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brawny with a cherry on top
sex-based advertising is not always money well spent
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

Being the hapless midwestern housewife that I am, I was recently informed by advertisers that my sexual fantasies are completely out of whack.

Sad but true.

Apparently, I am to desire men in bold seductive posturing across paper towels.

Can you say, “Quicker Picker Upper?”

But in this joy of mad desiring, I lack the proper quilted fantasy programming, and am no longer allowed to respond to the Brawny icon, denim shirt stretched taut against broad chest, fair-haired and fuzzy of face. According to Gino Biondi, spokesperson for the Georgia-Pacific Corporation and quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the former Nordic symbol of strength when wiping up sticky…orange juice, was nothing more than a “70s porn guy – the man female shoppers wanted to break up with.” According to Gino, “Female shoppers want a sexy guy they can fantasize about.”

Oooo, baby, this kind of hot talk by a grown man named Gino just incites a 60s-born housewife to fling off her bra with wanton abandon.

And strangle him with it.

Three years into a new century, and a paper-pusher like Gino believes that all it takes to fire a woman’s sensual neurons is a little face and flannelled torso action on a package wrapper. Gino probably also uses Foghat’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You” on eight-track as soft dinner music on a first date, and has a “friend” called “Dr. Midnight.” I do not start stroking the shopping cart handle when I turn down the paper products aisle of Wal-Mart, and believe I speak on behalf of the majority of the 143 million women in America.

Oh, go ahead. Call me a presumptive little minx, I don’t mind.

If I want to be titillated by completely unobtainable man flesh layered on plastic and paper towels, I’ll ask Jack Bradley for assistance, as I feel confident he did a little something with plastic and paper towels just last night, and the thought alone makes my cheeks flush.

I wish I had been a part of the focus group for this particular ad campaign. I’d have played the part to the hilt: Hunt Club red and white gingham polo from JC Penney, elastic-waist jeans, hair pulled back in a Hillary headband, no makeup. I’d clutch my Longaberger coupon organizer in one hand and my Thomas Kincaid tapestry purse in the other and sigh.

“I try to be good. Really I do. When I go to the grocery store, I’m thinking only of my family’s needs. But that little time in dry goods, near the Kleenex Travel Pack, when I reach for the Brawny 3-Roll Super Saver Bundle, and my hand grazes his form against the trees…I…shudder…I feel like a real woman. Yet I long for something more. Something a little different. Can you make him more, oh, I don’t know, swarthy, like the Mountie from Due South?”

“And…can you (insert giggle here) include the dog, too?”

Obviously, the packaging for Brawny Paper Towels was ready for an overhaul. If indeed the same image had been used for more than 30 years, and the long-term branding proved ineffective in sales compared to compounded quarterly increases by Quilted Bounty or Sam’s Generic 4-Ply, then yes, revamping the product packaging was mandatory for prominent shelf placement. Stores won’t stock what doesn’t move, and shelf jockeying is cutthroat and expensive.

It must be very difficult to breed brand loyalty in something as oooboyzowie as paper towels. In this current E-bay rage collectible age, it’s easy to imagine a person choosing a particular paper towel because it has Looney Tunes characters dancing across each sheet. I wouldn’t call that person my friend. In fact, I’d probably stay as far away from that person as possible, and hold a blank, white, slightly stiff napkin in front of my nose when that person walked by to stifle the laughter.

Such a fickle public. So what's a poor marketing department to do?

To even remotely insinuate that women will buy paper towels because of an attractive man on the package is just plain asinine, and yet another pointed example of bad ad decisions. Ad decisions that waste marketing dollars and drive the price point up to compensate for a sagging bottom line.

If the purpose is to keep the product top-of-mind with consumers, almost any creative ad campaign will do. No one type of advertising puts customers in the car and drives them to the store. But as advertising warhorses can attest, every so often, a well-planned image or humorous campaign is memorable. And if by mentioning a tired and sweaty Mean Joe Green tossing his jersey to the little boy, reminding you that you deserve a break today, or showing a picture of a team of Clydesdales making tracks through the snow makes even the youngest of us recall those three products, that’s effective advertising. Examples of real creativity, even in its worst form, have a longer shelf life. Even the Pets.com sock puppet has a new gig.

SPAM has a current flight that comes rather close to poking fun at the product. Think about it: just how much can you glorify SPAM? But the retro look, over-the-top acting and zippy slogan “Craaaaazy Tasty!” doesn’t promise any more, or any less, than the product can deliver.

Notice the agency hasn't suggested molding SPAM into penis shapes and ribbing the can for our pleasure.

Using sex to sell non-sex oriented products is lazy and stupid. It’s lowest common denominator attraction, and that divides into a smaller fraction of people with true buying power than most would believe.

