It was after midnight on a recent Friday in midtown. Blinding white lights and the crackle of walkie talkied banter heralded another of the thousands of film and photo shoots that take place around the city. Four lithe female figures stood backlit on an empty stretch of Manhattan’s tony 5th Avenue. Sex and the City promos, perhaps. Maybe some Gossip Girl shenanigans. Oh, if only.
Alas. No 80s male fantasy humor. No Kim Cattrall.
In fact, it was the Old Navy Modelquins. Which means that, yes, there are more of those insufferable commercials on the way. If you’re wondering what asshole agency is responsible for these advert abominations, it’s none other than Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the geniuses behind Microsoft’s brilliant Windows 7 ads. What happened, fellas? Is annoying the new black in the advertising world?
At least the Gap subsidiary itself has some respect for the days when the brand had some style — at least as far as its marketing went. For its 15 year anniversary Old Navy has created a series of commemorative sundries featuring the prominently bespectacled “Old Navy Lady,” Carrie Donovan. She, often accompanied by her TV dog, Magic, starred in over 40 Old Navy commercials between 1997 and 2000, according to the New York Times.
The spots were quirky, cheeky nods at fashion and celebrity culture, campy send-ups in a pop-art pastiche. Donovan, a former fashion editor, though not a household name by a long shot, portrayed the fashionista-tastemaker archetype with such perfection — a seemingly impossible blend between subtle and over the top — that she became an immediately recognizable icon even to those to whom her trademark oversize black-rimmed glasses were a novelty.
So well-conceived were the ads that they garnered cameos from a bevy of TV stars. Past their primes, true, but isn’t that crucial to the joke? Recall these two gems (and please forgive the poor quality). Can you spot the famous faces?
Donovan, sadly, passed away several years ago, so there’s no hope for a return of the campaign. Perhaps more depressing, though, is that being inanimate, the Modelquins will never die.