by J. L. Sloss
Sex on TV is nothing new. Not hardcore sex, of course, like you might see in a full-length movie on HBO. I’m talking about scenes that might be in an episode of a standard TV series or soap opera. The “sex” is typically implied and certainly not pornographic, so usually, no big deal. But, lately I’ve seen a sexually focused approach used in TV ads where it doesn’t have anything to do with the product. So, I’ve wondered why companies are positioning their products this way.
• The first one I noticed was Rug Doctor. That’s the rug cleaning machine you can rent in a supermarket or hardware store. The ad shows three scenes with different male/female couples on a sofa. Scene #1: the woman says, “We do it once a year.” Scene #2: another woman says, “I had to wake him up on our anniversary to do it.” Scene #3: the man says, “We do it twice a year, whether we need to or not.”
Are you kidding me?!? So, being me, I wrote to the company. They actually answered me saying, “[We] really wanted people to understand the importance carpet cleaning has towards a healthy home. We’re glad our ad got your attention, but sorry that it did not resonate as intended.” They promised to pass along my comments to their “leadership.” I wrote back, saying, “I know Rug Doctor wants to promote clean floors. But, there are varying kinds of ‘clean,’ and I’m sure you want your ads to be ‘clean,’ too.”
I gave them three other scenarios they could use: one where a cat knocks over a potted plant, dirt and all, and a baby crawls through the dirt; another showing a child spilling grape juice on a light, beige carpet, and a third with a teenager coming in from sports practice, tromping mud across the living room. Each time: Rug Doctor to the rescue! I haven’t seen the sexual ad since or any ad lately for Rug Doctor. I hope they’re working toward implementing some of my ideas.
• Then there’s Fiat’s ad. An elderly man looks passionately at the beautiful, young, scantily dressed girl in his bed and takes a blue pill out of a bottle (obviously supposed to be a Viagra pill). He throws it into the air to pop it into his mouth and misses. It goes out the window and winds up in the Fiat below on the street. The Fiat totally revs up, as the man would have if hadn’t missed his mouth. Really? It’s a car! The only thing that will “rev” it up (maybe) is a higher octane of gasoline.
• And we have Kohler’s TV ad. A girl is singing lyrics in the background, at first not understandable, then something about loving “what you do to me.” Meanwhile, a sexy girl is heading for the bathroom as she undresses, and a handsome guy is ripping off his breakaway shirt and heading there, too. Next scene: they’re both in the bathroom looking longingly at … the Kohler faucet. Come on, now — it’s a faucet! Shouldn’t Kohler be showing how well it works, how pretty and reliable it is?
• The new Coca Cola ad triggers questions, too. A girl is in a room full of people and sees a guy she thinks is hot. A female sings the background song: “You’re so cute; I want to wear you like a suit; I think you’d look pretty good on me.” Come on now! We’re talking about a SODA, not a sexual encounter. And, it’s a dark, caramel colored soda, so I don’t think that would look very good on her.
• But the one that really got me is the new M&Ms’ TV ad. Man comes home early and hears a woman talking to someone behind the closed bedroom door. He flings the door open to see the woman (supposedly his wife) in bed in a sexy negligee, seemingly alone. The man looks crushed. The woman says, “Honey, it’s not what it looks like.” Man says, “I can’t believe you’d do this to me. I thought we were going to share him.”
Suddenly, the covers flip down and … there’s Mr. M&M, who says, “So THAT’S what you meant by dessert!” So, here I go again, writing to M&M Mars. I said I was shocked at their approach. I asked for their advice on how to answer my six-year-old granddaughter’s questions: “Nana, why is Mr. M&M in bed with that lady?” and “Why are that man and lady fighting?”
Ad agencies can often be of dubious ethical fiber — anything to get consumers’ attention and sell a product. So some blame should go to them. But each ad concept is reviewed and approved by a marketing director or other authorized employee of the company selling that product before an ad is ever finalized, cast and filmed. I don’t know what is wrong with these people and why they don’t realize that there are so many positive, clever, and creative ways to market products. They don’t need to stoop so low.
But, I do know one thing: none of those ad or marketing people is psychic. Although “Contact Us” isn’t always easy, and it may sometimes be difficult to reach out to companies to voice an opinion, when I do, I often get an answer, an apology and sometimes even an action, like pulling a controversial ad. So speak up if you see something that offends you or produces unanswerable questions from your kids and grandkids. It is definitely worth it.
J. L. Sloss, a resident of Wyndmoor, is a writer of articles and short stories. Recently retired, she had a 40-year career with a major insurance company as a corporate trainer, marketing manager, proposal unit manager and proposal content writer. She is also a songwriter and performer with a band called Timber Line that plays local venues, including Drake’s Catering’s Garden in Chestnut Hill.