Saturday, December 30, 2006

ESPN and the sexy Acqua di Gio commercial

My wife and I were watching ESPN the other night when a very sexy 30-second commercial aired for Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gio. Filmed in partial septia-tones, the spot features a shirtless muscular male looking straight into the camera. Seawater and perspiration are dripping down his torso.

“Why is that ad running on ESPN?” my wife asked. “Good question,” I thought to myself. The spot is very uncharacteristic of anything you’ll see on ESPN. Any sex in advertising on this network is likely to feature playful Coors Light parties with bikini-babes making snowballs and hot-tubbing.

After a debate that bounced from speculation about the number of gay athletes who watch sports to comparisons to Cosmopolitan covers, I finally convinced her that the ad was “aspirational,” like the many sexy ads for perfume, fashion and fragrance featuring women in Cosmo and Glamour. My wife definitely found the ad appealing, the same way that many men adore the pictures in Victoria’s Secret catalogs. The message in the spot is along the lines of “if you want to look like this guy, feel like this guy, or elicit a reaction from your wife like this guy…get yourself some Gio.”

I didn’t find any Armani under the tree this year. Oh wait, the ad wasn't targeted to her, it was targeted to me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Victoria’s Secret fashion show experiences lowest ratings to date

Only 6.8 million tuned in to watch the fifth annual VS fashion show on CBS this year. That is down from 9 million last year and 12.4 million in 2001. Washington Post writer Lisa de Moraes blamed the anemic showing on too much chatter from the models themselves: "If you can't get 18-to-34-year-old guys to watch an hour of gorgeous young women prancing about in virtually nothing except the occasional million-dollar diamond demi-bra or tartan plaid push-up (yes, there was a 'Brigadoon' number), you are doing something seriously wrong."

De Moraes noted that the fashion show had fewer viewers than a rerun of “Law & Order: SUV.” Perhaps viewers just wanted to watch the show at their leisure since it is available in its entirety on the CBS website. Up for some late-night viewing anyone?

Victoria’s Secret has truly been a promotional pioneer in the intimates and lingerie categories. Since being bought by The Limited, VS has rocketed from three boutiques in San Francisco’s bay area to a top-seller of women’s intimatewear. VS has been successful with its sex-laced promotions such as its infamous catalog, sexy commercials, and multimedia (and prime-time) fashion shows.

Don't just focus on the bad news. At least there was no wardrobe “malfunction.” Justin Timberlake was this year’s fashion-show performer.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

D&G’s new sexy watch commercial

Just in time for the holidays, Dolce & Gabbana, the Italian design house, is running a new commercial in the US for its watch collection. Known for its sexually provocative print ads, D&G’s watch spot doesn’t disappoint. According to one viewer, the commercial is “basically a montage of camera angles and situations that get more and more sexualized.” With a Euro club-scene feel, the ad features shirtless muscular men running their hands over similarly exposed women. With lots of hot glitz and pseudo-glamour, D&G is branding itself as sexually provocative. Some products, especially fashion and accessories, are successfully sold this way. Not all, but some consumers, especially those who are young, want to cover themselves in brands that transmit a similar meaning.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sex Text(ing)

Welcome to the world of sex-text promotion. I suppose 900 numbers are still around but judging from sexy advertising like this one in the back of FHM magazine, “live text” is the wave of the future.

There are 14 text ads in the Jan/Feb 2007 FHM issue. The ads range from 1/9th page to full-page and each uses the same basic formula: Enticing images of women, a headline encourageing readers to flirt, talk, or connect (“Local party girls want to hook up now”), the message and number, and the fine print ($1.99 per text received, billed to your service provider).

Research indicates that sex works best for low-dollar, low-risk products and services. After ogling the pages of FHM, what could be easier that to text “playful” women for less than a Venti at Starbucks? And they don’t even need your credit card number.

To see more ads like this one, visit

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sexy U-boot watch ad

“Dive. Dive.”

It appears as if the standard order in submarine movies is being obeyed in this 1993 ad for U-boot watches. Shot by Helmut Newton, the ad appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. According to UNLV marketing professor Michael LaTour and Old Dominion's John Ford, the ad created quite a stir when it ran. It’s easy to see why. A faceless man—insert your identity here—is touching the breast of his female companion.

Although this example of sex in advertising offended many readers, it’s likely that U-Boot anticipated its target audience was not the type of be turned off by this ad. The last lines of copy read: “When you see this model in the flesh, you’ll express your desire for it on sight. After all we never told you to look but not touch.” To confirm this hypothesis, professors LaTour and Ford are planning to determine if people's attitudes toward women and sexism influence responses to ads like this one. I suspect they will find a relationship.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Science of Xyience

I won’t comment on Xyience’s dietary claims, but its latest commercial is fair game. Titled “Monica,” the hot spot features a woman dancing, displaying (herself) and drinking Xenergy. Think Paris Hilton and Carl’s Jr. meet Red Bull.

Xyience’s signature product is a carb-inhibiting supplement. The drink featured the in commercial is an “energy” drink. Thus our formula: Energy (f) = Xyience drink + sexy woman + engaging in sexual behavior + while filmed with sexually enhancing video techniques.

