Let’s take a first example. There I was, innocently flipping through the pages of a marketing magazine. In the small ads at the back, my eye is caught by… oh dear. Ok, you got me. But then I read the ad: “Sex … you get elsewhere. We do great design.”
Really? Not for me you won’t. If I need a classy bit of design, you’re not doing it. You’d be fine for puerile design targetted at spotty 16-year-olds, but not much else. Your ad did not sell you, it gained you ATTENTION (or Awareness as it’s most commonly called in the AIDA process).
Let’s be clear about this: SEX attracts certain customers, mainly male (who tend to be more visually orientated than women anyway – men have porn mags, women have those schmalzy romantic novels).
But just shouting the loudest at the Sunday market doesn’t sell you more. It just gets people to notice you.
So can sex be used effectively to sell? Hmm. Let’s look at an extremely daring example from BtB. This is for (wait for it…) a fork-lift truck. A company keen to emphasise its exclusive distribution agreement to represent Hyster in Germany. They openly admit in the ad that “Otherwise nobody will look again. Admittedly it’s the oldest trick in the book. Sex sells. But choice do we have? Fork-lift trucks aren’t really sexy. Not even Hyster’s. But we still need to tell you something…” and then they list some boring facts about more service, leasing, exclusivity agreements, etc.
Well, apart from being honest (and somewhat self deprecating), is there any sense in what this advertiser is doing?
Think about the people who buy or hire fork-lifts for businesses. I reckon there will be two target markets. One: the buyer – probably a promoted warehouseman now responsible for equipping his department. Could be a simple, down-to-earth man in his 40s or older. Two: fork-lift truck drivers. Yes, they will have some influence over the boss – they do drive the things after all.
Somethings both target audiences have in common: they probably love Pirelli calendars, page 3 girls, etc. So this ad will hit them right between the eyes. In those terms, the ad is well formulated and thinking on the right wavelength for its target audience.
Will it sell more fork-lift trucks though? Hmm. Perhaps. If it combines some compelling reasons to keep reading the copy. And if using cleavage does not damage the image of the company. So at least this example is a bit better thought through than the first one. But I’m not convinced it will actually sell products. The only guarantee you have with ads like this, is that you get the attention you needed.
(Comments on this issue are more than welcome…)