But don’t take my word for it. This is all about female product perception and the effect on their sexual stimuli, remember? I conducted a mini-focus group with the intelligent, accomplished, open-minded women I know, 24-56, all (presumably) with healthy, bouncing sex lives. Out of 35 invites of opinion, I had a 75% response rate.

Not one considered sex a persuasive selling point for a non-sex related product.

As informed consumers, many cited other campaigns that tried to tap into women’s fantasies, such as the Diet Coke sculpted construction worker commercial, the Herbal Essence feigned orgasmic hair-washing experience and a French yogurt 30-second advertisement, which features an active couple having sex against a bookcase for the first 25 seconds, then tagged with the couple, post-coital, eating the product.

Not off each other’s bodies, mind you, but with a plain old spoon.

While these advertisements made members of the mini-focus group laugh, and, yes, were memorable (curses!), the ads did not entice them to buy the product. More important, especially in the case of Herbal Essence, it turned them away from the product altogether.

This is not to say that women aren’t visually stimulated. They are just stimulated by visuals differently. Playgirl magazine’s annual sales are a quarter of Playboy’s, and, as of this writing, the Playgirl website hasn’t been updated since October 2003. To my knowledge, there isn’t a Page Three Man. Sirius hasn’t replaced Pamela Anderson in their newspaper ads with Taye Diggs, shirtless and in short shorts. The mini-focus group reiterated that the mere image of a man, or the torso of a man, or any particular, um, body part of a man, does not call forth the tinglies. Oh, it’s appreciated, but not the main basis of stimuli.

To call forth the tinglies, it takes an active image, engaging all the senses, with the implication of something more. Matt Damon, in a tank top, washing Franka Potente’s hair. Viggo Mortenson reclining on a sand dune, barefoot, reciting poetry he’s written. My husband, striding across the yard, shirtless and in short shorts, calling out to me with that de –

Um, sorry.

So Gino, here’s a little nugget you can pass along to the ad wizards on the Brawny account. You want to attract more women buyers? You want access to our hot fantasy lockbox? You want to press your long, compressed wood pulp fibers against the G-spot of our buying impulses? Don’t just camera-ready a broad-shouldered man and expect that to fulfill us.

Sponsor a contest in which the winner can use Brawny paper towels to dry off a wet and dripping Orlando Bloom while he whispers, "And that spot over there..." in his beguiling British accent.

I believe I speak on behalf of the majority of the 143 million women in America.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


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topic: advertising
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by tracey l. kelley
topic: advertising
published: 7.26.02


juli mccarthy
1.28.04 @ 12:14a

The whole concept of "sex sells" may have something going for it, but well REALLY! It's high time market analysts realized that a good chunk of the paying public considers itself to be well-educated and immune to ploys -- even if we're not. Play up the intelligence of a choice, and back it up with some data. Female shoppers really want to buy something that works at a reasonable price, and we're WAY willing to pay more for something better - which is the real reason Helleman's mayonnaise outsells Kraft.

russ carr
1.28.04 @ 12:24a

Works both ways, sweetie; or haven't you noticed Betty Crocker's an almost-hottie?

PS: Here's your Brawny boy...

russ carr
1.28.04 @ 12:30a

And hey -- Gino Biondi sounds like the name of a '70s porn guy.

matt morin
1.28.04 @ 3:07a

We can all sit here and talk about how sex shouldn't sell paper towels and how advertising talks down to us, but the bottom line is - it works. As much as we hate to admit it, it works.

Don't think so? Watch the Super Bowl. Pick out the stupidest ads you see. Then watch the local news that night and see what ads America liked best. I guarantee you that all the no-concept, poorly-written/acted, dumb-joked ads are all there.

As someone who has spent more than a decade writing ads, I find that the majority of the time I do a smart, clever, witty ad...people don't get it. But you do "Where's the beef?" or "How ya doin'? How ya doing?" and people love it and remember it.

We're NOT the average American. Only 27% of Americans have a college degree. Most people LIKE low-brow humor. Most people LIKE the common denominator. And sex sells for most people, too.

Sad, but true.

jael mchenry
1.28.04 @ 9:47a

I disagree. Sex may sell for most men. But name me a sexy ad that sold something to women, and worked. I can only think of the Diet Coke construction worker thing, and have no proof of its success.

You're lumping in a lot of things together, and we've got to decide on a definition of "stupid" if you're going to bring that into it. People loved the EDS "cat herding" ad. Was it stupid? I don't think so, but maybe you do.

My favorite ad campaigns ever were both, in my mind, pretty clever. You can read about them here.

wendy p
1.28.04 @ 10:13a

I'd like to see some information on how an ad being "memorable" or "favorite" translates to a bigger bottom line for the company. I loved the "Diet Coke Break" commercials but hate the soda. I wait every year for the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials and don't drink alcohol. I saw the new Brawny ad and asked my husband "Hey, where'd the REAL Brawny guy go?" I don't buy Brawny, I buy Bounty because I like their paper towels.

