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Selling Sex Toys Sans Sex

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Are they? Will they? Oh. (Sigh.) They didn’t. Such was the anticipation – and let down – for many viewing the first-ever sex toy ad, which aired on British television earlier this month. While Lovehoney, the U.K.’s largest sex toy retailer, made its mark as the first of its kind to advertise on UK tellies, its 30-second plug didn’t once show any of the products it sells.

Talk about a “buzzkill.” Featuring a fully-clothed, married couple making out as the man is about to leave for work, the ad does come off as steamy, racy, and frisky. But what it’s selling is largely left to the imagination. One has to really read into the voiceover at the end stating: “ The sexual happiness people.”

In its defense, Halo Media, the ad agency who placed the 10:15am plug during a segment of the American reality show “The Real Housewives of New York,” has really had its hands tied in promoting Lovehoney. While sexuality saturates nearly all forms of advertising media, they’ve had to keep things tame and covert.

London Transit, for example, has had Halo Media jumping over one hurdle after the next, refusing to allow billboard copies of Lovehoney ads involving a couple kissing on a London subway train. It only agreed to run a billboard ad of a couple kissing in a supermarket after the man’s hand could no longer be seen on his partner’s waist. The adverts also had to replace “sex toys” with “adult toys.”  

The hypocrisy should have every consumer’s blood boiling. Why is it taboo to have sex sell a sex toy ad, but perfectly okay for other products to plug themselves with totally sex-charged adverts? Why must we be subjected to often painfully lame advertising attempts using sex to sell anything from motor oil to phone books, but not be sexually enticed by products meant to help our sexual well being? And on a related note, why is it okay for a music video to feature rock stars engaging in bondage, simulated group sex, and other explicit acts, but featuring a sex toy ad is deemed “dirty”?

It makes sense to have sexy ads sell sex products. It doesn’t make sense that non-sex product ads are allowed to be much more provocative in their efforts. Whether it’s jeans, liquor, or a sexual enhancement product being sold, the same rules need to apply across the board. As consumers, we need to demand such. 

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