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Sex Sells (Duh!): A look at some sexy/sexist ads (Jerome A. Holst © 2005)

The old adage "sex sells" has raised its controversial head recently in a series of TV commercials that offer the promise of sex (or sexual experience) if you buy the sponsor's product.

Take Paris Hilton, a socialite-turned-actress, whose current 30- second appearance in a Carl's Jr. "That's Hot" Spicy BBQ burger campaign is turning heads. Scantily clad in a sexy and revealing swimsuit, Paris seductively washes a black Bentley automobile with wild, soapy abandon.

Paris Hilton
Eat that nasty burger!

In between sudsing the car and herself, Paris pulls out a hefty Carl's Jr. hamburger which she sensuously devours on camera for an intended target audience of adolescent male (and assorted lesbian) consumers.

“This commercial is basically soft-core porn,” said Melissa Caldwell, research director for the Parents Television Council. “It’s inappropriate for television.”

Hilton's ad is similar to a 30-second 2003 Monday Night Football TV commercial for Sirius Satellite Radio starring Pamela Anderson who wore a wet tank-top as she scrubbed down a young man's car with her curvaceous body (and polished the chrome with her bottom).

Sex is also the prominent focus in another spot for Gillette Company's TAG Body Spray for Men ("uniquely designed to attract the ladies. Consider Yourself Warned"). While not as salacious as the Paris Hilton spot, it is just as suggestive as an unsuspecting male is attacked by various females whose wanton lust can not be controlled.

Tag - Consider Yourself Warned!

What would provoke such a feeding frenzy? Well, the sweet fragrance of TAG Body Spray (fresh citrus, amber, cedar wood and musk) is so sexy a smell that wearers of TAG Body Spray take their lives in their own hands (being manhandled and mauled) when using the product. Just one splash from the pheromone-ally potent product will have women climbing out of the woodwork and ready to jump your bones and other naughty bits.

Now these commercials, may be a little extreme for some, but they certainly are not off target from similar commercial product pitches from yesteryears.

As a way of recalling just what was outrageous in the past, I've put together a list of some classic TV spots that successfully tapped into the "sex sells" message that titillates us all.


Here are my Top "5" classic picks

Gunilla Knutson - Noxzema Medicated Instant Shave CreamNoxzema Shaving Cream - This 1960s ad was the "Paris Hilton" ad of its time. While the 2005 Paris Hilton ad has the beautiful blonde-haired hotel heiress slathering suds all over the surface of a motor vehicle, the Noxzema spot starred attractive eighteen-year-old Swedish-born blond model Gunilla Knutson who teasingly urged men to use Noxzema Medicated Instant Shave Cream as they scraped off their facial hair in neat, clean rows to David Rose's rousing pop hit melody "The Stripper." By commercial's end, Gunilla lovingly caresses the cheeks of the now clean-shaven man as well as the canister of Noxzema shaving cream lotion. The ad's suggestive catchphrase "Take it off, take it all off" prompted Rhode Island Senator John Pastore, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, to urge TVs Code Review to prevent such "egregious sex" from airing on television. The ad campaign was created by William Esty Advertising Agency.

TRIVIA NOTE: In 1976, a Braniff Airlines ad featured a "stripping" theme and the promise of sex for the lucky fliers of their airlines. In the ads, a beautiful stewardess was more than happy to "slip into something more comfortable" for that long evening flight ahead so she could more effectively service her passengers. The stewardess then removed her official airline outfit by doing a striptease act in front of (one can only assume) her delighted passengers. The slogan for the campaign proclaimed "Because even an airline hostess should look like a girl."


Swedish Bikini TeamSwedish Bikini Team - If you can sell sex with one person like Gunilla Knutson or Paris Hilton, imagine if you used five? That was the strategy of the Hal Riney & Partners Ad Agency in San Francisco who created The Swedish Bikini Team, a group of scantily-clad gorgeous blondes featured in a series of Old Milwaukee beer spots in the early 1990s. According to their TV commercials, when males vacationing in the mountains, on the beach or in the water became bored and thirsty, the Swedish Bikini Team miraculously arrived to rescue them from their doldrums by providing Old Milwaukee Beer and the companionship of beautiful bikini-clad beer bimbos. Although received fondly by many appreciative male viewers (who saw the spots as spoofs of all beer commercials), the Swedish Bikini Team was maligned by those who felt the commercial's alleged message "It doesn't get better than this" associated "sexual conquest with drinking."


Victoria's Secret 'Angels' Print Ad with Stephanie SeymourVictoria Secret's Angels - These sexy, celestial mascots advertise Victoria Secret's sheer, seamless lingerie with a heavenly fit. As the tagline for the product explained "Good angels go to heaven, Victoria's Secret angels go everywhere." Among the "Angels" used in the original promotion were Argentine model Maria Ines Rivero, Brazilian beauty Adriana Lima, German enchantress Heidi Klum (pronounced "Kloom"), feisty American Rebecca Romijn, and the luscious Tyra Banks (the first black model to make the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue). The Angels campaign was fairly straight forward. Barely dress-up a bunch of hot supermodels with fanciful angel wings and have them cavort down a catwalk clad in seductively-styled lingerie. According to supermodel Stephanie Seymour, "The angels are basically a concept that came from a line of bras that were very pure, very seamless, very...sort of transparent."

Victoria Secrets Angels

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