And Tracey, this article is so right on the money that I sent it to the women in my family to read.

russ carr
1.28.04 @ 11:07a

And actually, Jael, I don't think sex sells for most men. I postulate that there are three tiers of male consumers: those who shop conscientiously, those who shop casually, and those who don't shop. The conscientious shopper isn't swayed by shallow advertising; he's looking for quality, reputation and price. The casual shopper may be influenced by ads, but his tendency will be to go with the tried-and-true. If he drinks Bud Light, it's unlikely that he's going to switch to Coors just because of...twins! Finally, the non-shopper is lost to the ads beyond their mind candy value; he may ask his SO to get something based on a commercial, but if he's not doing the shopping, there's no guarantee his temporary libido-enhanced marketing impulse will amount to anything.

Sex sells porn! And lingerie! Something with some hope of actual erotic return on the investment.

jael mchenry
1.28.04 @ 11:14a

Good points all, Russ. There are different kinds of shoppers, and they are influenced by a whole lot of things besides the sexiness or nonsexiness of advertisements.

Actually, flipping through my mind's mental file, the only blatant sex-sells I can think of are a) the abovementioned "twins" commercial, and I have to take your word for which beer it's for; and b) many of the high-end magazine print ads, which are generally selling things out of my price range anyway.

I last bought paper towels in October, and I have no idea what kind they are.

heather millen
1.28.04 @ 12:52p

Well, I'm sure the Super Bowl this week will be riddled with "sex sells" ads. Of course, I also think it will be riddled with beer ads and I do think there's a slight correlation between the two. In some senses, beer can be considered a "sexual" product. Not that you'll buy a certain brand of beer because of their big breasted spokeswoman, but still.

However, paper towels? Shampoo? No. Campaigns that appeal to my libido without ever going anywhere near it merely make me laugh. And more often than not, I'll NOT buy the product on the sheer premise that the company is insulting my intelligence.


matt morin
1.28.04 @ 12:59p

One thing to keep in mind is, every ad has a very specific target audience. While everyone sees the Budweiser ads on the Super Bowl, all Bud cares about are the (and this is a guess at their target) 21-28 year-old men who make between $15k and $40k a year. Everyone else doesn't matter. If you see an ad that doesn't do it for you, chances are, it wasn't supposed to do it for you.

As far as what sells and what doesn't, there's been tons and tons of research done on this. In every focus group, most people say advertising has no effect on them. However the numbers prove them wrong. If you match up sales numbers to the media plan, you see jumps in sales whenever ads run.

I mean, think about infomercials - I bet most of us can agree that infomercials are terribly written and acted. They're rarely creative or entertaining. And we all know the most of the products they sell are shit. Yet every single time an infomercial runs, they make millions and millions of dollars. Ron Popeil isn't a multi-millionaire for no reason.

wendy p
1.28.04 @ 1:38p

I have no idea what ads have affected what I buy.

I use Consumer Reports' online site for TONS of research on things I'm interested in, think I might be interested in or have never seen. I'm not a big coupon person, I watch for good sales on things like televisions, PCs, dvd players and home theater systems.

I'm 34, have 6 kids I'm responsible for and am one half of a dual income couple. I would say as far as daily purchases that I make for groceries or whatever, for the most part, I buy what my mom bought when I was growing up. I rarely try new products when something I currently use does the job and is reasonably priced. Oh, and the Herbal Essence commercials tick me off so much so that they'll never get a dime from me, damnit!

wendy p
1.28.04 @ 1:41p

Matt, it always amazes me how much money gets spent buying things from infomercials. The other ones that slay me are those on QVC. I'm sure they make TONS of money, after all, aren't there like 4 channels of QVC and Home Shopping Network now?

sarah ficke
1.28.04 @ 1:45p

I have to say, the Herbal Essences commercials amuse me. I can't remember if that is specifically why I bought the shampoo, though.

jael mchenry
1.28.04 @ 2:00p

I bought the shampoo until they started with the commercials. Now I buy Rusk, which I've never seen advertised.

matt morin
1.28.04 @ 2:02p

Katherine, I know! I always wonder who buys that stuff on QVC, but they make hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. Someone's buying a ton of Diamonelles™ and Jackie Smith clothing.

Also, you said you look for things on sale. Well, that's advertising - whether it's a circular in the mail or a "50% off" sign in the store. And that affects your purchase. You look at that ad, get its message, and it convinces you to buy it because of the new, lower price.

That's one ad message that affects all of us. We've all seen something we weren't planning on buying but, because it was on sale, we go ahead and make the purchase.

wendy p
1.28.04 @ 2:16p

If any ad affects me, that's the one, Matt. I shop WAY in advance for big purchases. I watch prices rise and fall and try to guess at the best time to buy something.

