Category Archives: PR

Little girls define themselves as sex objects – thanks sexual ads?

Yesterday a Daily Telegraph article headlined “Little girls new sex objects” and “Toodlers want bras, pre-teens want wax”. (Jones & Cuneo, Daily Telegraph, 2009, p.2/3) Two special investigation pages illustrated quite clearly how pre-schoolers are turning themselves into sexualised “mini adults” by wearing bras, nail polish and lipstick. According to Louise Newman Professor of Developmental Psychatry at Monash University, numerous children are suffering “from clinical depression in primary school because they don´t feel they are pretty enough … the girls are worried they won´t get boyfriends [and] have started to defining their self worth in terms of themselves as a sex object ”. (Jones & Cuneo, Daily Telegraph, 2009, p.2, para 4/5).

Dr. Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation, blamed the sexual images children are now bombarded with for the staggering rise in kids particularly those who have never been sexually abused themselves, assaulting their classmates.

Girls read magazines which portray them as sex objects

Girls read magazines and watch ads portraying them as sex objects

Another former article mentiones, that “a daily diet of celebrities in sexualised poses, taking drugs and getting drunk has led to increasing numbers of children ‘defining their lifestyle’ around drugs, alcohol and sex in their early teens.” Distorted messages mean young boys wear football shirts emblazoned with alcohol brands while girls read magazines portraying them as sex objects, or purchase “sexualised” dolls.

As the alarming behaviours mentioned above do definitly link to uncensored media shows and obvious sexual ads it´s our task  as PR experts to use sex in ads and PR carefully. We should always bear in mind that not only our target groups but children and teens will see them.



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Men vs. Women: BILD BOY vs. BILD GIRL (Round 2)

Germany´s biggest tabloid paper “Bild” came up with a significant change of its cover page in June 2009. People called it a “naked revolution” or even a “cultural shock”. What it was?

Instead of naked females in form of “Bild Girls” an attractive man was presented to the readers on the title page: Alexander, the first “Bild Boy” in the history of the paper.

Bild Boy

Bild Boy Alexander

versus various Bild Girls

versus various Bild Girls

After huge turmoils and discussions of ambitious Bild readers, the newspaper started a survey amongst their audiences whether the Bild Boy should remain on the title or not. According to almost 50,000 readers participated in the poll. The result: 54 per cent voted for him. With only a very small majority the readers decided, that once a week Boys instead of Girls are shown on the title page.

Regarding Coca Cola´s gender specific communication strategy (‘Coca-Cola Zero’ for the boys and ‘diet Coke’ for females) do you think the Bild Zeitung´s new “equality” plan was  desired/overdue or completely redundant?


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Men vs. Women: The DIET COKE Man (Round 1)

“It´s 11.30, it´s diet coke break”, this sentence was setting women’s hearts racing when Coca Cola started to advertise its new light product.

The Coke Light Men has captured the hearts of numerous females and the memorable background song “I just wanna make love to you” underpinned the sexual theme. The launch of the ‘diet Coke’ break campaign was probably one of the most significant steps towards sexual equality in advertising. For the first time not a women but a sexy man was the object of desire.

Furthermore, CCE (Coca-Cola Enterprises) was making a clear distinction between its trilogy of cola brands in its ‘new’ advertising strategy: ‘Coca-Cola’, the universally loved, iconic brand at its core, ‘Coca-Cola Zero’ for the boys and ‘diet Coke’ for females everywhere.

149.539 people, presumably mostly women, watched the video on youtube and numerous Diet Coke commercials followed with similar topics in various countries.

CEE decided to return to its female roots and celebrate modern woman when ‘Coca-Cola Zero’ (dubbed ‘Bloke Coke’) was launched in 2006. Following the return of the iconic ‘diet Coke’ break campaign, featuring a new Hunk, the ‘diet Coke’ advertisement was enlarged through integrated marketing tools. A massive ‘diet Coke’ brand promotion gave lucky consumers the chance of winning and creating their ultimate ‘diet Coke’ break worth £10,000 each. From a trip to Monte Carlo with the girls, being pampered in absolute luxury in Rome or a shopping extravaganza in Florence, winners got a chance to create their own ultimate break.

