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October 2007


Hi Laura,

still bullXXXing on the iPhone??? You are right, Apple should stop selling the iPhone. It's just a distraction!!! LOL. If Apple had a dozen phone products that might be a distraction. But they are focusing on just one to make it perfect. Very clever indeed. Forget about your convergence/divergence bullshit. You obviously don't know what you are talking about.

" BMW narrowed its focus to 'driving'". What kind of bullocks is that?

Phil Cooke

Couldn't agree with you more. In my new book, "Branding Faith: Why Some Churches and Non-Profits Impact the Culture and Others Don't" (brandingfaith.com), I echo your thoughts. It's about presenting a compelling vision for your organization, not going for the short term gain. Sex gets their attention, but doesn't sell product or vision.

Cathy Baradell

What happened to using wit and humor to sell fast food? Like the Eat more Chicken campaign by Chick-fil-A?

John Nesheim

Huddled in the corner of the meeting room (a long time ago) I heard Bill Bernbach tell a frustrated creative team "When all else fails, try sex."

When sex becomes the solution, get smart: short the stock, make a bundle and move on.

Laura, once more you cut through the clutter to the central issue. Keep the fine thinking (for us) coming.

weight loss

As a strong advocate of health and fitness I find these burger king commercials as tasteless and disgusting as the company itself

Greg Gillispie

TV ads got sexier after the after the Janet Jackson "accident."

Radio became petrified that any sexual show or advertising content would cost the license and told stations "NO sex."

Now Proctor & Gamble director of multicultural marketing Najoh Tita-Reid says when P&G considers advertising avenues, radio is "almost irrelevant" for most campaigns. Why? For one, she says "it's not as sexy" as TV.

Much like most Super Bowl ads, brands using sexy ads will most likely be forgotten.

And soon, there will be so many sexy ads someone will come up with a different concept. Now, if only the US could loosen the ropes to allow companies to use European-style content...


Thank Laura for continuing post great articles and for your always great advice.

I totally agree that sex is totally overrated in ads for no reason other than shocking. Which takes the focus from the products to sex. I think sex could be used if done in the right way.

Look at Abercrombie & Fitch all their communication is focused on sex. They own the word SEX. I think it's a great idea.

One question comes to my mind how clear should communication be. Let's take for example Diesel jeans. When they launched the brand Levi's advertising message would be something like you will be happy and successful if you use Levi's jeans. Diesel did the opposite their advertising slogan was "for successful living" but ironically the ads showed the opposite of successful living. They played on irony and became the rebel to do the opposite of levi´s.

Diesel is owning the word of being a rebel. Not the most obvious would be to think of them owning the word successful.

What do you think of this kind of strategies? Should they have been more clear about what word they are trying to own in the mind?

My information tells Diesel have been very successful with their campaigns

Ben Bacon

Advertising is defensive in nature, is it not? So it should be defending/reinforcing the unique position of the brand, yes?

Does Paris defend the "gluttony" position of the Carl's Jr. brand? A bit, if gluttony and lust can be overlapped in the realm of the 7 Deadly Sins. Is it believable? Hardly.

Laura wrote about Tiger Woods and the Buick brand being a poor fit, simply because it is not believable that Tiger would push a Buick over a Jag or Rolls. The same situation applies here: Paris + Carl's Jr.? Psh.

Do the boys singing a Bizzaro World remix to Sir Mix-A-Lot's ode to plump defend the "gluttony" position of the brand? Eh, ish?

I must say this: they are reaching their target demo; I am not sure if they are intending to sell burgers or sexy teachers and skanky, spoiled hotel heiresses, but they are certainly do make a provocative case for the latter.

Carl's Jr.: Sinful. If that was their position, then FIRE AWAY with the teachers and models and nurses and whatever. Otherwise, stick to the script!

I am just outside of that awkward 18-24 male demo. I don't eat fast food, and I don't drink beer.

When the catfight commercial aired, I diverted my attention, in large part out of respect for the girls with whom I was watching the Super Bowl.

When the Carl's Jr. commercial aired, I flicked the switch on my Tivo and got back to the Cardinals game.

As a matter of fact, the only commercials that I don't skip are the Southwest "Wanna Get Away?" commercials. THOSE commercials reinforce the "freedom" position of Southwest.

I think I'll save my gluttony burger/hot teacher money for a plane ticket on Southwest to San Diego instead.

Sex is laziness to the tune of $100 million. Shame on an agency.


Hi Laura,

yes, i have also felt that unnecessary inclusion of sex- esp. suggestive ads, but considering Obama girl campaign, bikini car wash and like..somehow it has become part of the society of glamourising sex...

it doesn't match however with a hamburger I feel..

Martin Calle

A P&G marketer in the food and beverage division once defined his version of "branding" as "something you do when you don't really have anything important to say." I thought that was beautiful, as are the bodies employed to get my attention. I believe marketers employ sex in ads when they've done no homework, are shooting from the hip, and don't really have anything important to say. What would be important? How about a strategic message that calls me to action like, How do you get McDonald's parents to stay with the brand once their kids start driving their own cars. McDonald's has never been able to crack that nut regardless of the McAngus, nor The Quarter Pounder - and I ran the account during my Leo Burnett days. But the linear thinker's straight forward problem solving solution to that would just be to show mom's and dads sneaking in to McDonalds on their own when no one was looking. And Burnett's "try them again for the very first time" didn't work for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes either. The answer is not a product story. The answer is not "if you make it they will come." The answer is found in some 100 different "hidden selling dimension" more relevant and resonant to a particular audience. Do I go to McDs because it consistently serves the same burger, the same quality burger no matter where I go? Yes. Do I go to McDs because there's one on every corner, my kids think it's fun, and sometimes I just get a hankering for that "taste" that leaves you feeling a little queezy 12.638 minutes after ingesting a Big Mac - sometimes. But I'd be more inclined to "choose" McDonald's more often if communications focused on any number of over 100 selling dimensions the brand has failed to identify and leverage since the day Ray Kroc purchased prototype location one from Dick and Maurice McD in 1961. Using sex to sell, while admittedly fun for some is the ultimate expression of lazy awareness and recognition generation defined as "if you throw enough crap against the wall, with your name added, some of it might stick." And to think some men and women actually get paid or get to call themselves CMO or "marketer" for this. The bar has dropped so low.

Cam Beck

When you get right down to it, how much exactly does sex need to be sold?

It's hard for me to judge the effectiveness of the ads, because I must pay attention to ads, advertisers, and how they make the news. Carl's Paris ads were big news at the time because they dealt with a person who was in the news.

Did it sell burgers? Not directly. I doubt the non sequitur ads made males 18-24 think that buy buying a burger they'd get to meet or stand any chance with Paris Hilton. But I don't think it was their goal to get people into the stores through that reasoning; it was to just build awareness.

I guess it worked. (?) But it is a short-term strategy I'm not likely to recommend. We're judged by more than monetary results, anyway.

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