For instance, we've had a 27" tv for over 8 years now. I've bought a couple of 20" tvs these last couple of years, but nothing over $100 in a LONG time. Best buy had an online ad recently that gave you a $50 gift card PLUS another $20 in returns on my reward zone card. So, we upgraded to a 36" tv and called it our anniversary gift to the family. I'm sure I'm not anyone's target audience because I spend WAY too much time analyzing how much money we'll spend and trying to find the cheapest way to do it. While I'm still spending money, it's much less than what companies would probably like for me to spend. :)


sarah ficke
1.28.04 @ 2:28p

PS: Here's your Brawny boy...

The funny thing is that to me he doesn't look any different. His shirt collar is a different color, is that their big marketing move?

russ carr
1.28.04 @ 2:31p

His hair is less feathery.

sarah ficke
1.28.04 @ 2:35p

Barely. To me he still looks like a slightly-less-hairy Tom Selleck. But I suppose I'm a little young for their target audience too.

wendy p
1.28.04 @ 2:51p

Hey, that's not the new guy. Here's the new guy: Linkety

sarah ficke
1.28.04 @ 2:53p

Ah. Thanks, Katherine.

russ carr
1.28.04 @ 2:55p

Wow. So there's been a makeover since the last makeover. Shows you how much I pay attention to paper towels.

sarah ficke
1.28.04 @ 2:56p

Me too. Maybe I'll tell Erik to keep an eye out for the Brawney man when he goes shopping tonight.

wendy p
1.28.04 @ 2:56p

I'm tellin' ya, it was such a big difference that I asked Kev what they did with the REAL Brawny guy. The new guy is creepy to me. But like I said, I'm not one to like a whole lotta change for change's sake.

jael mchenry
1.28.04 @ 3:15p

Wow, they've gone from 70s porno man to 80s soap opera man.


heather millen
1.28.04 @ 3:19p

I must say, this new Brawny man is much hotter. Does it make me want to wallpaper my house in their product? Not so much.

jack bradley
1.28.04 @ 8:44p

Tracey, it was with plastic, but not with paper towels.

Oh, and for the record: Rwwwaaaoooorrrww! I am SO screaming out your name during my next round of paper-towel abuse.

tracey kelley
1.28.04 @ 9:15p

God, I love you people.

Thanks for the links, Russ and Katherine - couldn't find them at press time.

Jack - {mwah}, baby!

Matt, you know I agree and understand what you're saying about advertising in general, but show me the data that supports that females buy non-sex related products because of sexual innuendo. This is the point I'm trying to make: we don't. The majority of the time. And that's what the marketers don't understand. I think Brawny, in a lame attempt to justify a change, chose this route.

Why not put a picture of a busy family? Change the packaging to relate to different cultural groups? Have some type of "paper mache" directions or something?

Katherine hit it on the head: we are influenced by other's purchases, try what our family tries, or just don't care. I buy plain, white, generic paper towels, because I just don't care.

sarah ficke
1.28.04 @ 10:55p

As I was reading my composition and rhetoric homework tonight, this quote came up in relation to advertising: "emotional appeals often distract people from thinking just long enough to make a bad choice."

russ carr
1.28.04 @ 11:01p

That's as appropriate in regard to political candidates as it is in regard to paper towels, Sarah.

juli mccarthy
1.28.04 @ 11:04p

There is advertising that affects me - I'm a sucker for the celebrity endorsement, for instance. Sometimes I don't even know what they're selling. Remember that commerical that said "we make money the old-fashioned way... we EARN it"? Whatever it was that old Paper Chase prof was selling, I wanted some.

The comical ads stick in my mind well, but I often remember the punch line without being to remember the product. And I'll often try a product based on its advertising, but it's rare that it will end up a staple on my shopping list.

sandra thompson
1.29.04 @ 7:58a

Tracey, IMFO you have great taste in male celebrities. I buy Viva paper towels because they're the BEST. I know there were commercials about them, but I can't remember what they were. I buy them because I used them at my daughter's house and knew right away they are the best. Sex may sell KY jelly or other sexier "intimate" products but not much else to this old woman, and not even 30 years ago when you would have expected it to do so. Of course, Jack is always a subject of my erotic fantasies if only because he's so unobtainable. He's replaced Montgomery Clift, but no one will ever replace Brad Pitt. Sigh! (That was more than you wanted to know, right?)

wendy p
1.29.04 @ 8:47a

Great Sandra, now I've got to give Viva a try. I've used Bounty forever because I thought that they were the best... quicker picker upper and all.

