Silliness sells

Ruth Mortimer is Marketing Week’s associate editor and a prolific blogger. She won a PPA Award for her forthright and insightful columns on marketing.

Allegedly sex sells. Except in the Netherlands, where there are presumably so many tall, gorgeous people with good cheekbones that they have to be more creative. So in order to shift outdoor advertising inventory, Dutch firm Interbest has been filling empty boards with a less genetically blessed model.


A male model who could best be described as pasty, balding and overweight begins to strip in a series of posters with the message/threat: “The sooner you advertise here, the better.” As the posters go on, more and more clothing comes off. But just before everything is revealed, the last billboard reveals an ad for a radio station with the slogan “Phew! Thanks Radio 2”.

Is this style of advertising likely to take off in other countries? Should UK consumers prepare themselves to see random assortments of flesh too? Only time will tell. With British consumers very sensitive about what exactly is considered beautiful and a backlash against skinny, conventionally attractive models, it could backfire. Or it could make people laugh.

And perhaps that kind of controversy is just what outside advertising firms need to inject some excitement into the sector. Because, let’s face it, getting people talking about empty space doesn’t really happen that often.

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