an eerie spot about a mother’s pre-dawn rush to get to JC Penney’s Black Friday sale.

Long is quoted in the First Boards Awards in April 2008 as saying, “I have a very good grasp of both sides of the business. When you understand the ad side and the film side, and how it takes so much collaboration now to get a great spot on air, the transition is easier.”

Teen boy with watch in JC Penney Speed Dressing ad

JCPenney Statement

“JCPenney was deeply disappointed to learn that our name and logo were used in the creation and distribution of a commercial that was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes. The commercial was never broadcast, but rather was created by a former employee at JCPenney’s advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, solely as an award submission without JCPenney’s knowledge or prior approval. JCPenney does not approve or condone its content, and we have asked Saatchi & Saatchi to apologize to our customers and our associates for misrepresenting our company in this manner”

Saatchi & Saatchi Statement

“Saatchi & Saatchi has a long history of producing principled and respectful advertising for JCPenney and its entire client roster. The Speed Dressing TV commercial, which was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes, was created by a third party vendor without JCPenney’s knowledge or consent. It was produced and released to the public without any knowledge or prior approval from JCPenney. Saatchi & Saatchi did not enter the spot and deeply regrets the message this ad presents. Saatchi & Saatchi apologizes to JCPenney, its associates and its customers. The commercial is being removed from public circulation.”

Tony Granger to AdAge

J.C. Penney Upset at Racy Cannes-Winning Ad

“I was very close to J.C. Penney, and was part of a team that was focused on making J.C. Penney a ‘lovemark’ with Middle America,” Mr. Granger told AdAge.com, referring to his former boss Kevin Roberts’ book, “Lovemarks.” “The work we created had an honesty to it that made it charming and inspirational. ‘Speed Dressing’ is a fun idea, but isn’t appropriate for the brand. I would not have presented it, neither would any of the team. I resigned from Saatchi in October 2007 and have (had) no dealings with the brand since then.”

Creativity Online on Cannes

Creativity Online: J.C. Penney decries Lion-winning Saatchi ad

Cannes festival submission forms do ask entrants to provide a date that entries first appeared. The forms also ask entrants to supply the name of a client. The form states: “If your entry is shortlisted, the jury may want to contact your client to verify the results.” The festival’s entry guidelines also state: “Entries cannot be made without the prior permission of the advertiser/owner of the rights of the advertisement;” and “All entries must have been made within the context of a normal paying contract with a client, except in the charities and public services categories… the Festival reserves the right to request a full media schedule from each entrant company to verify the authenticity of the ad(s) in the event that entry is shortlisted or a winner.”