Where using sex is justified: selling condoms


Barry McCool
Head of global marketing, consumer division
Ansell Healthcare

Marketing Week (MW): You launched the campaign for Skyn condoms in the UK in February featuring women in underwear. How did you make sure the ads had the right appeal for both women and men?

Barry McCool (BM): We wanted to be a little different. The inspiration came from a girl in one of our focus groups in Paris who said: ‘This [product] completely changed my sex life forever’, which is a pretty strong claim.

The reason it works so well is that women see themselves in it, being empowered by the new generation talking about sex. And men like to look at women who are also looking very empowered talking about sex.

MW: How did you avoid smuttiness?

BM: You want to stay classy. At the same time, we are selling condoms, so it has to also look relatively sexy. We shot many pictures and felt that some of them were too suggestive or bordering on downmarket – for us it was all about getting the right pose.


MW: Skyn has launched in 22 countries. How do attitudes and your ads vary in them?

BM: People’s views about sex generally have become more liberalised. However, we have to dial it up and down depending on the market.

For example, in Brazil, the attitude is the more the merrier. In India, where we have a 25% share of the market, we have to crop it a bit tighter so you can see less flesh. We even had advertising pulled in India last year.

A lot of media owners are still very traditional. Our strategy was to create impact, so we had a lot of billboards. But we had to go through 12 or 13 site owners [in UK] as they wouldn’t take condom advertising, including in the borough of Camden in North London.

MW: When you’ve had complaints or been told to take the campaign down, what has your response been?

BM: It is not just about the creative piece, but also the ability and conservative nature of some organisations that won’t carry it. London Underground approved the creative, but in Warsaw, the transit authority would not allow any condom advertising.

If we feel [the objection] is to do with our creative, we fight it. We had some high impact billboards in Warsaw and there were some consumer complaints. Those are automatically filed with national authorities, but we said ‘no we are not pulling down our advertising’ and we won it.

You will get the official complaints filed, but you will also get the chatter going on Facebook and Twitter, where you can see how polarised people’s views are.

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