The director calls action and the merriment unfolds as four young women sip drinks by the pool, cavort on downy beds, muse about their futures and sprint along Hollywood Boulevard in pursuit of a vanished mystery bag.
That pretty much sums up the doings in “Hollywood Dreams,” a 12-minute video produced by the Authentic Brands Group, the owners of Frederick’s of Hollywood, and PYPO, an online comedy platform for emerging talent. The video’s stars may not look just like you and me, but they do suggest a hybrid of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and an early episode of “Girls.”
Billed as an action mini-series, the video represents an effort by Frederick’s, the fabled naughty undie brand, to swim with the tide, joining a roster of lingerie upstarts placing a wholesome reality spin on their marketing campaigns.
“Our intent is to widen our audience and reach a millennial consumer,” said Alexandra Taylor, the senior vice president for marketing and life style for A.B.G. (It owns some 50 brands, including Hickey Freeman, Nautica and, as of November, Barneys New York, and bought the company out of bankruptcy in 2015.) It hopes, it would seem, to sidestep the pitfalls that have dogged Victoria’s Secret; that company’s aggressively steamy marketing alienated younger consumers and cost the brand a marked dip in sales.
The project, directed by Stephanie Laing, whose credits include “Veep” on HBO and “Dollface” on Hulu, is also a bid by A.B.G. to update its image and court women who may be too young to remember the balconette bras, split-crotch panties and lavishly padded girdles that once were the company’s ribald stock in trade.
The bet is that a younger audience will respond to the show’s protagonists — including the influencers Hrush Achemyan and Amanda Steele; Blair Beeken, a comedian; and Ellie Lee, a television host — as living billboards for a brand they may not otherwise know.
The new look of Frederick’s is comfortable bodysuits, softly structured bralettes and camisoles worn over or under jackets, T-shirts and tattered jeans to reflect current street style — a move that deviates sharply from its history.
Established in 1947, the company can claim a string of innovations. Frederick Mellinger, its founder, is credited with inventing, among other novelties, the push-up bra, falsies and padded girdles, and even with introducing the bikini in the United States.
In its 1950s glory years, the company placed a premium on glamour, venturing onto untested terrain by selling an Americanized version of French lingerie alongside wispy negligees and slinky dresses with an hourglass shape.
Frederick’s was also one of the first established lingerie brands to woo a mass consumer, publishing racy catalogs and opening in malls, though some of its kinkier wares were advertised chiefly in the back pages of men’s pulp magazines.
Its alternately coy and candid catalog copy would likely raise eyebrows today. A page headlined “Men Love Fannies” highlighted an “open-end” push-up brief that exposed the derrière. Another introduced the with an open crotch “for intimate indiscretions.”
By the mid-1980s, though, stale marketing and cheesy workmanship had tainted the company’s image. Viewed widely as a faintly comical adult novelty brand, its undies were adopted in the ’90s by younger consumers as campy Halloween wear.
More recent efforts by the company to update and elevate its image included a Dita Von Teese for Frederick’s of Hollywood line, introduced in 2007 but unaccountably discontinued.
She was writing on the occasion of a new Megan Fox collection; ads featured the actress, vamping in a lacy all-in-one. “Who exactly are these images meant to attract?” Ms. Harrington chided. “A celebrity face can’t save a boring, uninspired product line.”
Nor has it helped that in showcasing “real” women, Frederick’s is a tardy come-lately. In 2004, Dove jump-started the movement toward authenticity in beauty and lingerie marketing with a “Real Beauty” campaign that showed several women with differing but relatable body types, stripped to their underwear.
More than five years ago, Aerie, a clothing and lingerie label owned by American Eagle Outfitters, touted inclusivity with an #AerieREAL campaign featuring approachable looking models wearing gently structured lingerie.
Rihanna repeatedly raised lingerie’s glamour quotient with Savage x Fenty, the line paraded in blockbuster shows with actually diverse cast of models.
Even Victoria’s Secret, in a move to reclaim market share, clambered aboard the inclusivity train last year, naming Barbara Palvin, a curvy, though not plus-size, model, as its latest Angel. In October, the company signed Ali Tate Cutler, its first Size 14 model.
Whether such gambits reflect the reality of the average consumer is open to debate. As Amanda Mull wrote in The Atlantic: “According to the definitions provided by consumer brands, we’re left with two categories of acceptability: those who are young, thin, and symmetrical enough to conform so closely to conventional American beauty ideals that they make a lot of women feel bad, and ‘real’ women who, these ad campaigns suggest, are simply the most conventionally attractive of everyone else.”
Douglas Brundage, the founder of Kingsland, a brand consultancy, questions Frederick’s overall strategy. In striving for inclusivity, the company went off the rails, said Mr. Brundage. (His clients include Depop, the social shopping platform, and Seed, a probiotics company in Los Angeles.) He cited a series of missteps including questionable casting, uninspired styling and subpar acting. “It looks like they made this bizarre student film,” he said.
For all of the tweaking of its image, Ms. Taylor insists that the company is not about to abandon its legacy customer — the woman, or man, who has long doted on the Frederick’s ’50s-inspired, curve-enhancing corsets, frilly skivvies and nipple-freeing cone-shaped bras.
Indeed, the company might be better served by reissuing high-quality versions of some of those archival staples, Mr. Brundage suggested. In straying from its legacy, it has only diluted its image: “They are killing the glamour,” he said.