And see, that's the kind of thing that gets me to try something new, word of mouth. Recommendations of people I know influence me a bunch. I tried clorox wipes after Roger said they cleaned up TONS of the smoke damage on their stuff and did a great job with it. I have no idea how an advertising firm could turn that into money.

michelle von euw
1.29.04 @ 10:29a

I buy the pick-a-size paper towels, the ones that come is smaller sheets (wow, the sexual marketing possibilities for those are endless).

I think Juli raises a good point -- celebrity endorsement or clever advertising may make people try a product once, but what are the chances they'll go back to it more than once, unless it's far superior to the (cheaper) competition?

matt morin
1.29.04 @ 11:03a

Good advertising will never overcome a bad product in the long run.

jael mchenry
1.29.04 @ 11:31a

But the short run can seem quite long.

Katherine, those Clorox wipes are awesome. And Sandra, we used Viva in my house growing up. Only now am I thinking that's kind of an odd name for a paper towel.

tracey kelley
1.29.04 @ 12:22p

This part of the discussion is amusing me a great deal.

What still amazes me is -who- in advertising thinks that sex is the strongest selling point? I'm not trying to point a gender finger here (no, really, I'm not) but after working in some form of advertising for 15+ years, I've never considered sexual fantasy to be a conduit to purchase.

That is, however, not to say that other forms of "fantasy" approaches aren't used. "Wear this makeup - it will remove wrinkles." "Buy this car, and people will think you're cool."

russ carr
1.29.04 @ 12:33p

Back in Orlando, years ago, we had SNAG - Singles Night At Gooding's, one of the nicer supermarket chains. They'd have lots of free samples, including wine, beer, etc., upgrade the in-store music, etc., to entice lonely professionals in to mingle in the meat dept. Whoever these ad folk are who are still linking sex and shopping, they must have been SNAG regulars. When I'm at the market, I'm thinking FOOD. Or at least, BEER. That was as true when I was single as it is now. If my thoughts moved from Purina to prurient, it was because there was a hot girl at the cash register, not because Marie Callender's blouse wasn't so frumpy.

matt morin
1.29.04 @ 12:39p

OK, if sex doesn't sell to women, why is Victoria's Secret so popular? All their ads are are pure sex.

The appeal is different - for men it's "Buy our product and you might get her!" and for women it's "Buy our product and you might look like her!" But it's still all about sex and using sex to sell.

Don't tell me the Wonderbra didn't use sex to sell to women.

wendy p
1.29.04 @ 12:51p

The wonderbra appeals to a woman's vanity and her desire to make more of what she's got... or at least present it in a better way. :)

I don't know who Victoria's secret's target audience is, it's not me so I pay little to no attention. To me, it's nothing more than the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition of lingerie ads. And seriously, I don't kid myself into thinking I'll ever look like some supermodel. I'm certain the target audience as far as women are concerned is more our own Penny Lane's group when it comes to Victoria's Secret.

jael mchenry
1.29.04 @ 1:19p

Using sex to sell lingerie is not like using sex to sell paper towels. How else would you sell lingerie? It shows the product.

matt morin
1.29.04 @ 2:39p

Well, the Cross Your Heart bra didn't use sex. It used a product benefit of lifting and separating. And there are some great print ads that I've seen that don't use sex to sell.

I'm not saying it's the right idea to use sex to sell paper towels. But I am saying that using sex to sell to women does work.

russ carr
1.29.04 @ 2:43p

The Cross-Your-Heart bra was not, and never has been, lingerie. It's a foundation garment.

wendy p
1.29.04 @ 2:54p

Matt, I think that statement is too broad. Using sex to sell to women doesn't even appeal to me.

The examples I've seen in the media of sex selling a product are of course, Herbal Essence and lately the one I've seen is the Virgin Mobile cellular service ads. Those obviously, to me anyways, are targeted towards men and I'm sure to some extent it at least gets a guys' attention.

wendy p
1.29.04 @ 2:57p

Oh, and the other ones I hated (because I'm sure we haven't talked about terrible ads enough) are any of the ones that used Fabio. Yuk. Definitely not the dream guy for me.


michelle von euw
1.29.04 @ 3:47p

Katherine, you are so right -- I've yet to find a real life woman who thinks Fabio's the slightest bit attractive.

I can't think of a single instance where sexual advertising enticed me to buy a product. (I've shopped at Vicki's Secret almost in spite of their overtly sexual advertising.) Of course, an ad like the one Tracey describes in her penultimate paragraph may entice me to fantacize over paper towels, but I'm still not sure I'd purchase them -- unless Orlando Bloom himself was in the grocery store, holding them out...

roy daniel
1.29.04 @ 3:50p

...ahhh the sagging bottom line (just how not to get men to buy yer product)

tracey kelley
1.29.04 @ 6:14p

Using Victoria's Secret is not a viable arguement, because when I wear lingerie from Victoria's Secret, I want to feel sexy. I want to imagine sexual situations. I know damn good and well I don't look like a Victoria's Secret model, but the lingerie provides the illusion long enough for my husband to take it off in about 5 minutes.

