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Sunday
May192013

Does Sex (still) Sell

Sex sells seems to be the  fallback position for many advertisers, and for good reason nothing seems to garner more attention than a raunchy and controversial ad. However we must ask ourselves  are we after attention or are we trying to sell a product or message? The two are not always aligned. 

When considering this tactic I like to ask the following 4 questions -

1) Does it breach the Code of Ethics for advertisers

2) Is it aligned with community standards

3) Does it have any relevance  to the brand

4) Is the placement of the ad discriminative - ie if on TV at hours outside of children’s viewing times, not on a billboard which can be filtered.

Research by the  Annual Review of Sex Research Journal (2002) said that while sexual imagery had a high recall value; that often the message was lost in the process. Meaning the ad has high recall value but nobody knows what it was selling.

This is different in the case where the brand has relevance to this type of tactic. In the case of the Beyonce ad below, then you would argue that swimwear has direct relevance - as apposed to swimwear being sold with a Mrs Doubtfire type ambassador. 

In New York recently there has  been a little battle bewteen community members with someone taping a piece of paper of Beyonce's lower body with another removing it, this keeps repeating daily (image above on the left).
So the question is not whether sex sells, history has proven that. But does it sell your product - 2 words - When Relevant.
Ths clip below is segment we ran on this topic on Channel 7's The Morning Show
In this segment (above) we show the Mercedes ad with Kate Upton, I question the relevance here when selling a luxury car. The information below was sourced from levelwing
1. Women buy more than half of the new cars in the U.S. and influence up to 80% of all car purchases
2. Women request 65% of the service work done at dealerships
3. Women spend over $200 billion on new cars and mechanical servicing of vehicles each year
4. Forty-five percent of all light trucks and SUVs are purchased by women
Further market research suggests that women influence the buying decision of a luxury  car in 68% of purhcases. Is your marketing attracting or alienating the hugely influential group?
Transcript from the segment.

Kylie Gillies This week, Victoria's Secret crowned her as the sexiest songstress, but it seems Beyonce is just too bootylicious for some angry New Yorkers who've taken to covering up one of her ads at a Lower East Side bus stop.

Larry Emdur Love it when you do accents. The poster advertising clothing label H&M is reportedly censored on a daily basis with a sheet of paper being taped over the singer's bottom half. The repeated censoring is thought to be the work of residents living in the conservative neighborhood.

Kylie Gillies So, are we sick of the "sex sells" message? In the studio to discuss, Tim Burrowes from media and marketing website Mumbrella-

Tim Burrowes: [inaudible 00:00:37].

Kylie Gillies ... along with marketing expert Matthew Bywater from 4Promote.

Larry Emdur Hi, guys.

Kylie Gillies Good morning, gentlemen.

Matthew Bywater : Morning.

Tim Burrowes: Hello to you.

Kylie Gillies Tim, I'll start with you. Do you see where the locals are coming from? This is said to be a conservative neighborhood.

Tim Burrowes: I wasn't sure that New York was that conservative, even in specific neighborhoods. You know, this is one of those issues with outdoor posters, is clearly there's a tone to be hit because everyone's going to see them. But if you live in a big city, then you're going to see things a little bit more extreme than a bikini shot on a poster. So this does feel that this is probably the act of one fairly random person, rather than a concerted effort there.

Larry Emdur Kind of tipping that if it was David Beckham there in undies, it'd probably be all right. Matthew, do companies need to be careful about putting sexy images in public spaces, or at least public spaces where people can reach them with bits of paper?

Matthew Bywater : Yeah, that's the hard thing about outdoor advertising, is that there's no discrepancy about who is actually going to view it, if there's a child walking past, a male, a female, a priest, whoever. But you should actually first differentiate between the two types of sex sells. I think we get confused at times. There's the physical attraction we have to look at between a male and a female. Most of those we can get away with. Might be a little bit gray. They can push a little bit. I think this one's fine, but it's in that area. Then there's the other side, which is ... we're looking at one, I think, example soon about The Tool Shop, which is more along the lines of the holes on a folk dance, where we're sort of suggesting something further and the inference is actually something which does not stand up to community standards.

Kylie Gillies Okay. So that's not about hardware.

Matthew Bywater : No, and it's not just about attraction. It's suggesting a little bit more.

Larry Emdur The Tool Shop.

Tim Burrowes: The Tool Shop.

Kylie Gillies Okay. Just wearing a hard hat. Tim, raunchy ads have been creating uproar for years, right? I guess this is nothing new?

Tim Burrowes: It's a weapon in the armory, isn't it?

Kylie Gillies Yeah.

Tim Burrowes: And when you do-

Kylie Gillies Really cheap one, though, isn't it?

Tim Burrowes: It is, and it can be. When you do outdoor, effectively it's a broadcast medium. Now, you get the really famous examples. The one we always end up talking about is out of the UK, "Hello, boys," the Wonderbra ad, which mythology now has caused car crashes as people's heads turned to look at it, and all of those things. You know, the truth of the matter is probably it didn't do that, but it's almost become famous as a billboard and famous as an example. Certainly it helped recreate that brand, though.

Larry Emdur Yeah, okay. Matthew, those Superbowl ads, constantly slammed for being too sexy. Now, some of the biggest budgets in the world, some of the smartest advertising people behind them. Why do they keep doing it? It's got to be successful.

Matthew Bywater : Yeah, they're doing it ... First of all, they're going to try and get viral effect, and we saw the PETA ad actually got banned. The one about the vegetables, and I'll let the script play itself out there. But they got the impact, because it went through YouTube and made it on national TV across many countries. But you've still got to question the relevance to the brands. In the case of Katie Upton and Mercedes-Benz, this is a premium luxury car brand. What are they doing, marketing, really, essentially to teenagers? 68% of the demographic for automobile car sales, 68% influenced by women, and most women would not find that ad attractive to actually look at as far as buying a luxury premium car.

Kylie Gillies In one word, Tim, does sex still sell?

Tim Burrowes: Yes, of course it does.

Kylie Gillies Matthew?

Matthew Bywater : Two words. When relevant.

Kylie Gillies When relevant. Okay, thanks, gentlemen.

Larry Emdur We don't believe in sex selling. We'll show you those pictures of us in cozzies soon, again-