I read with interest your cover story on sexual imagery in marketing (MW July 25). Of course sex helps to sell brands – there are obvious examples such as Pot Noodle, Diet Coke and Carling, as well as a few that may seem less obvious, but nevertheless are exploiting sexuality to create impact: Levi’s, Sure, Lucozade, Radox and a huge list of others.
The real debate is about how explicit such imagery should be. Casting a sexy model for an ad rarely generates any criticism, but if a sexual act is suggested, the judgement changes.
In reality, the increased use of sexual imagery simply reflects a liberal society and a liberal media environment. Television, magazines and even radio are becoming increasingly explicit.
But the mere fact that sex is being used more to sell brands doesn’t mean that it will stop working. That would be rather like saying that because humour is being used more in ads, it will stop working. What is essential is to make the advertising relevant.
One of the biggest problems advertisers face is that, while the media content surrounding the ads is becoming more explicit, the regulations on advertising itself remain strict. The result is that the advertising content begins to seem tame. We end up with ads that resemble Carry On films.
As long as it stays relevant, sex will continue to sell – but advertisers, regulators and agencies must ensure that they stay in touch with an increasingly liberal environment.