And let's face it: that's what was going to happen, and that was the point.

But when you're talking about a household cleaning item, like, oh, I don't know, a Swiffer mop, it's not like you can pull some Freudian rationale and state: "Women will like this mop because when they dream of umbrellas, they are really dreaming of penii, so this enlongated wooden object will appeal to their base desires, and they'll buy it."

Uh, no.

Ads with sexual innuendo designed for non-sexual related products are trying to cut through the clutter, imprint the brand and move on. I have yet to see statistical data that a consistant base of female shoppers were drawn to the product because of that type of ad.

Special props to my IM gals for their participation in the focus group! {mwah!}


Everyone, meet Roy. Roy, everyone. Your lives will never be the same.


heather millen
1.29.04 @ 7:18p

I agree with the Victoria's Secret point that Tracey makes. They show the product. And they are supposed to be selling sexy.

Here in the Mall Mgmt. biz, we get plenty of complaints from parents about store signage being too sexy. With VS, it's what you expect. When they're complaining about an Abercrombie Model buck-naked on a horse in the storefront window, well, then I think they have a point. I mean aren't they selling clothes? Then why in the hell are all of their models naked?!


matt morin
1.29.04 @ 8:16p

But that's like saying Pepsi shouldn't use humor to sell their product because soda isn't funny.

Just because a product is sexy, it doesn't mean you have to use sex to sell it. And just because a product isn't sexy, it doesn't mean you can't use sex to sell it.

russ carr
1.29.04 @ 9:03p

You can use sex to sell whatever you want. The point Tracey's making is that just because some brainiac at a PR firm thinks that Product X will sell better if it's been "sexed up" in its advertisements, it ain't necessarily so; and what's more, the educated consumer with more than a shred of dignity and sexual self-awareness is going to look at those magazine ads, or those TV commercials, or those shiny packages in the store and LAUGH AT THEM and their shallow attempts to manipulate her into purchasing because they titillate her libido.

From a man's perspective, consider beer commercials during sporting events. In the majority of ads in recent years, breweries have made few commercials which actually extol the virtues of the beer: Hey! It TASTES GOOD. No, they'd rather have horses playing football, chicks in bikinis mud wrestling, or three brainless shmoes going WASSSUP!!! I remember those commercials why? Because they weren't selling beer, they were selling the ad agency. Nothing about those commercials made me interested in the product because they never said anything ABOUT the product.

So please, all you PR firms and ad agencies out there: keep pushing the envelope. More sex, please. I don't care what you're advertising; I just want the skin.

wendy p
1.29.04 @ 9:31p

You know, the more we talk about this subject, the more I feel like the women here are the minority. Somewhere in America there are MILLIONS of women who love QVC. There are MILLIONS of women who love Herbal Essence and Virgin Mobile must be selling because their ads are still running (unlike Howard Dean's... sorry, couldn't resist). It makes me feel good about the choices I've made over the years and I don't feel like I'm being neglected because I'm not someone's "target audience". I'm sort of proud to be one of the few that advertisers just can't quite seem to reach without giving me some huge monetary reward or discount.

tracey kelley
1.29.04 @ 9:33p

Does it really take me five whole minutes to rip that stuff off of you? Damn, I'm getting slow in my late 30s!

Matt* on Tracey's computer

tracey kelley
1.29.04 @ 9:34p

Does it really take me five whole minutes to rip that stuff off of you? Damn, I'm getting slow in my late 30s!

Matt* on Tracey's computer

russ carr
1.29.04 @ 9:47p


wendy p
1.29.04 @ 9:47p

And double posted to boot! Priceless you Kelley's are! :)

robert melos
1.29.04 @ 11:16p

I'd like to know whatever happened to those really memorable ads, with slogans? Alka-Seltzer's "plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is?" Or "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."

Matt mentions "where's the beef?", but that was memorable, and not sexy.

I usually buy a product because it works. I buy Bounty because my parents used it. It's a paper towel. I'm not going to make love to it.

Although I do agree that sex is used in a lot of advertising that necessarily does not call for sex. I've seen print ads for eyeglasses with a girl in a short skirt leaning over a desk dangling the glasses in her hand. It was lame. Most advertising that relies on sex is lame. The Trojan ads aside, advertisers need to realize the product has to be good or no matter how you dress it up, it won't sell.

russ carr
1.30.04 @ 12:08a

If you don't want to look at a sexy ad, maybe you'd prefer to smell one. Here's new research (and it's got monkeys!) that states the obvious, but given this thread, take it and run to the extreme. Monkeys smell sexy...

