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.

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