NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 23: (LR) Nina Agdal, Taylor Ballantyne, Emily DiDonato and Iskra … [+]
Getty Images for Aerie
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everyone went into hiding. The marketers put up nothing more than staples and conservative looks. People were in hospitals and the mood was too gloomy to evoke Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation in advertising.
Now that we see vaccines roll out and the economy open up again, the mood has changed. Consumers are gushing with the desire to physically congregate, and communication has changed to reflect that feeling. Brands have carefully focused on new marketing campaigns that are once again optimistic and once again trigger a new freedom of expression and sensuality. Advertisements now emphasize feelings of sexual confidence as well as relationships between couples who live together. And that brings a return to more sexuality in advertising, albeit in an updated manner.
Companies like 7 for All Mankind and The Gap’s Athleta advertise with a “spirit of freedom,” said Ruth Bernstein, CEO of the creative company Yard NYC. Cheryl Dunn, a filmmaker and photographer, told Diesel that she tried to capture intimate, open moments in her creative work.
Wikipedia reminds us that sex in advertising is the use of sex appeal to support the sale of a specific service product. According to their research, sexually appealing images used for marketing need not be related to the product or service, just evoke feelings that create a positive association and entice a customer to purchase. Some examples of sexually appealing images traditionally used in advertising include nudity, pin-up, models, and muscular men.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the use of sex and sexuality is changing. It’s more expansive, emphasizing the emotional feelings that come with intimacy, and even includes emotional feelings that individuals have about themselves.
For example, we see a new representation of female sexuality. All women are empowered when they feel beautiful and secure in their bodies, regardless of their size, shape or weight. And that confidence can make them feel sexy and appealing. During the recent pandemic, many women may have gained some weight. But it doesn’t matter. Whether Lululemon or Athletica, the subtle appeal is that their clothes are suitable for every customer in every size – everyone can feel good.
In the beauty industry, and in the media in general, there is still a lot of focus on how a woman’s appearance greatly affects the admiration, envy, and desire it evokes. However, NOW (National Organization of Women) and their “Love Your Body” campaign are working to counter this narrow view. It supports advertising that features women of all shapes and sizes who are actively involved in making our world better, and advocates that femininity is the real force behind advertising.
The earliest known use of sex to sell products was by the Pearl Tobacco brand in 1871; The envelope featured a slightly draped girl, and the tobacco was selling well. Duke Brand cigarettes contained sexually provocative asterisks and became the leading cigarette brands in 1890. Woodbury face coal was almost discontinued until pictures of romantic couples were advertised, suggesting love and intimacy.
More recently, Benetton has gained attention with its multicultural and sexual imagery, developed by Oliviero Toscani, which shocked readers (including me). And let’s not forget Calvin Klein, who proclaimed that jeans was about sex and was known for using young models whose promotional images featured “soft porn”. Victoria Secret was among other advertisers who also relied on the physical representation of attractive bodies, often only scantily clad. The bold use of muscular men at the entrances to their stores and at annual fashion shows attracted widespread comments. Whether it was Benneton, Calvin Klein, or Victoria Secret, this tactic worked because their wares sold well to young customers who wanted to look attractive and fashion-savvy.
The recent wave of sexually explicit ads reflects our times. The ads reflect the desire for intimacy and the joy of being together, rather than just focusing on raw sexuality. They are often filmed in ordinary settings rather than glamorous, sexy backdrops. Diesel’s recent campaign of couples happy to be together and intimate again has been seen as motivating young people to shop in diesel stores. Customers reacted to the brand and confirmed the advertising measures.
The business with specialty stores and chain stores has only slowly gained momentum in this time after the pandemic. Retailers are looking for ways to get customers into their stores. Advertising has to be creative and sparkle. The idea that joyful intimacy and / or a positive sense of self add sexual energy – can only be the creative spark that rekindles customers’ interest in shopping.