Searching for the skinny on Ralph Lauren ad (UPDATE: "We are responsible," says Ralph Lauren)

When Ralph Lauren tried to remove a creepily retouched advertisement from the net, was it embarrassed by graphic design woes, or by a cutting hatchet job by an unknown prankster?

It's obvious by now that Ralph Lauren *hates* being mocked. They hate being mocked so much that they ordered their attack lawyers to send letters trying to fool ISPs into pulling an "infringing" advertisement featuring a ridiculously skinny model (in fact, our posting of the image was fair use, not infringement; Ralph Lauren's takedown notices are bogus and they should know better).

It's also obvious that the photo of Filippa Hamilton used in the Ralph Lauren advertisement was digitally manipulated. But we still have three questions: 1) who, exactly, gave Ms. Hamilton the Olive Oyl physique? 2) If the photo was manipulated after it appeared in the advertisement, why didn't Ralph Lauren's law firm make mention of that in their silly DMCA takedown notice? and 3) Where's the original advertisement?

We're so curious about getting to the bottom of this that we're offering a bounty — the first person to send us a photo of the real advertisement, along with information about where it ran, gets their choice of any Gama Go Boing Boing T-Shirt.

Our hunch is that a combination of bad angle and bad camera contrived to put a bad ad in an even worse light. In any case, we can at least take heart in one thing: the world has a problem where the best solution is cake.

Even if a prankster warped the ad, it's already embarked on a suppression campaign that becomes even sillier if it turns out to be an anonymous 'shopper's transformative "art." From the outset, Ralph Lauren put its head up its own arse: a bad idea when your ears are further apart than your hips.

Update: Flickr user Tokyo Boy offers an intriguing theory in this thread: that shopkeepers in the far east often make their own ads. Wouldn't it be bizarre if it was not only a fake, but a fake made by Ralph Lauren's own affiliates wandering off the reservation? Jezebel, however, unearths another awful 'shop of the same model, spotted at Ralph Lauren's website.

Update: Ralph Lauren confides to Extra:

On Thursday, Polo Ralph Lauren released the following statement about the retouched ad: "For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."

Alas, no apology for the legal nastygrams.