As a vagipreneur, a person in the business of female sexual health, I have spent a lot of time talking about intimate topics. And as a woman, a businessperson, a wife, sister, daughter, mother and friend, I have always done everything in my power to be well-informed, thoughtful and appropriate.
Everyday in movies, magazines, online, television, advertising -- we see clearly that sex sells -- whether done in good taste or not. We have all seen tons of categories build their businesses with subtle and not so subtle depictions. Of course, there are the obvious ones - the Victoria's Secrets of the world, the romantic movie trailers, the steamy coming attractions for dozens of TV shows during family viewing hours.
And who would have thought that deodorant could be sexy -- just ask the folks behind Axe who built a brand on the sex appeal of deodorant for their younger male audience. Who could forget the humorous ads for Procter & Gamble's Herbal Essence when the creative thinkers turned a regular organic shampoo into a memorable orgasmic scene in the shower?
But can one go too far? Past appropriateness? Well, I am not the judge and jury on propriety for sure. Obviously, each person has to take his/her own counsel. Ultimately, you can judge for yourself, but I think a recent ad for Liquid-Plumr® runs right up to any possible line and then barrels right over it and through it.
If you go to the brand's website, you see the Liquid-Plumr®'s innocent approach about "attacking stubborn clogs or maintaining squeaky-clean pipes." Lulled into a false sense of drain cleaning security, no doubt!!
But all bets are off when you see Liquid-Plumr®'s most recent television commercial. As a recent article indicates in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, "Liquid-Plumr Tries Dirty Ads to Sell Drain Cleaner", the insinuations are about as subtle as a mack truck:
"Using every possible double entendre, Clorox (CLX) has opted for a hypersexual ad modeled after a 1970s porn video to sell its Liquid-Plumr® Urgent Clear drain cleaner...Cut to the '70s porn music, and a hunky, bearded man named Peter at the door, with a woman on her staircase:
"I heard you need it now," he says.
"I only have 10 minutes," she replies.
"I only need seven."
That interlude is followed by an Isaac Hayes-style voiceover informing viewers that the product "penetrates the toughest clogs with two fast-acting gels to leave you satisfied in only seven minutes, baby." "
I have to hand it to Clorox. The company did get more people talking about drain cleaning with renewed vigor. Journalists are writing about drain cleaner. I imagine more people actually bought drain cleaner since the launch of the commercials. And it would be a miracle in my mind, but maybe it actually made more people (especially the ladies apparently) look forward to cleaning their clogged drains.
But all I could think of was the magazine covers my Women's Studies teacher showed me in college when I was an impressionable college sophomore -- the symbols of pornography as the industry developed -- the electric (front and center in this ad), the domination, the imbalance of power, the insinuation that a woman wants to be taken ("when you need it now").
Business is business. Companies do what they need to sell their products and services within the confines of the law. But it sure would be nice if I were more nauseated at the sight of cleaning a clogged drain than at the sight of the commercial encouraging me to do it. How low are we really willing to go?