Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prediction: Less sex in advertising in 2013

At Cannes Lions this summer, Susanna Kempe, CEO of WGSN, predicted for 2013 that “overt sexualisation” will be out. She should know; WGSN is a leading trend analysis firm servicing the apparel and design industries. This global business spots macro-trends and seeks to keep clients “on trend” or at least ahead of the curve.

Apparel and designer brands have long been at the forefront of sexual explicitness in advertising and marketing. Dolce & Gabbana has faced scrutiny for ads that crossed many lines, as have American Apparel and other designer brands with ad featuring adult themes, homoeroticism, bondage or nudity.

It was once explained to me that designer brands, at least in consumer magazines where there are page-after-page competition, must do something to stand out from the crowd. This can include pushing boundaries and flirting with sexual taboos. Being at the forefront—important for exclusive brands—also means associating your brand with elite fringe social trends.

Research generally shows that sexual content in advertising continues to increase each year. But there are exceptions. In the 1980s, for instance, ads displaying hook-ups and anonymous sexual situations took back seat to stories of ‘sex within committed relationships’ as awareness of HIV increased. Similarly, Sam Shahid has said that advertising reflects the cultural and political barometer: It even reflects who occupies the White House (less under W., more under Clinton).

What other routes may designers take in 2013 other than overt sexuality? Simplicity, letting luxury speak for itself and “deteching”—or moving away from too much social media (read more here), say Kempe and WGSN. It will be interesting to see if their predictions are accurate.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Diesel successfully exploits the link between fragrance and fashion, and sex

Use with extreme caution. That's the advice of marketing researcher and consultant Bob Brecht in a recent post about sex in advertising. Dr. Brecht refers to industry research concluding that sexual appeals are effective at grabbing attention but tend to drain attention away from brand information. Rightly, he also makes the point that product relevance to sex is key to use of this emotional appeal.

I'm reminded of the accompanying ad for Diesel fragrance for men. This adappeared in public posters (at least in France) this summer as well as in magazines. The message is that Diesel cologne is "fuel for life" and, I suppose, an important component of male virility. Fortunately the ad contains a warning, "Use with caution," so that young men will be mindful of the cologne's effects.

Whether effective or not, fragrance does have a legitimate claim to relevance with sexual attraction. The use of sexual appeals is not new for Diesel. In addition to attracting attention to its ads with sex (and judges at Cannes Lions), Diesel continues to successfully employ this appeal to market its products.