With a delayed-reaction backlash—including harassment and threats—building momentum online this week, Canadian fashion retailer Simons has ended its month-old “All is Beauty” campaign.
Developed by Broken Heart Love Affair, the new brand platform launched in late October with a three-minute film called “The Most Beautiful Exit,” which told the story of a terminally ill woman named Jennyfer. In the film, which was cut down to 30- and 60-second executions for broadcast, Jennyfer explains how important beauty has been in her life, and how she still finds beauty with friends and loved ones in her final days prior to ending her life with medical assistance.
In the last few days some major media outlets—including Fox News, the National Post, Daily Mail, and New York Post—suggested that the campaign “celebrates” or “promotes” suicide. The rhetoric quickly got more heated on social media, leading Simons to cut the campaign short, remove it from digital channels, and shift its marketing focus to the holidays.
“The All is Beauty campaign has come to an end this week,” reads a statement provided to The Message. “Simons is now entering their annual holiday sprint. In this context, all of their teams’ efforts are focused on in-store and web holiday activities.”
Speaking with The Message Friday afternoon, Broken Heart Love Affair’s chief strategy officer Jay Chaney said they did not plan to end the campaign this early.
“The rhetoric was heating up pretty heavily, and it leads people to action,” he said. “That action can have consequences. It’s hasn’t, but it could.
“[The campaign] was never intended to be that kind of political lightning-rod,” he added. “It was always meant to be a statement on our experience of life, even in the face of death. And I think, unfortunately, it was co opted into certain political agendas. And unfortunately, in this day and age, that can lead to some concerns, and you have to take those concerns pretty seriously.” (Read a full statement from Broken Heart Love Affair below.)
While the “All is Beauty” platform was developed by Broken Heart Love Affair, it was directly inspired by Peter Simons—whose family has owned Simons for 180 years—and his desire to make a statement about human connection.
In a five minute interview-style video accompanying the launch, Peter Simons seems to acknowledge that the decision to feature a women choosing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to launch the brand platform about celebrating beauty and humanity could be upsetting to some.
“I admit I’m scared,” he said. “But I would say I think without perhaps courage—I say that with humility—there is no creativity, and there is no possibility of making beauty.”
“The message of the campaign is about appreciating beauty in life even in the most difficult moments,” said Chaney. “I think in Jennyfer’s story, part of her journey was MAiD… But the film was never about MAiD. It was simply about Jennyfer’s appreciation of life in the face of the end of it, and that’s what Peter really wanted to push through, and so we created it with him.”
Chaney said that while they had to cut this campaign short, they are already working on the next iteration of “All is Beauty.”
“The platform is the platform, and I think there’s still conviction behind the platform,” he said. “The plan was always to go on to a new topic and find a new articulation of beauty.”
Broken Heart Love Affair statement: “The Simons All Is Beauty brand platform was created to inspire the act of finding beauty in everything, even life’s most difficult moments. We launched this platform with The Most Beautiful Exit, a film co-created by, and featuring a terminally ill young woman named Jennyfer, envisioned to be one courageous example of All is Beauty. Regrettably, the film was co-opted and used to further a much different agenda resulting in a deluge of online harassment and threats. The film was designed to inspire and provoke conversation around Jennyfer’s desire to seek beauty in life, even as she neared the end of hers. It was never intended to become a political lightning rod. So, as Simons shifts gears to focus on their holiday campaign, they have made the decision to remove the film from all platforms.”