The promotion included new packaging for ‘diet Coke’ where consumers were able to discover a unique code on pack. Consumers had to register this code on the ‘diet Coke’ break website or text to receive instant notification. Winners had to need to log on, enter the code and then begin creating their ultimate ‘diet Coke’ break online.

Reflecting the universal popularity of reality shows, star searches and Internet voting, Coca-Cola Co. in Germany started a ‘Diet coke man’- competition. The contenders had to prove their humour, intelligence and spontaneity by solving various tasks: Classic dancing, cooking, cocktail mixing or acting. From more than 10,000 competitors a Coke Light Man was selected who starred in a TV spot for German-speaking Europe. The media awareness was enormous.

Coca Cola´s ‘Diet Coke Man’ campaign is probably a role model for women´s advertising. On the contrary to the Media Analyzer survey I presented last week, women liked the ‘sexual aspect’ of the ads and I remember many of my girl friends talking about the campaign and starting to drink Coke Light. With it´s IMC approach the promotion was reinforced to become a brand experience.

In my opinion CCE´s Sex Sells Strategy was not simple-minded, on the contrary-  it was surprising, sexy and set a new standard for emancipated advertising.

What do you mean?


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Men vs. Women – different perceptions and opinions about Sex Sells

It´s probably not a secret, that males and females have different perceptions and opinions about sex in advertising and PR. But who is the key audience, advertising agencies address with showing almost naked bodies? Most of the time sexual ads show women, so the answer seems to be simple: Males! Lets have a look on what a professional SexSells survey revealed when it recently explored how men and women look at sexually themed ads.

The MediaAnalyser poll did not only focus on how genders perceive sexual ads differently, it also figured out what effect, if any, that visual behaviour might have on the ads’ effectiveness.

The first part of the test solicited general opinions about sex in advertising:
While almost half of men (48 percent) said they like sexual ads, few women did (8 percent). Most men (63 percent) said sexual ads have a high stopping power for them; fewer women thought so (28 percent). Also, most women (58 percent) said there is too much sex in advertising; only 29 percent of men said so. Women were also much more likely than men to say that sexual ads promote a deterioration of moral and social values and that they are demeaning for the models used in them.

The second part, a visual test exposed a similar polarization:
Men tend to focus on an ad’s sexual imagery (breasts, legs, skin, etc.), which draws their attention away from other elements of the ad (logo, product shot, headline). This may be why men’s brand recall was worse for the sexual ads than for the nonsexual ones. An average of 19.8 percent recalled the correct brand/product for the nonsexual ads; for the sexual ads, 9.8 percent did. MediaAnalyzer calls this the “vampire effect,” with a toostrong visual sucking up a lot of the attention that would have otherwise been spent on an ad’s actual communication. For further information visit:

But what does these results mean for us as PR professionals?

Is sex an approved advertising and PR strategy, above all, if we want to promote a women´s product? Moreover, the question is if  ‘SexSells’ is effective as women don´t like sexual overflow and men can´t remember the brand name?

What do you think? Does sex in campaigns create brand equity or is it our challenge as PR specialists to  look for other ways to promote a brand? In my eyes, the survey revealed once more that messages and visuals have to be particularly designed for the main target audience…


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A political Sex (best)-Seller

Sex and Politics- probably the most extreme antagonism ever. That´s exactly what makes it so interesting for the media and for us as an audience. In Peter´s example (see guestbook), when a bud was printed on a political campaign poster, the sex sell strategy didn´t really work.

The German party was forced to remove or censor the bud posters with the claim “The only reason to vote black- time for green” and the only positive effect was that they were in the media for a short time. They also could have lost voters not only because the posters could be considered to be pornographic and racist, the party was also not present because they had to remove their ads.

An example for a long lasting Sex Sells affair, literally a best-seller in Sex Sells is – everyone knows this video sequence – …the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Im sure you remember it but anyway, watch this:

The story was a best-seller not for the former US President but for Miss Lewinsky. How much money the intern earned by selling the story to the media, doing interviews and photo shoots is her secret. Nevertheless, the following numbers provided by Media Monitor reveal that it must have been a best-seller:

Allegations of a sexual affair between President Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky first appeared on national television on January 21, 1998. Over the next 30 days, the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news shows broadcast 305 stories on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, with a combined 9 hours 12 minutes of airtime.

