Sex Sells

A little while ago I was speaking to a group of marketing students about ‘life in a PR agency’ and one of their Professors asked whether I would take on any company as a client, irrespective of whether it was doing something immoral or illegal. I answered that I wouldn’t work for a company that was doing something illegal, but immoral… well, first, how do you define immoral – what is immoral to one person is not to another – and second, I am in business and the need to pay the salaries can sometimes outweigh the wish to only work for the ‘perfect’ company, and whilst I might turn down a client that is doing something that I think would be difficult to promote, or that I just don’t like, I wasn’t sure about the ‘morality issue’.

The reason that I am writing about this topic now, is that there has just been a big to do in the Czech media about the advertising of a pill that is similar to Viagra at the recent ice hockey world championships – apparently Czech TV has received numerous complaints about the organisers and the broadcasters allowing such advertising as children would be watching, and now there is a lot of discussion about the rights and wrongs of this type of advertisement and where and how it should be allowed.

I have to say that I, personally, am astonished at the furor, since here in the Czech Republic it is generally difficult to go very far down any street without coming across an ‘Erotic City’ sex shop or worse, and where, over the years, there have been many advertising campaigns that would never be allowed in the UK or US – for example, a billboard campaign with a very well-endowed young lady with a near to non-existent top holding a glass of beer, and wording along the lines of “wouldn’t you like a nice jug?” (or similar)….

The thing is, sex sells, and in the case of the ice hockey advertising and this particular brand, I would have had absolutely no qualms about working for the company myself, and would, in fact, be completely in agreement that it made obvious sense – the ideal target audience for what is being promoted, huge exposure that would, one would expect, generate significant sales against a reasonable expenditure, and lots of room for PR – actually, had I been working for them I would be rubbing my hands together at all the additional exposure that the complaining millions have brought about in the media??!

Taking the whole situation a bit further, one has to wonder whether there is something else going on here – maybe it is OK to promote women as sex objects or women for sale, but not to advertise the fact that not all men are as virile as we are led to believe..?!!!