Tag Archive | "sex in advertising"

It’s Good for Business

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In the world of business, the adage, “It Pays to Advertise” still rings like a battle cry across the landscape of consumer spending.  Thus, was an entire industry born to promote a dizzying array of products and services.  Print ads, including those featured in almanacs, billboards, and all manner of publications got a boost via, and a new best friend in, that invention known as television.  It was a symbiotic relationship in which all predators (the manufacturers, the ad men, and the TV networks) fed contentedly upon the consumers who came to graze at what author Harlan Ellison so aptly named The Glass Teat.  Everyone made money, except the consumers who spent it.  But like all predators hunting the same prey, civil war erupted within the ranks.  Advertisers vied with each other to create the most compelling ad campaigns and thereby, turn the lion’s share of consumers’ hearts … while turning their pockets inside out.


Broadcast media ads ran the gamut of the sublime to the ridiculous, with emphasis on the latter.  Many of us remember, “Where’s the beef?” and “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”  Silly commercials, but basically harmless.   Above all, early on, commercials had to be harmless. The government was actually doing something to protect the consumer by placing restrictions upon what could be advertised, how, where, and sometimes, even when.   Alcoholic beverages were once taboo in TV ads; it was feared that they would prompt youngsters to raid their parents’ liquor cabinets instead of filching their older siblings’ ID’s to buy booze.


Cigarettes, apparently, did not fall into this verboten category until The U.S. Surgeon General came to the stunning conclusion that the Native Americans’ gift to the white devils was karmic payback for stealing their land.  Thus, did The Marlboro Man go quietly into that good night, hacking up a lung en route.  In addition to our nation’s chief medico, the FCC sought to control ads with “tasteless” content.


My, how the worm has turned.


When I was growing up, I was taught to duck into the nearest vestibule, if not the handiest hole going down to China, to prevent boys from discerning the nature of the product inside that big bulky rectangular box bulging within my shopping bag.   In those days, decorum ruled.  Women wore hats to church.  Men opened doors for women.  Most of all, people respected one another … by hiding things from each other.  Boys were not supposed to know the contents of those secreted boxes I toted around once a month. Girls were supposed to go through their monthly rituals and grin and bear them … silently.


In those days, it was possible for a woman to enjoy a TV program with her beau or husband without having to endure a hit parade of commercials touting the benefits of “feminine products,” birth control pills, medications to control bloating, pregnancy indicator kits, incontinence products, and let us not forget, those little pills designed to control what not even the worlds’ armies could hope to deter: hormonal-induced bitchiness!


With all of this information, not to mention images, rolling across our TV screens, I’m stunned that the majority of the male population in so-called civilized society has not elected to be gay.  Or perhaps celibate.


And the ads are so damned cheery and so damned incongruous, that I have to wonder if the advertising folks were not smoking whatever Lewis Carroll was puffing when he penned Alice in Wonderland.   For instance, in one commercial we have a cinematic remake of an Esther Williams film, replete with slender, Stepford Wives pitching sideways into a pool and creating patterns with their bodies.  Touting the benefits of birth control pills, I have to wonder if the bathing beauties in this commercial are subliminally designed to mimic sperm diving into … well, you get the picture. 


Last but not least, we have the commercials for Rephresh.  These ads target women who wish to smell fresh as a daisy, or a pineapple, or a flowering magnolia, or laundry drying in the sun, after a rousing romp in the hay.  I don’t know about you, but after a romp in the hay, I prefer to light up those things the poor Marlboro Man used to fire up.  Given all the scent options of this Rephresh-ing product, Hollywood could remake the film “Scent of a Woman” with a whole new script for Al Pacino.


As tactful and useful as these ads may be for women (cough, cough), I thank God that I am a woman and not a man, particularly a middle-aged man.  I’d rather leak like a faucet, blow up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float once a month, and behave like a female praying mantis than ever suffer the fate of men as depicted in current commercials.


Imagine you’re a guy on a date, sitting on your lady’s couch, and a Viagra commercial pops up.  No handy vestibules in which to hide!  The man on the screen, of midlife crisis age, drives up on a motorcycle, narrowly missing the clueless woman holding a load of groceries. The dude dismounts, giving the lady a silent but meaningful glance.  The glance is meant to signal, “All systems are go, Houston!”  To me, it signals, “Where are the men with the straight jackets and big butterfly nets?”  But the lady on the screen suddenly gets the picture and drops her groceries so that the couple can then, ahem, mount the bike (a blatant metaphor if ever I saw one).  Subtle imagery, isn’t it?  Tactful, too.  And oh so realistic.  Just what a woman wants, a middle-aged Easy Rider who needs a chemical product to rise to the occasion.


What about the commercial for the ED product that rips off the old soft drink commercial? A man and a woman face each other across a sunlit field, gaze longingly into each other’s eyes, and in the next scene, they’re as naked as jaybirds, splashing around in a claw footed tub.   This absurd romantic mode is only enhanced as the voice over drones, “If you experience “activity” lasting more than four hours, call your doctor immediately!”  Why?  What’s he gonna do?  Talk it down?  Chop it off?  Put a chastity belt over it?  Tell the patient to ride into battle like a knight of old, and no need to pick up a joust?  No woman in her right mind is going to let a guy who can go four hours straight out of her sight, so forget the visit to the ER.   The poor guy may die trying, given all the warnings about this drug, but what a way to go!


