Hypocrisy riddles advertising when it comes to sex. Some interesting dichotomies were discussed at Blogworld Expo 2010 such as the portrayal of acceptable sex in the media. The delineating line in advertising being romantic sex is ok to use for sales but sex for the sake of sex is not. For example, KY Jelly ads always portrays married couples having sex. The message being, recreational sex is OK if you are married.
Of course this is not a new message or a new issue. In the United States married sex is truly the only kind of sex that is OK to promote, whether it be recreational or procreational. Sex between unmarried people for pure pleasure is frowned upon, at least in advertising.
Now outright sex might be frowned upon but implied sex, ie. provocative imagery, is not. At least it is not frowned on for everyone.
The ability to utilize provocative imagery in advertising is inherently tied to the purveyor of the imagery. The brand is the ambassador not their image. So if the brand is respectable then sexually provocative imagery will be accepted, but if the brand is not considered mainstream acceptable then even conservatively provocative imagery will be viewed as innappropriate. This of course is a generalization. We do see backlash when even respectable brands push the envelope too far. But they can still push the envelope much farther than so-called not respectable brands.
The image to the left is a Calvin Klein ad that is featured in mainstream magazines. Similar ads are on billboards in major cities, off highways and scattered across the country. The image to the left is a billboard for Adultcon, an adult entertainment convention. The Adultcon billboard was asked to be taken down because of its proximity to a school despite there being nothing provocative about the billboard. The only questionable thing it says is “Adult” and that word is not that questionable, though many would consider the inferred industry to be questionable.
Interestingly though, if you search “Porn Billboard Ad” in Google images, the first image you see is not some big breasted heaving porn star. Nope Jenna Jameson was the third image! An ad by Calvin Klein
is the first.