Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sexy ads: 3 tests and the Reef girls

Sex sells. Sexy ads are attention grabbing ... a well executed sexy ad stands out from the media crowd. Sexy ads also generate great word-of-mouth. People will spread the word about titillating ads, and nothing is more powerful in marketing than free buzz.

What makes a good sexy ad?

In the classic Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy wrote:
The first advertisement I ever produced showed a naked woman. It was a mistake, not because it was sexy, but because it was irrelevant to the product - a cooking stove.

The test is relevance. To show bosoms in a detergent advertisement would not sell the detergent. Nor is there any excuse for the sexy girls you sometimes see draped across the hoods in automobile advertisements. On the other hand, there is a functional reason to show nudes in advertisements for beauty products.
Relevance is a good start, but I suggest 3 tests for evaluating sexy ads:
  1. Do you remember what the ad sold? Or do you only remember the sex? There's a car ad airing on television that features a beautiful woman in a very tight skirt. She picks up her keys, struts outside to her car, and presses the gas pedal with her very high heels. I've seen the ad several times, but I have no idea what car is advertised.
  2. Is the ad "hot" enough to be remarkable (literally)? Good sexy ads generate blog entries and water-cooler talk. Bad ones are as easily forgettable as any other ads.
  3. Is the sexy ad part of a whole brand identity or just a one-off titillation? Reef is a world leader in beach sandals and such ("surf-inspired footwear"). The company's success is closely linked with the Reef girls, although a girl in a tiny bikini in a surfwear ad is hardly remarkable. The remarkable thing about Reef ads is that the girls have their back to the camera, and the ad theme carried on year after year. Years of repetition of ads featuring the nearly naked rear-ends of surfer babes have fixed the brand in the mind of teenagers. Reef "owns" the perky-butt sexy-ad-niche.

You too can make powerful sexy ads like Reef. Just follow the 3 rules. I'll post more on sexy ads in a week.

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