Should Marketers Eliminate Sex As An Advertising Strategy?
And now for a completely different point of view. Previously we wrote about a story in the Hendersonville News in which a woman named Susan Hanley Lane shares her feelings regarding a racy Skechers billboard she saw when she was with her father in law as he was getting haircut. Noting the odd juxtaposition of the two figures on the billboard having simulated sex advertising-style, with the presence of her father in law and two small girls playing outside near the board, Susan makes a convincingly cogent argument that, perhaps, we've taken this sex sells thing a bit too far. Wait, what? Did we just write that?
She notes the walled garden that used to be called childhood has collapsed and has been replaced, at least for girls, by girlhood. In other words, kids aren't kids anymore but have, because of the continual presence of adult imagery, become young hotties in training. And can you blame them what with marketers selling bras to pre-teens and hypersexualizing everything else?
If you step back for a minute, you'll realize it's a bit odd that young kids are routinely exposed to this sort of imagery and sold clothing that's hardly age appropriate. Many simply say, "Oh, just don't look. Turn the TV off. Monitor what your kids read and what they do online." Well, sure. That's all good but it's also like trying to juggle 12 tons of Jello while riding a unicycle. It's not possible. Kids are resourceful. If they want to see or do something, they'll find a way around parental blockage.
Acknowledging that, one could argue if the racy imagery that is now commonplace wasn't there in the first place, kids who circumvent so called blockage would find nothing more that a fully clothed Betty Crocker staring back at them.
There's really no answer to this conundrum. After all, inherently, there's absolutely nothing wrong with sex. It's natural. It's healthy. It's normal. Everyone does it. However, for one to successfully navigate the murky waters of that adult form of human engagement, one must possess a certain degree of wisdom achieved only through age, education and experience. Try telling a 13 year old girl, today, she doesn't need to wear a thong, a midriff-baring top and do-me shoes while dancing in front of a webcam. Try telling a 13 year old boy he shouldn't drop everything he's doing and dive right into all that.
It's not sexual desire or sexual attractiveness that's any different than it was 20, 50, 100 years ago. It's that it's in our face 24/7. In 1900, a guy might go months without ever seeing an image of a woman. In the eighties, Madonna wore more clothes that today's average high school sophomore. There's no turning back the clock to Puritanical times nor are we advocating that. Perhaps, what's needed is a bit more thoughtful consideration during the development of marketing campaigns as to the effect sexually laced advertising (and yes, it's not entirely advertising's fault but we can't solve all the world's problems here) imagery has on young, ill-prepared minds.
While many may enjoy the Paris Hilton Carl's, Jr. sex-with-a-Bentley ad or the disrobing hotties of Virtual Bartender or Diesel's Mad Mamacitas anything from Agent Provocateur and American Apparel, not everyone is over the age of 18 and ready to be bombarded with sexual imagery. Many who view marketer-created images like that are not. Think about that the next time you want to hire a bevy of bikini-clad models with 34DDDs.