By Gitanjali Marcelline/newsin.asia
What do women in bondage have in common with a Ford motor car? The creative staff of JWT India seemed to think that there is much – the reason why they went ahead and published an ad depicting women tied up in a trunk of a Ford-driven by ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
They believed that this ad is unique, one which would be well received by their target group. But, they were sadly mistaken. The ad was viewed with utter disdain by human rights activists who claimed it to be sexist and totally lacking in sensitivity to the country’s culture and demanded that it be withdrawn.
The parent company was quick to absolve itself of responsibility claiming it to be a poor marketing strategy by the Indian staff, which apology they backed up by retracting the ad and sacking the staff concerned.
What is it with Advertising Companies that they need to use sex to help clients sell products, be it in print and electronic media or even in the bare flesh with skimpily clad models draped over vehicles, furniture, electronic equipment? You name it, they’re all there!
What’s the connection? I fail to see none other than the fact that the woman’s presence serves as a bait for unsuspecting victims to visit the sites and end up buying the product. Marketing, it is said, is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. It might sometimes be interpreted as the art of selling products, but sale is only one part of marketing. As the term “marketing” may replace “advertising” it is the overall strategy and function of promoting a product or service to the customer.
It seems sex has been utilized in advertising since its beginning. The earliest forms are said to be wood carvings and illustrations of attractive women (often unclothed from the waist up) adorning ads for saloons, tonics, and tobacco. In several notable cases, sex in advertising has been claimed as the reason for increased consumer interest and sales. The earliest known use of sex in advertising is said to be by the Pearl Tobacco brand in 1871, which featured a naked maiden on the package cover. In 1885, W. Duke & Sons inserted trading cards into cigarette packs that featured sexually provocative starlets. Duke grew to become the leading cigarette brand by 1890. Woodbury’s Facial Soap, a woman’s beauty bar, was virtually discontinued in 1910. But the soap’s sales decline was reversed with ads containing images of romantic couples and promises of love and intimacy to those using the brand (Account Histories, 1926).
Jovan Musk Oil, introduced in 1971, was promoted with sexual entendre and descriptions of the fragrance’s sexual attraction properties. As a result, Jovan Inc.’s revenue grew from US $1.5 million in 1971 to US$ 77 million by 1978 (Sloan & Millman, 1979). The advertisements for Clairol hair dye during the 1970s, which asked the double entendre question: “Does she… or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure”, was another famous use of sex to sell products.
“Jeans are about sex. The abundance of bare flesh is the last gasp of advertisers trying to give redundant products a new identity.” Calvin Klein’s first controversial jeans advertisement showed a 15-year-old Brooke Shields, in Calvin Klein jeans, saying: “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvin’s? Nothing!”
Okay, sex sells. Yet, must one go to such extremes as depicting women and (children) in ads bordering pornography? Instances aren’t unknown when children have been used. How desperate can companies get to sell their products? Judging by the above facts, it seems desperate to do so. But the use of children – can we allow that? Better do something now than never!
(The picture featured above is a Carl’s Jr. ad depicting a woman with a burger is a gross misuse of the female body: www.cheatsheet.com)