QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is There Too Much Sexual Imagery in Advertising?
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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is There Too Much Sexual Imagery in Advertising?
It must be the first thing people learn in Advertising 101: Sex sells

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is There Too Much Sexual Imagery in Advertising?
It must be the first thing people learn in Advertising 101: Sex sells. Agencies and clients cling to the belief that sex cuts through the clutter even at a time when sexual imagery is the clutter, so commonplace has it become. Often, of course, they’re right. But promiscuous use of such images rubs plenty of consumers the wrong way. Or at the very least, it’s making them feel they ought to be dismayed, whether they really are or not. In a nationwide poll conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates of Hermosa Beach, Calif., people were asked whether they think there’s too much sexual imagery in ads. A landslide 73 percent said there is, with respondents in the 35-49 age bracket even more likely to say so. The question also revealed a large gender gap, with 84 percent of the women and 58 percent of the men answering affirmatively. Does this mean men hold more broad-minded opinions about the place of sex in popular culture? Instead, one suspects that men are simply reluctant to let their socio-political principles interfere with the pleasure they take in seeing depictions of aroused and arousing women. (Think of it as compartmentalization.) Among women, the percentage who find advertising oversexed seems much higher than one could account for by pointing to feminist censoriousness. Given the high concentration of “yes” votes among the 35-49-year-olds, one could argue that many women–whether offended or not on their own behalf–view sexual displays in ads through worried parental eyes.
I SAID NO! The Crying Game
No wonder parents avoid the candy aisle. In a reader poll by Child, people were asked: “In which aisle of the supermarket is your child most likely to throw a temper tantrum?” Cited by an exasperated 42 percent of parents, candy land easily outpolled the cookie section (26 percent). Readers were also asked which of several women they would not allow to babysit their kids. Madonna (don’t quit your day job!) was nixed by 49 percent, edging out Fran “The Nanny” Drescher (42 percent). And if it takes a village to yield a babysitter, Hillary Clinton is a villager 30 percent of parents would not trust in that role. Among other tidbits from the survey: More than half the respondents would like their kids to become doctors. And, as you can see from the chart, they’d rather have clean clothes than reheated food.
MIXED BLESSINGS: Giving Due Credit, Marlins vs. Mothers, Etc.
Standards may have declined in much of modern life. When it comes to scandals, though, we’ve become connoisseurs, and it now takes an awfully outrageous one to hold our attention. Charges of bribery in the selection of host cities for the Olympics might have stayed on the front pages a decade ago, but it doesn’t make the cut by today’s more rigorous standards. Even so, the absence of avid interest in the matter doesn’t mean the Olympic image is altogether unscathed. A Gallup poll released earlier this month found 21 percent of respondents saying they’ve lost “a lot” or “a fair amount” of respect for the Games, while another 32 percent have lost “a little” respect. The scandal also has prompted people to rethink the nature of the event, and many aren’t pleased by its creeping professionalization. Sixty-six percent favored the exclusion of pro athletes from the Games, versus 30 percent preferring to see the best competitors regardless of pro or amateur status.
Agencies reuse each other’s ideas all the time. Every once in a while, though, they make a point of giving credit where credit is due. In linking the new Beetle to the original, ads for a North Carolina Volkswagen dealer (via West & Vaughan of Raleigh) reprise the layouts from Doyle Dane Bernbach’s famous ’60s campaign. Small print acknowledges the debt: “In memory of Helmut Krone 1925-1997.” We’ll watch to see (without holding our breath) whether this sparks a trend in which agencies disclose their recycling of other agencies’ ideas.
What’s that thing under the cobwebs in your kitchen? Could be the ice- cream maker. In a poll by Bon Appƒtit, 23 percent of readers cited that contraption as the “least-used item in the kitchen.” Close behind were the espresso/cappuccino maker (21 percent) and the blender (20 percent).
Honors for Best Job of Stirring Up Inter-Species Resentment go this week to an ad for Stren fishing line. Actually, if an 800-pound marlin is “talkin’ bad about your mother,” you may prefer to side with the fish than with ma. But the folks at Long Haymes Carr of Winston-Salem, N.C., are betting you’re more gallant than that.