From near the end: "It is also the first link between external sexual odors and the internal sexual arousal system," Snowdon said. "This opens up a whole new field of research possibilities."

Or advertisement possibilities.

matt kelley
1.30.04 @ 5:14a

Okay, I'm repeating myself too... I only typed the darn thing once. Have no idea why it's there twice. Frightened to post even this now, I am... Don't I deserve a break today?

wendy p
1.30.04 @ 9:26a

Don't feel bad, Matt*. When I was posting last night I'd hit the post button and then I'd get the "page not found" error after it was posted. Then, I'd go to the front page of Intrepid and it was actually there. Gremlins are living at Joe's. It's the only thing I can think of.

wendy p
1.30.04 @ 9:29a

Robert, I can still remember the jingle for the Big Mac. Alas, I've never eaten one of those either. Now, the have a Coke and a smile ads I remember and I absolutely drink Coke.

robert melos
1.30.04 @ 5:23p

Yes! Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Or hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us.

Catchy slogans stay with us longer than someone faking orgasm over shampoo. As for the Brawny guy, he's okay. Personally, Mr. Clean is hotter.

michelle von euw
2.1.04 @ 1:33p

You know what ads don't use sex? Errectile defunction ads. Instead, they use sports and parties and people like Mike Dikta talking in a serious tone of voice without even implying the idea of sex. There are at least 3 ED companies who have purchased ad space during the Super Bowl, and I guarentee that their ads will be the least sexiest we'll see today.

russ carr
2.1.04 @ 2:27p

Well, the Levitra ad at least features a guy trying to get a football through a tire swing. Freudian, at least, if not overt.

Ditka also shills for Consort hair spray for men, or did 'til recently when Dan Patrick took over. Mensch.

robert melos
2.1.04 @ 5:09p

Somehow the thought of erectile dysfunction ads during the Super Bowl, just seems to be saying a lot about what is really important to the nation. Forget a quicker picker upper, what they really want is a quicker getter upper. I think advertising has skewered our priorities.

By the time we are four or five we already are materialistic beyond comprehension, and it only seems to get worse with age. Our culture is one of vanity and self-gratification. Whose the prettiest? The sexiest? The richest? When I look at it this way I see a shallow people.

russ carr
2.1.04 @ 7:10p

And so Ditka does the Levitra ad...tossing a football thru a tire swing. And dissing baseball.

tracey kelley
2.2.04 @ 12:40p

Another goofy thing from Brawny Paper Towels: Tips for Men

Holy Crap. If you have to do all that to a man, you'd be better off single.

You're right, Michelle. For ED ads, they should show a man trying to enjoy a little Paris Hilton porn and the equipment not working.

I'm not certain that many men could identify with Bob Dole.


matt morin
2.2.04 @ 9:21p

I love how their first tip is to love what you've got. And then their second tip is to make your man look like George Clooney, followed by 7 more ways to change him.

juli mccarthy
2.2.04 @ 11:16p

Holy Crap. If you have to do all that to a man, you'd be better off single.

So would he. Jeeez, that's insulting to EVERYONE!

tim lockwood
2.3.04 @ 12:47a

Another goofy thing from Brawny Paper Towels:
Tips for Men

Reminds me of the old saying: Men marry women with the expectation that they will never change. Women marry men with the expectation that they can change them. Thank you, Brawny, for perpetuating this little nugget of wisdom.

russ carr
2.6.04 @ 10:21a

One of last night's Simpsons eps was one I'd never seen before, and it starts out with Marge becoming infatuated with the hunky-looking lumberjack (aka "Chad Sexington") on the wrapper of Burly papertowels.

Here's a peek. If he's not good enough for you, you can also Create Your Own Brawny Man. Try to keep the drool out of your keyboards, please.

tracey kelley
2.6.04 @ 10:32a

Oh. My. God.

That is tooooo funny!

Intrepid Media: we do it first.

Way to be, watcher. I had not seen the Create Your Own Brawny Man. Aside from our mocking contigent, just WHO do they think is sitting around playing that crap?

russ carr
2.6.04 @ 10:35a

Unfulfilled housewives and Waylon Smithers, I guess.

robert melos
2.6.04 @ 9:54p

I wasn't too happy with the create your own Brawny man. He really wasn't appealing after I got the final version, and he's still not as absorbent as Bounty. I'm now wondering what happened to the Tidy Bowl man in his spiffy Captain's hat?

sarah ficke
2.6.04 @ 10:11p

They didn't give me the man I ordered. No tip for them.

craige moore
2.10.04 @ 12:50p

I get put off at times by the ads that (I suppose) are supposed to be (at least somewhat) appealing in a sexual way. I saw one the other night with what I guess would be considered a hot guy talking right to the camera about how great a particular aspirin works. It ends with him saying something like, "it just works, period." And he sat there for what seemed like an eternity, staring at me, wrinkling his brow, trying to look all winsome. I was about to change the channel. It was disturbing. Don't stare at me like that, supposedly hot guy!

tracey kelley
2.10.04 @ 1:37p

Make ya squirm, did it?

kalena miller
4.17.04 @ 7:47p

Interesting topic...
I was an advertising major
for a year or so of college, and whether we like it or not, sex does sell. I wish it weren't true, but it would seem as though the upper level mangagement in advertising firms is largely male, and that affects how the advertising is directed. (Have men ever really understood women?)

