Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Modesty in Advertising? Nothing to See Here

In the movie Roger Dodger, a womanizing advertising professional reluctantly takes his coming-of-age nephew under his wing for a single evening of carousing in Manhattan. He explains to his young charge that the most basic tenet of advertising is also the most successful technique for picking-up women: first point out that there is something wrong with them and then convince them that you have the solution.

He may have overstated the case a bit, but the link between sex, or sexiness, and advertising is definitely a strong one. But lately there has been a backlash against the more gratuitous attempts at luring customers with alluring ads.

In Great Britain, the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority rejected an ad from a maker of spirits because it showed three young women “winning” a hunky young man at a carnival-type game. The ad ran afoul of the recent prohibition against ads that suggest that alcohol will increase one’s attractiveness and desirability. The authority stated that if the “prize” in the ad were a regular-looking bloke, then there wouldn’t have been a problem. Once again, there’s such a fine line between clever and stupid.

Casting regular-looking people in place of models in ads is the theme of a campaign that is generating much attention here in the states. Dove is promoting a line of skincare products in what they are calling a campaign for real beauty. The six models featured in the campaign were selected after a national search for “normal” sized women who are comfortable with their bodies as is. Most of these women are quite attractive, more along the lines of Kate Winslet at her most voluptuous than what remains of Lindsey Lohan.

Despite the goodwill these ads have generated from women who feel that traditional models force them to identify with impossible body types, Dove is still playing the advertising game as described by Roger Dodger. It’s okay, they tell women, to have a body on the plus side of emaciated as long as your skin remains taut and cellulite-free.

Local advertisers rarely use provocative messages to convince us that we need what they are selling, a reflection perhaps of the conservative nature of Springfield. With the possible exception of Chester and Shirley who exuded irrepressible sexual chemistry in their ads for the Vogue, local ads have traditionally been more straight-laced. There was the middle-aged Dream Girl who prominently exposed herself in a vanity campaign to promote her tawdry boutique several years back, but that wasn’t really a call for customers so much as a cry for help.

On occasion a national or regionally produced ad will appear in the local media that ups the sauciness factor. Until recently, Pamela Anderson’s breasts, perched high upon a billboard on South Sixth Street, discouraged Springfieldians on behalf of PETA from dining at KFC. They made a compelling case.

One of the area betting parlors, I believe it is the Peoria-based Paradise Casino, occasionally runs ads in the SJ-R featuring a woman with a smoldering come-hither expression, not unlike those ads that used to run in the back of the Illinois Times.

And during the upcoming fair, we can expect to see that ubiquitous banner trailing behind a circling airplane, enticing fair goers with a little after-hours entertainment at Déjà Vu. Although there is nothing visually suggestive about the banner itself, I’m sure that it’s led to a few awkward conversations when young 4-Hers ask the judges how many blue-ribbon heifers Safire Rain had to raise to get her name up there in the sky.

But as for locally produced advertising, it remains pretty tame. And it's probably for the best. No one wants the Denney Jeweler guy to start recounting lustful evenings from his past when the flames of passion were stoked by a scintillating diamond "from the heart."


Dan M. said...

Well done.

Thanks for reminding me of the "Chester & Shirley" ads. I'll bet people in the 30-60 crowd would pay money to have their ads on DVD. That is some serious nostalgia.

Dave said...

Chester & Shirley!

You are showing your age.

JeromeProphet said...

Chester and Shirley.
Is that all that you guys took from this article?
Just joshin. How do you remember this stuff?

Yet, another fine article.

Rule of advertising #1

Make a person feel lacking in some important part of their life, and then convince them you have what they need.

Hmmm.., sound a little too much like your local church maybe?

Now I'm really going to hell!