This Resort Wants to Blow Up Clichéd Romance Ads by Going Right to the Steamier Stuff

Why settle for flowers when you can address sensuality head-on?

Love is messy. Relationships dampen and need work to rekindle. You know this—or in any case, you will. Then (if you aren’t already) you’ll likely be inducted into the fraternity of people who hate depictions of couples staring out into the sunset, or walking along the beach hand in hand.

That insight—that people despise such hackneyed, lukewarm tropes of romance—drives the first-ever TV campaign for AMResorts’ Secret Resorts & Spas. Titled “Make a Secret” and created by Mustache Agency, it gets right down to business.

Forget foreplay, limp flowers and Hallmark cards. The first thing you hear is a heady moan, followed by a gunshot—then it’s off to the races!

No, there’s no actual sex. But if we were still adolescents in a pre-internet age, we’d be channel-surfing late at night on the off-chance of catching this, likely in the middle of a Silk Stalkings ad break.

Secrets Resorts & Spas is adult-only, so the approach makes sense: Those words alone promise something illicit. It’s the kind of place where couples can forget themselves and slip into something a little more leopard-printed, away from the libido-dampening pressures of work, kids and Google Calendar.

The ad is supported by a Make a Secret microsite and meme generator so people can #MakeASecret, though transforming one into a meme defeats the purpose of having a secret in the first place.

Still, we’re good sports, so we played ball:

The strange inclusion of a meme generator aside, there’s something about “Make a Secret” that rubs us in an unsexy way … and it isn’t even just the wincingly dated lack of diversity. Despite Secret’s derision of “brands living in the dark ages of flowers, chocolates and cheesy cards” (lifted from the pressie), there are many clichés shown here, too.

Sure, they’re steamy clichés. But if your stock-photo site of choice had a special section just for grownups, you’d likely find these: Couples kissing underwater. Intimate feeding. Chocolate-covered strawberries. Wet hair. (So much wet hair!) And the promise of sex on the beach.

Have you ever had sex on the beach? Tell us how that goes.

The unfortunate thing about this work is that it seems to think people hate idyllic couple shots, or boxes of chocolate, because they lack sex appeal. This isn’t true. It’s about the lazy repetition of their use, which cultivates assumptions about what relationships should be like.

Ultimately, we resent them because they fail to reveal how much more complex love is than a shared photogenic gaze into the horizon.

If Secret had considered this, the result might have taken more time and required more work. It would have meant thinking out of prescribed pictures of “sexy sex,” and digging into the contexts that actual sex-having people find sexy, and why.

But this isn’t what happened. What we got is one set of clichés replaced with other, equally hackneyed, clichés. (Try having sex under water. Just try.)

Love is messy. But sex is, too—and both are diverse, vibrant, surprising and compelling. This? Not so much.