It is simply disturbing, though, that sexual gratification comes above intelligent dialogue. When a society becomes intellectually lax and sexually perverse I believe it spells disaster for that culture.

matt morin
4.17.04 @ 9:10p

I've worked in advertising for 11 years now. You're totally right that advertising (especially upper level management) is mostly male. But trust me when I say that upper level management has pretty much nothing to do with the ads any given agency produces.

Typically, it's a couple of late-20-something guys who come up with the idea.

But remember, ad agencies don't make ads in a vacuum. For every ad that's made, there's a client who approved it every step of the way.

jael mchenry
3.24.05 @ 12:49p

[major bump]

There's a new Brawny commercial out and I couldn't help but think of this column, and Gino.

In the ad, a hunk is frosting a birthday cake for his wife, and frosting gets on the counter, and he wipes it up, and then frosting gets on the puppy's nose, and he uses Brawny to wipe it, and so then there's a hunky man with a cake in one hand and a puppy in the other walking toward the camera with the voiceover "Happy Birthday to you, Mrs. Parker," and it's SO exactly that tailored sex marketing we were talking about last year on this column.

juli mccarthy
3.24.05 @ 3:49p

And it is SO insulting.

tracey kelley
3.24.05 @ 3:49p

YES! I've seen that!

Ad Nazis.

I should have posted Gino's letter here, cause I think it would be interesting to anyone who reads this column to know that he responded to me so vehemently, without reading the column in full context.

And all the typos!

But I don't think I could capture the picture he sent of his family.

rayna gorowitz
1.31.06 @ 8:01a

Here's my take. The "Mrs. Parker" Brawny commercial does NOT use sex to sell paperware. It uses images of another very common desire in women -- the desire to FEEL CARED FOR. This is a handsome gentleman baking a birthday cake for his partner -- and cleaning up any mess he makes. NOT a fantasy of sex but the fantasy of a caring partner. (The plaid-shirted fellow in the commersh is good-looking, but nowhere near as much so as, say, Ricardo Antonio Chavira)

tracey kelley
1.31.06 @ 11:22a

I've seen the birthday cake one - and I agree with you that the angle there is the man doing all the work.

That one isn't quite as blatant as the ads around when this piece first aired.

However, the primary question is - were you swayed enough by Brawny to buy their product?

rayna gorowitz
1.31.06 @ 6:38p

Advertising doesn't sway me to buy things, but there are commercials that I find entertaining or emotionally affecting in their own right

rayna gorowitz
1.31.06 @ 8:40p

I do think that using sexual/romantic images to sell a product unrelated to sex and courtship is kind of stupid.
I remember one very sexy commercial that aired in the '90s. A couple were in bed, lying very close, and a strategic part of the gentleman's body (covered with a blanket)was pressed against the lady. You could tell they had either just finished a session of "intimate swordplay" or were just about to start one, and then the guy gently glided his leg over his partner's. VERY sexy and romantic.
What was the commercial for? A dating service? A contraceptive device or preparation? A medication to help those "caballeros" who have trouble being "swashbuckling" with their "swords?" None of the above. The commercial was for a DEPILATORY. A stinky cream to remove hair from legs. How mundane can you get. I mean, for crying in Manhattan, it's LEG DEPILATORY. People aren't going to have SEX with it. They're going to rub it on their legs. It was a beautiful commercial, but it should have been an ad for a dating service, because if you go to a dating service, you can get a partner. A hair remover isn't going to get you a partner.
Just my two-cents' worth (OK, more like a quarter:-D)


tracey kelley
2.1.06 @ 2:42p

See? You put your quarter in with my quarter and we have almost a dollar!

I find many commericals immensely enteraining - but I also like lemurs. Doesn't mean I want to own one.

russ carr
2.2.06 @ 8:38a

The Brawnyman site has been updated. Click on "Innocent Escapes" and prepare to gag.

tracey kelley
2.2.06 @ 11:31a

Okay, you know what? I'm just totally incredulous that this campaign is still on this path.


rayna gorowitz
2.7.06 @ 3:10p

And how about Fabio, for crying in Manhattan, a symbol of romance and fantasy and enchantment, shilling for such unglamorous products and services as margarine and insurance

russ carr
7.6.06 @ 11:50a

You must see this. Brawny Academy.

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