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Sex Sells? (And Values in Advertising)

June 18, AD 2012 5 Comments

“Says who? Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this. They take all this monkey c**p and stick it in a briefcase, completely unaware that their success depends on something more than shoeshine. You are the product. You feeling something. That’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do and they hate us for it.” ~ Don Draper, Mad Men

I don’t know if I made a mistake placing that quote at the beginning of the article, and basically, what the smooth yet debauched ad man said sums up my point. But whatever.

Now, I’ve decided to write about something which pertains to my current profession (yes, I’m currently employed as a person who makes ) and this may be the right time to do so. The fact that I am a big fan of AMC’s Mad Men inspires me to post something.

Let’s get down to business: How many of us believe that sex sells? I’ll admit that I used to believe that. Although for me, it ain’t quite favorable to show ads and billboards displaying racy stuff, it was a quick way to sell products and services.

How wrong I was. You see, many people to get to sell products by invoking the sensual pleasures of the flesh, but that isn’t what it’s all about per se—and that’s what Don Draper pointed out; that you, feeling something, is what sells.

What do we mean by that? What did Don Draper mean? Don’t we also feel something every time we see something racy? Well, it’s true that provocative ads do affect us emotionally, but who’s to say that sex is the only thing which does so?

Before pointing out the obvious, allow me to show to you this video below:

Did you get the message? Did you feel something while watching it? Of course you did. And I bet you’re feeling the urge to cry right now. And yes—you did feel something.

Do you know what the video is all about? Obviously, it’s about preserving family values. This commercial was by Yasmin Ahmad, who was tapped to create something which would teach the people of Singapore the importance of the family.

The reason for the creation of the commercial is to address the problem of degrading values in Singaporean society. And apparently, no sex is involved.

But did the video just inspire you as it inspired me, the first time I saw it? Of course it did. Now let’s move on.

I’d like to show you another video, this time by McDonald’s in the Philippines. This has to be one of the most memorable commercials in Philippine TV, and I’m sure a lot of people here in the country know about it.

Long story short, the senile grandfather thinks that Karen is Gina. But in the end, the old man states that Karen is his favorite granddaughter and saves half a burger for her, not knowing that it is Karen he is talkng to.

Now, if you were Karen, you would feel something, right? You would feel touched?

Another video which I’d like to show comes from Mad Men, where Don Draper presents Kodak’s product know as the “Carousel.”

But since AMC disables embedding for every Mad Men video, you may just click here to view it. Sorry for the hassle.

While Don may not be a good role model when it comes to ethics and values, he totally nails this pitch by presenting a campaign which certainly invokes the innermost emotions of people, thus making the product memorable to the target market.

My point is that the most memorable ads in history aren’t limited to the racy or controversial ones. Of course, it’s difficult to create value-oriented ads for bikinis and underwear, but then again, there had been a lot of materials in the past such as nude paintings or portraits which do not really provoke carnal desires, yet they are pretty much memorable—so I say it isn’t impossible for a particular ad for a certain product to not be racy.

Now, you may be thinking how naïve I am, since I’m saying this based on the fact that I follow the Christian code of ethics. I mean, how can you advertise liquor and tobacco based on values?

Well, I’m not saying that for every product or service, you have to. I do not see why anyone who is faithful ought to sell condoms or birth control pills. C’mon—it’s impossible to create a value-oriented campaign out of those, so why would you think of selling them in the first place?

I won’t keep you for long, since I have conveyed my point…I think.

Anyway, too sum things up, sex does not necessarily sell—and it isn’t sex which sells; it is you, the customer, feeling something. Whether you feel happy, inspired, angry or sad, you feel something.

From there, I contend that when one person limits his or herself to using sex as a tool for selling, I would not be able to fathom how shallow that sort of mindset is, considering the examples I have included here.

To future ad people and copywriters, please take these things into consideration and think outside the box, and use the power of traditional values to sell. God love you.

Filed in: Career, Jobs, Life

About the Author:

Iconoclast, interested in economics, history, philosophy, Catholicism and a whole lot of other stuff.

  • BlueFox94

    I just saw mini-“TOY STORY 3” ‘s :*)

  • Perhaps I will sound like a heathen in saying this, Jared, but in both this and the last ad I think you are far too hard on the Don Draper character from MAD MEN (maybeI feel that way because his real name even on the show is Dick, which is short for Richard, my name!!!), but more than that, I think he is the one person in that entire corrupt and dehumanizing world who acts like a…human–at least sometimes.

    With whatever errors or mistakes he has made, and there have been plenty in his life and mine too, the character is played with a deep underlying sadness that is noticable, and frankly, he seems to be at least trying to be good and fair to others most of the time.

    No, he does not exactly act like a “Catholic Christian” nor would I imply that he does. But he has managed to have two of the most self-absorbed wives imaginable, and he cared and even tried to stop her when his co-worker Joan Harris literally prostitutes herself to become a partner in the firm, after she cruelly and hatefully rejected her husband for his military dedication, and, as her mother said “I wonder if he knows we hope he dies over there.” If you must speak of a character who has no values whatsoever, it would be her in my opinion.

    As to how this fits with your post, something in Don’s FEELINGS and past haunts the viewer. I do not watch the show because he is “smooth,” but almost in spite of it. Under that smoothness is a hurting person who somehow needs our help, and the audience feels it and sympathizes. I do anyway.

    In short, MAD MEN is a bit like a long version of the very ads you speak of here–they make us FEEL,and relate, and that is why we keep coming back for more. Don Draper proves your point. It is not Don’s “sexiness” but rather his complex emotional make-up that make us admire him on some level. Again I speak for me, but I think Jon Hamm, who produces the show and plays Draper, would agree.

    Feelings do sell, whether commercials or greatly acted TV shows or movies. I cannot help but think Don would make a great Catholic–I have a feeling that is one story line we may never see, though.

    Great post, sir.

  • Mr. Evans,

    Hmm. Maybe I was a bit too hard on Don, and yeah–you’re right about the audience being able to feel something because they or we sympathize with him. As Dick Whitman, he shows his softer and emotional side which we barely see in the person of Don Draper.

    You just added a very valuable insight to my post, which I could have included. Thanks, and God bless!

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