Thursday, November 04, 2010

Bare Necessities: To Sell or Not To Sell

Bare Necessities: To Sell or Not To Sell

We are surrounded by more and more different forms of advertising every day. Billboards, signs, magazine covers – each form of media desperately competing for a piece of mind share. It is a fact that many people are drawn to images of half naked and even bare naked men and women who in some way are suppose to stimulate us to get us to purchase products that they endorse. True, this strategy is an attention-grabber and it tends to be popular in advertising. However, the real question is: “Does sex effectively sell”?

While browsing through piles of advertisements, one must ask themselves if people really care about models going bare. What is so interesting about nude models on the covers of different fashion magazines? Gone seem the days when bare naked models would just appear inside a copy of Playboy or Penthouse Magazine! There is a good and a bad side to the world of nudity in fashion advertising. It would appear that designer clothing and the latest trends isn’t what’s making the cover of fashion magazines nowadays.

Everyday we are greeted by magazine covers of celebrities and models who bare it all “in the name of fashion.” Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, who is a famous reality TV star, recently posed for a November 2010 cover for W Magazine. The issue was W Magazine's Annual “Art Issue.” Ms. Kardashian was wearing – well nothing at all except silver body paint! According to an interview for Harpers Bazaar, she was “sorry” she stripped down for Playboy Magazine back in 2007. However, she believed that posing nude for W Magazine was a different scenario since she had her mother, Kris Jenner's support and eagerly telling Ms. Kardashian to “Go for it!.” This pattern of “baring it all,” doesn't end in print or billboard, it also occurs in runways especially during Fashion Week.

Designer Charlie Le Mindu showcased his hat wear collection during London Fashion Week 2010 by sending models down his runways stark naked with nothing but his headwear accessories. Le Mindu is well known as a wigmaker and one of his most famous clients is the famous singer, Lady Gaga. Le Mindu told a magazine that the objective of this runway show was to, “emphasize more on the headwear collection rather than the nude figures.”

It’s self-evident that sex appeal can increase the effectiveness of an ad or marketing campaign because it attracts customer's attention. It is after all human nature to be curious about sex therefore increasing the potential of selling a product. For example, a well-built male model can appeal to a female audience and a buxom female model with long legs can appeal to a male audience. These are images that we face more and more every day. The perception it projects that this is the norm, when in reality the majority of the population don’t look anything like the models in advertisements is nothing to be debated. Using sex appeal seems to lead some consumers to be more insecure about their own looks.

Despite the fact that using sex appeal can rake in big profits and draw a potential new consumer base to your product, the misuse of sex appeal can be very costly. Many advertising companies have gone under due to the backlash of using sex as a tool in their advertising campaigns. In May 2009, Cunning Stunts, an agency that was responsible for one of the most memorable publicity stunts in the 1990s, closed for business. Their stunt consisted of projecting a nude image of a former TV host in London, Gail Porter, on the House of Parliament in 1999 for FHM Magazine. Cunning Stunts closed up shop due to the fact that not many people understood the way they projected their marketing stunts. According to Cunning Stunts founder, Anna Carloss, the PR agency had to fold since a major client had pulled the plug at the end of 2009 and the agency had failed to recover. This proves that sometimes not everyone will relate to your ideas and out-of-the-box theories.

On a more positive note, nakedness in the advertising world doesn’t need to be all that pessimistic. Take Mark for example, he helped raise $50,000 for testicular cancer awareness and all the while he had one mission to accomplish: stay at home for 25 days in his underwear! Yes, Mark, an average person like you and me spent 25 entire days advertising on the social sphere and with the help of one of the oldest form of advertising, word of mouth, attained his objective for his dear cause while only wearing Stanfield’s underwear. So, while we have the typical naked model on the cover of a magazine to stimulate your attention, there are definitely other creative ways to grab people’s attention.

So to conclude of all this, I think it’s fair to say that I don’t anticipate seeing naked models fade out anytime soon, it is interesting to see that perhaps a more creative and thoughtful way of using sex appeal through advertising will take on the job of stimulating our brain. The fact that we know by now that sex does sell, most of us just want that feeling of being attractive and sexy or do sexy things. Thus, it seems like a pretty firm strategy to push and sell items using sex appeal. One wonders what the future holds. Is this the future of fashion? Are all values of self image and self respect gone to oblivion? The days of covering up and being modest or shy are long overdue. Wherever you turn advertisers use sex appeal everywhere. This student is longing to see the days when ads made you laugh and were memorable without being racy or raunchy. Call me old fashioned. However, I still believe in the good ol' values and the mystery behind everyone, “underneath it all.” Although some may find this article to be of bland nature, perhaps what sold you were the pictures.

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