Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Entering NYC's "Hawaiian Tropic Zone"

Although the outside is understated—there is no heralding signage, one shouldn’t be fooled. What lies within this Seventh Avenue restaurant is a male tropical paradise—the Hawaiian Tropic Zone.

I’m in town to moderate a panel on sex and decency in advertising hosted by the International Advertising Association. My hosts thought HTZ was the perfect place for dinner to set the tone for the following day’s discussion. And it was close to my hotel.

HTZ bills itself as "The Hottest Place on Earth." As one woman in our party observed, "it’s more like an upscale Hooters." Instead of tight tank tops and orange hot pants, however, the HTZ’s high-heeled wait staff wear bikini tops and sarongs, but not for long. Periodically the women walk along a catwalk above the bar as patrons clap and holler for the "hottest" contestant. Each table contains a small holder for ballots and pencils so patrons can vote for their favorite waitress.

Similar to Hooters, men are seen talking with each other, stealing a quick glance at the women as they walk by, or catching a highlight on Sports Center. Unlike Hooters, men can stare at a huge bank of monitors behind the bar as it showcases sun-drenched models. Judging from the number of customers, the place must be doing well. In a town of a thousand restaurants I suppose there is room for upscale food, drink and tropic-themed titillation.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Gambling and sex

What is it about online gambling sites that advertise with sex? For one, “sex” consists of images of scantily-clad nubile women like the one in the accompanying MySportsBook.com button, and the target audience consists of men. So these ads might simply be a case of attracting eyeballs.

However, the ads might be appealing not just to men in general, but especially so for those who seek the emotional high of gambling. The thrill and excitement experienced during gambling is a similar to the response evoked by sexual stimuli. In other words, the momentary charge caused by the images in these ads may energize a likely gambler just enough to interrupt whatever he was doing (e.g., reading sports news) to click on the ad. Otherwise the ad utilizes the old “bait-and-switch” because women don’t populate many of these betting sites.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lohan lends sex appeal to Jill Stuart ads

Lindsay Lohan, recently admitted to rehab for the second time, will be featured in fall 2007 ads for designer Jill Stuart. Sexually, the images of Lohan are rather middle-of-the-road considering they are designer ads, but Lohan’s recent trysts and bad-girl behavior add a “rich, party-girl” flavor to the campaign.

For example, Lohan was mentioned in today’s USA Today cover story about the trials and tribulation of young celebrities. The article also identifies Britney Spears and Paris Hilton—among others—as young celebs unable to avoid headlines for breaking both taboos and rules such as sex tape incidents, DUIs and drug abuse. Obviously, the baggage associated with spokesmodels can contribute to how brands are perceived. Given the sensual look of past Jill Stuart ads, those featuring Lohan should fit right in.