During the first week after the story broke, the networks devoted more airtime to it (142 stories) than they gave to Princes s Diana’s death in a comparable period last fall (103 stories). In its first month, the Lewinsky story consumed more than one-third (34%) of the available airtime on the network newscasts – more than the showdown with Iraq, the winter Olympics, the Pope ‘ s visit to Cuba, and EI Nino combined.
(source: Media Monitor, Center for Media and Public Affairs.)

As the story evolved, journalists’ use of unnamed sources and the credibility of the ir information became a major source of controversy. Contrary to the claims of some media critics, it is not clear that the network s relied more heavily on unnamed sources in detailing the Lewinsky charges than they had in previous political scandals.

Accusations that Mr. Clinton had sexual contact with Monica Lewinsky – which would not by it self constitute criminal conduct – were discussed extensively in 114 stories. In contrast, stories alleging criminal behavior were less frequent.

What I find interesting about the case is that although the US President was lying and denying he didn´t lose any sympathies in the end (see video). Normally the most approved way to react on crises situations is honesty, isn´t it? But no: “I never had any sexual relations to that woman…”.

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A cultural question to you as internationals…

Actually I wanted to discuss the cultural aspects of Sex Sells later on. But due to the fact that it was so obvious in our Benetton presentation today I have to state it now:

“There is a difference in cultural feelings towards Sex Sells Strategies!!!”

And the Benetton case revealed that once more.
Some of you were more than shocked by the company’s ads we showed you today. Some of you found them disgusting. And some of you just said afterwards (Not to cite someone particularly, but yes:-)) “What was so bad about the ad with the two horses? I just think it’s funny”


Yes, what was so bad? In the case of this blog I only want to refer on the sexual issues: So what is bad about the “Genitals of different coloured people” or the “Coloured Condoms Campaign” or the “Two Horses”?

Don’t get me wrong here, as I definitely cannot say that we are used to these ads in Europe. Not used to, but we are not shocked…

I’m sorry but I have to ask you again:

“As a citizen of your home country, as an international student  – How did you feel watching these ads???

Unbenannt2Someone said: “I have never heard of Benetton before” and one of you stated:
“It’s disgusting. I would never shop at a Benetton store.” So here Sex Sells definitely didn´t work…

I have to admit that I wear Benetton clothes since I have been four years old. In Germany and also in Europe the company is an institution. So noone will ask you ” What is Benetton? Is that something about cigarettes?”:-)

It’s the other way round. One of my best friends is a big fan of the brand and she wears the clothes not only because she likes the colours but because she identifies with the sociocritical, political background. She feels these issues have to be discussed to solve them.


And honestly, I´m not joking:  She now started working as a CSR responsible for a big auditing firm at home. And… which is probably not a circumstance she has her own small organization to help Tsunami orphans, as she was in Sri Lanka when the catastrophe happened. Just have a look at: Human Helps Human e.V.

“Hey Rieke, I had to mention you here!!! Maybe you as well want to join the discussion…


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Aphrodite, Eros & Co – the antique answer on Sex Sells?

Do you think Sex Sells is a modern invention? A strategy the advertising and PR branch developed just to raise awareness or sell products? There are a lot of evidences, which say: Sex Sells exists probably as long as we do….

The cave paintings of the Cro Magon people who lived around 30,000 -10,000 B.C. attest the “sexual publications” of our earliest ancestors in Eurasia. The representations show a variety of sexual activities, which were usually released to the others by painting them on the walls. Scientists assume those were rituals, which were celebrated to contact with the spirit world.

Eros & Psyche     source:

Eros & Psyche, source:

Since around 20,000 B.C. both the Greeks and the Romans decorated pottery with obvious sexual scenes. And above all the sexual adventures of the Roman emperors are still notorious. Thousands of antique sexual writings are still published and sold. The story of Aphrodite, Eros and Psyche, Cleopatry´s love affairs or Ovid´s sexual poems “Ars Amatoria” still belong to the world´s bestsellers.

In my eyes, Sex Sells is a never-ending story – from former times until now and further on. It´s the oldest strategy ever, but it still works.

What do you mean? Are Sex Sells Strategies old or new? Copy or innovation?


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