Let us not forget that wonder drug, Extenze, which is, to steal a phrase from Rod Stewart, every schoolboy’s dream, not to mention, every schoolgirl’s.  This product claims that it can enhance the size of a man’s best feature, no matter his age.  The advertiser is pitching to the wrong market.  Women control the purse strings, by and yes, large, and we’ll decide if we wanna make it with The Jolly Green Giant or not. 


Who dreams these commercials up?  The babies coming straight out of college loaded with MBA’s and no real knowledge of the world?  And who gives ’em the go-ahead?  The suits that spent their formative years tuning in, turning on, and dropping out? These commercials are about as far removed from the realities of gender-specific and age-related clinical issues as Earth is from Alpha Centuri.   A healthy dose of realism in advertising would go a long way in selling products of this nature to people like me, who only want the truth, not the inanities.  Will that ever happen?  Maybe when hell freezes over and pigs sprout wings.  No wonder Dudley Moore’s character, the advertising genius in Crazy People, was locked up for unleashing the unvarnished truth in his marketing campaigns.  But hey, absurdity in advertising is good for business! 

Are You for Sale?

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Hooters Girls

Prostitution is illegal in most states.  Legalities aside, it is apparent that many of us are, without actually selling our bodies on street corners, promoting or using them for personal gain, including fattening the profit margins of commerce.

 

While most men tend to simply turn up the charm a notch in order to get their way with women, it seems that many women curry favors through more blatant capitalization of their sexuality.  On a job interview, for example, a woman might tend to dress just a bit more provocatively if she knows that the hiring manager is male.  Maybe she’ll just button one less button on her blouse or wear a slightly shorter skirt in order to take advantage of that man because, as every woman knows, a man’s greatest weaknesses are his interest in sex and sports (well, a normal American man’s, anyway).  We are, in essence, trying to sell ourselves.  And sometimes, we are not subtle.

 

Certain jobs require women to dress in abbreviated outfits; management assumes that the more flesh that is visible, the larger the client base and profit margins will swell.  Witness the skimpy outfits worn by the servers in Hooters’ restaurants as well as the floor-roaming waitresses in casinos.  Profit generation is in direct proportion to the tightness and brevity of the women’s attire.  The more a man eyeballs what is out in plain sight, the longer he will spend dropping his cash by spending his time eating, drinking, and gambling in these establishments.  While predominantly male executives determine their employee’s garb, the women themselves understand the value of “come hither” outfits.  By and large, a half-way decent looking woman in a constricting outfit will garner more tips than one dressed more conservatively.   Let’s face it: men are weak.  We know this and prey upon their foibles in the name of cold hard cash.

 

Open a fashion magazine and you will see lots of bare or nearly-nude bodies trying to sell all sorts of products — and not all of them are skin care treatments or sun block lotions!   Look up at the billboards as you drive down the road and best of luck figuring out what the vendors are selling if the models in the ad are showing a good deal of skin.  In the afternoon, from the privacy of your home, you are bewitched into watching soap operas, drawn to the bedroom scenes acted with startling intimacy and underscored by peeks at sexy lingerie and buff bodies.  The plot of any soap opera, in fact, revolves around sex: who’s bedding whom, who is having whose baby, and who is cheating on whom, how often, when, and where.  More exciting than our own lives, these escapes from reality are dosed liberally with wanton women warring (over men) with their more mundane counterparts, and good-looking devils vying with their good-hearted but bland brothers and half-brothers (over women).

 

If you don’t live vicariously through the soaps, you’ll pick up a romance novel.  Come on, admit it — you know you do!  How do you choose your romances?  Are you enticed by the covers depicting sultry vixens swooning in the arms of macho, oversexed males?  In order to buy your interest and win your hard-earned bucks, the publishers’ graphic arts teams have whet your appetite with images of men with well-chiseled features pursuing well endowed women.  Sex is a powerful magnet for the illusion to begin before we have even opened the book!

 

Maybe it’s more personal with you.  How many times in your relationship with your significant other has sex become a bargaining chip?  With the promise of intimacy, you lure your husband into hauling out the vacuum, compacting the recyclables, or raking the leaves.  Technically, you are using yourself as a bribe.  We ladies flirt and make innuendoes, using our eyes, mouths, and bodies to promise what awaits the husband or boyfriend who pitches in around the house.  Again, we are essentially selling our sexual favors.

 

And advertisers are extremely cognizant of, and profitable by way of, this fact.  They target females, as we now possess greater buying power than ever before, comprising approximately 51% of the workforce.  In my opinion, women are the perfect market upon which to draw a bull’s eye because we do a lot more impulse buying than men, particularly when it comes to clothing. This all ties in with our tendency to get competitive with our own targets (men) by making ourselves more attractive to the opposite sex.  When we see an outfit on another lady who is getting more attention than we are, we just have to rush out and buy something twice as sexy, believing that we will be able to create some type of miracle whereby we nail a gorgeous young guy by using our new threads as lures.  Oh, and don’t forget the high heels!

 

Although women — that 51% of the workforce — have worked long and hard to rid society of the stereotype that women are just sex objects, we still continue to use our sexuality or allow it to be manipulated for a price.  The old adage, “Sex sells” is still, unfortunately, alive and well in 2009.

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