A student emailed me the link because it bothered her. She saw the ad while watching sports with her boyfriend (hint: she wasn’t in the target audience). She’s open minded but, she said, the spot was over the top—the stripper impersonation was too “graphic” and “in your face.” The spot is visually arresting, and grabbing attention and creating buzz are intended outcomes of sexual ads.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ms. Texas Pete: She’s “Hot”

Meet Miss Texas Pete. Young and beautiful—with a penchant for tight tops and Wranglers—she was on hand to spice up tailgating activities at the University of Georgia’s October 7, 2006 home football game against Tennessee. Signing calendars and passing out samples, Ms. Pete no doubt wore a big smile while showering attention on inquiring fans.

Although no information is available about Ms. Pete on TW Garner Food Co.’s website, there are photos of her with fans at several SEC football games, and she’s been sited at past NASCAR events as well.

Why does Garner use a beautiful woman to hawk its hot sauce? Physical attractiveness and a male audience do figure into the equation notes Dr. Jacque Lambiase, author of a recent chapter on how and why marketers use sexy women to promote their brands. She interviewed several females in the Dallas area who, through a modeling agency, got gigs entertaining males clients and working booths at auto trade shows. “Eros is mixed into a clever concoction that is part woman, part car,” notes Lambiase. Hmm… perhaps that can be extended to “part woman, part condiment.”

See: Lambiase, Jacque (2006), “Erotic Encounters: Female Employees and Promotional Activities,” in Tom Reichert and Jacque Lambiase (eds.), Sex in Consumer Culture: The Erotic Content of Media and Marketing (pp. 245-261). Mahwah, NJ: LEA.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Here Kitty, Kitty

Witness the first ad for Miiow, a new Chinese fashion brand. According to Advertising Age, the ad will break in October 2006.

The sexual aspect of the ad speaks for itself. A glam-wannabe on her knees either pulling on or off her designer jeans. The ad is designed for the following type of women: “sophisticated 24- to 35-year-old middle-class shoppers who cannot afford designer labels but seek stylish, quality clothes.”

Maoren, the mother brand, means “cat” in Chinese. Miiow is a playful feline leverage that, says Viveca Chan, CEO of the agency that developed the advertising, also represents prospective customers who are “…sexy, arrogant, fussy, unpredictable and have a strong personality.”

From a research perspective the ad is clearly working at establishing a sensualized brand identity that Miiow hopes a fair number of customers will find desirable and want to be associated with. An ad like this in the US will create a blip. It will be interesting to see the reaction in China.

Source: Madden, Normandy (2006, September 18). Chinese brand’s goal: Global fashion empire. Advertising Age, p. 18.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tan = “Magna Cum Hottie!”

Who cares about grades? Make “A’s” and get on the Honor Roll by hitting the tanning beds.

Despite efforts by the American Cancer Society and other change agents to alter norms regarding tanning, the accompanying ad strongly suggests that tanned skin is still valued. The ad, featuring an attractive model in a sequenced top, plays to young women’s desires to be “confident,” “sexy,” and “noticed.”

In work by Jacque Lambiase and myself, we identified three dominant messages advertisers use with sex. The image and headline unmistakably argue that if you use our services, others will find you more sexually attractive: “Use our tanning beds, and you’ll get noticed.”

For a look at some research conducted on sex in advertising and media, visit Sex in Media Rearch.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Naked poker anyone?

Many gaming sites are using images of buxom, half-dressed women to draw people to their homepage. takes it a step further by featuring these women as an integral part of its gaming experience. As one reporter observed, the site looks like a combination of Maxim and “Girls Gone Wild.”

How does the sexual imagery interact with poker? Actually, the pairing is much like Pavlovian “classical conditioning” on steroids in that it pairs to two highly arousing and motivating stimuli. Over time, the feelings evoked by thoughts of poker also trigger thoughts and feelings associated with sexual images of women, and “vice” versa.

In the case of, the site is being branded as a gaming experience that offers something extra (sex) compared to other poker sites. In addition, with promotions like the chance to win a date with June 2006 Playboy Playmate Stephanie Larimore, the site offers even the biggest geek an opportunity for fantasy fulfillment.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kate Moss and Nikon

Kate Moss has recovered nicely from her cocaine incident to become Nikon's current model. Much like the house model she was for Calvin Klein in the 1990s, for $1 million Moss agreed to appear in fashionesque ads for Nikon's latest campaign.

Apparently nude and with a suggestive expression, Moss is lending a sophisticatedly erotic feel to Nikon's image. Work by Smith and Engel in 1968 suggests that scintillating models can actually influence people's perceptions of the product. In their study, a hot model in a Buick ad resulted in viewers rating the car as faster, more powerful, better designed, and less safe than the ad sans the model.

It's likely that Moss has a similar effect for Nikon cameras. Which camera is cooler, sleeker, and faster? One advertised with middle-aged tourists or Kate Moss?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tell Timmy and Susie to come inside...Falcon Beach is on!

Falcon Beach recently joined ABC Family's "Sizzlin' Summer" line up. The prime-time seriel is about a collision of worlds (rich vacationers meet townies) as teens wrestle with love, lust, and the "loss of innocence."

The images in the Falcon Beach promo piece certainly suggest that 'sizzlin'' has as much to do with sex as it does temperature. A buff shirtless male and three females (two are bikini-clad) are sure to draw attention. Firm bodies are positioned and photographed so that they are emphasized. Notice, too, that the young woman in white appears to be making eye contact with the viewer (a form of interpersonal flirting behavior) while others are looking off the page.

What do the promoters of this program want to communicate? Any normal person would be safe to assume that Falcon Beach viewing offers plenty of beachwear to behold and plot lines revolving around sexual tension as young romances (d)evolve.