Sunday, June 28, 2009

What do you see in this billboard?

That's the question puzzling Athenians recently as they leave downtown. A second question quickly follows: "And what does she (and what's she's doing) have to do with a credit union?"

Credit Flagpole's Chris Hassiotis with the picture and printing both questions in the June 10 issue. Answer #1: A woman looking for change in her dryer. Answer #2: Well, the credit union's VP of marketing said it was one of several images in the the campaign targeted to college students who are, you know, always scratching for a couple bucks.

According to Hassiotis' lead, the image has tickled the male imagination, or at least triggered thoughts within both sexual and sexist contexts. But others see something else entirely. "It's funny to me," said the CU's VP, "...It's a girl who's fully clothed. The advertising is of someone fully clothed. I mean, I'm a Sunday school teacher."

Which begs the question, when is a young woman on all fours with her head stuck in a dryer just a young woman on all fours with her head stuck in a dryer?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Universities offering more educational opportunities to attractive students

In a recent posting I noted the trend toward increasing enrollment during sluggish economic times appears to be limited to physically attractive people. Recent ads for graduate schools are featuring students with big smiles, tans and tight tops. Are these model actual students or are the staffs of university public affairs departments borrowing a page from product advertising? The models in ads for degrees including doctorates are just as likely to populate the pages of talent books.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Download yourself to AX's lust land

Armani Exchange is leaving no male backside covered in its Summer 2009 campaign. More important, those who what to surround themselves with these images can download them to their computers and mobile devices as screensavers, icons, wallpaper and badges.

Imagine slightly more European models in Abercrombie catalogs and you have the AX campaign. Instead of just boys romping together, this time the protagonist is a woman and she’s doing her best to straddle, kiss, embrace, and get her way into two men’s pants.

AX is branding itself as sexy, playful and chic with a summer twist. It’s a land of tan chiseled men and sexually assertive women, all who wear Armani when convenient. For those who want to be part of this scene, who find these images compelling, they can download these lustful images into their lives and share them with friends. No more tearing pages from Cosmo and tacking them to the bulletin board. In this way digital technology allows advertisers to infuse their brand images beyond the pages of a magazine.

Text AX to ARMANI [276264] for image download/signup. Downloads are free. Text AX requires opt-in for up to 3 messsages p/mo. Standard rates/data charges may apply. Participating carriers only.

AX is simply branding its clothing: “This is how we think of our brand and how we want to be perceived.” Just good old sex-in-fashion-advertising. But these images also communicate messages about social and sexual norms and ideals. And with the power to surround oneself with these images, the stronger is their power to resonate with consumers.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Sales of sexual accessories up during down times

Sales of off-the-shelf “sexual accessories” are selling extremely well, even during the recession, reports Advertising Age’s Jack Neff. Personal lubricant sales increased 32% in Q1-09, led by Johnson & Johnson’s K-Y “Yours and Mine” line, and K-Y “Intense,” the “first major mass-market female-arousal gel” (available at Wal-Mart).

In addition, sales are up 74% year-over-year for “sexual-enhancement devices”—products such as Trojan’s Vibrating Touch (that fits on one’s fingertip).

It seems that no one can explain with complete certainty the increase in sales during slow economic times. Some claim people are staying home and having more sex; reconnecting with each other. Could be. But I think Neff has it right when he says that until recently no one has ever applied “consumer packaged-goods” research and marketing to these types of products. “…The reality is that some of this was always a pretty big business, just not one conducted in grocery, drug or mass-merchandise stores…”

Johnson & Johnson and Church & Dwight have been legitimizing sexual accessories and lubricants and taking them mainstream. There is a market out there that has been neglected. According to Jim Daniels, VP-marketing for Trojan, “These are areas where there are unmet consumer needs…the industry really hadn’t paid that much attention to [this area] until recent years.” Estimates are that sexual devices alone is a $1 billion market.

Jack Neff, (2009), "Is Recession Sex Even Better Than Makeup Sex?", Advertising Age, 25 May, p. 2.