Since my last article on the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, we’ve seen quite a few updates. On October 24th, VS officially announced this year’s show would be held in Paris. On October 26th, they unveiled the 2016 Fantasy Bra, worn by Jasmine Tookes and encrusted with over 9,000 precious gems. On October 28th, they released the show’s full model lineup. More recently, sneak peeks of the runway looks have been trickling in, from a Swarovski’d ensemble worn by Josephine Skriver to this feathered and crystallized mesh look worn by Bella Hadid. The Victoria’s Secret PR machine is running at full speed with dozens of articles – including this one – discussing the show.
Yet the big question, at least for me, is if VS will be able to overcome their abysmal ratings from 2015. At its peak, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show could claim over 12 million viewers. Now they’re just barely over 6.5 million, and viewership dropped more than 30% in a single year between the 2014 and 2015 shows.
While CBS is once again hosting the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, I can’t help but wonder if part of the delay was due to reluctance on the part of the network. Special events like this are all about driving viewers, and if Victoria’s Secret’s numbers wouldn’t even make it into the top 50 television rankings, what’s the point of dedicating all this broadcast time to them? Of course, the announcement delays could also be attributable to politics. Victoria’s Secret may understandably not want to compete with the U.S. Presidential Election.
I’ve already discussed why VS may be seeing this drop in viewership. To summarize briefly, the show is suffering from a staleness problem. The format is predictable, the headlines leading up to the show are recycled, and the show itself trades on a highly-stylized standards of beauty that are rapidly falling out of favor. Worse yet, the one thing that might keep people interested, the outfits, are shown online weeks before the show actually airs, completely wiping out any remaining curiosity. So what can Victoria’s Secret do to get people interested in what is perhaps one of the most expensive commercials ever put on television?
- Stop releasing all the runway looks before the show’s airdate. Attention is a rare and fleeting thing, and people get bored quickly. VS should continue to give informal sneak peeks, such as what’s already been done with Bella Hadid and Josephine Skriver, but no one needs to see every single runway look weeks before the show airs.
- Update the format. Victoria’s Secret made headlines with their live webstreamed shows back in 1999 and 2000. A live show today would be uniquely exciting and help to make the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show even more of a special event. Part of the appeal of the SuperBowl (consistently one of the most popular telecasts of the year) is that it only happens once a year. It occurs in real time, and no one knows what’s coming next. There’s also a certain level of anticipation, of drama in a live show that inherently piques the interest of viewers. Victoria’s Secret can use that to their advantage.
- Add plus-sized models to the runway lineup or, better yet, name a plus-sized Angel. No, I’m not encouraging VS to parrot Aerie pseudo-body positive stance. Rather, I’m wondering why the brand continues to be oblivious to a flagrantly self-evident marketing opportunity. Victoria’s Secret missed a golden window to partner with Ashley Graham before she exploded in popularity (and started her own lingerie line). This year, VS could have made – and stayed – in headlines with the announcement of their first plus-sized Angel. Tara Lynn, Philomena Kwao, Inga Eiriksdottir, Jennie Runk, Myla Dalbesio, Candice Huffine, and Anita Marshall would all look stunning on the Victoria’s Secret runway and help add relevancy to a brand that’s beginning to look more and more dated.
- Draw attention to Victoria’s Secret legacy and longevity by inviting former Angels to attend the show. This year is the 15th anniversary of Victoria’s Secret’s broadcast debut, and the perfect opportunity to line up a few special guests. I’d love to see Angels from the past like Tyra Banks, Gisele Bundchen, Laetitia Casta, Helena Christensen, Chanel Iman, Miranda Kerr, Heidi Klum, Doutzen Kroes and Stephanie Seymour on the VS pink carpet one last time. Furthermore, their presence would add legitimacy, underlining one of VSFS’ key ambitions – that we take it seriously as a fashion show.
- Create more of a connection between what’s shown on the runway and what’s sold in stores. As mentioned earlier, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is one very long, very expensive commercial (Business Insider reports a budget of $20 million for the 2014 show). One way to help ensure a return on that investment is to make a special holiday collection – preferably something opulent, lacy and bejeweled – available the day after the show. Often, the prettiest pieces on the runway are made by independent artisans and unavailable to purchase. It seems like a waste of good marketing to get people excited, and then only have plain t-shirt bra to sell them off the runway.
Like millions of others, I’ll be watching the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show when it airs on December 5th. But I’m a lot more interested in what happens the day after. Though Victoria’s Secret is notoriously silent about most anything which doesn’t reflect positively on their brand, I imagine there has to be some intense internal pressure to perform right now. If viewership drops by another third, the show may go off the air. If there’s another PR mishap, such as Karlie’s infamous “war bonnet,” the show may go off the air. If sales continue to fall, the show may go off the air. But for now, let’s just wait and see.
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