With Orgying Models and Public Breastfeeding, Are Equinox's Latest Ads a Desperate Ploy or Pure Genius? The campaign, shot by fashion photographer Steven Klein, features the tagline, 'Commit to something.'

By Geoff Weiss

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Steven Klein for Equinox

Is Equinox's latest ad campaign a poignant commentary about living a value-committed life on unapologetic terms or a desperate ploy to drum up attention using tired shock tactics?

Since their debut on Monday, the seven ads -- which feature the tagline "Commit to something" and in one image showcases models sprawled half-naked in bed in the midst of an orgy -- have caused quite a stir among media types and consumers alike.

Image credit: Steven Klein for Equinox

"Equinox is about commitment," Carlos Becil, Equinox's CMO, said in a statement. (The orgy is a take on those committed to non-monogamous relationships.) "We are obsessed with it, and we challenge our members to know who they are and what they want. It's not just about fitness -- it's about life."

Equinox has come under fire for racy ads in the past. A group of protesters in Maryland even petitioned on Change.org for the removal of a billboard featuring a scantily clad model in 2013. And the new print, digital and outdoor campaign, shot by fashion photographer Steven Klein, is garnering similar criticism that its relevance to fitness feels like a stretch. When a Facebook commenter quipped, "Someone in the ad dept at Equinox eats crack sandwiches for breakfast," the company retorted, "Our work transcends our clubs."

In one image, a male cheerleader (portrayed by MMA fighter Alan Jouban) stands before his wall of trophies in a pair of exercise pants. In another, Bianca Van Damme (daughter of Jean-Claude) protests for women's rights in her bra. Other images, of a half-naked coven gathered in the woods and a woman in her underwear surrounded by hairless cats -- which might look right at home in a high-concept fashion magazine but are slightly puzzling in the context of an ad for a fitness chain -- are much harder to suss out.

Image credit: Steven Klein for Equinox

Image credit: Steven Klein for Equinox

Related: New York City Dermatologist Who Pioneered Subway Advertising Has Shuttered His Practice

Image credit: Steven Klein for Equinox

Image credit: Steven Klein for Equinox

But the image causing the most consternation is a shot of socialite-turned-model Lydia Hearst breastfeeding two babies at the dinner table while eating out at a fancy restaurant (above.) While some found the photos vulgar, others applauded Equinox for taking a stance on a polarizing issue. "Thank you for normalizing breastfeeding!" wrote one commenter on Twitter.

Which begs the question: where do you stand? After all, sexuality and shock value have been harnessed as marketing tools since time memoriam -- so much so that it's becoming ever harder to elicit genuine provocation in our saturated media landscape. But do these ads make sense for a fitness chain? Is the social commentary a clever brand-building ploy or a desperate grasp for attention? Let us know your thoughts in the poll below:

Wavy Line
Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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