January 12, 2012

Sex sells. It’s an indisputable fact and a standard fallback for advertisers everywhere. When National Airlines’ classic 70s ads pictured professionally nubile young women alongside the headline I’m Cheryl/Jo/Maggie/Margie Fly Me, many male readers weren’t hearing Fly.

No, they were picking up on an incredibly subtle subtext revolving around the substitution of another word beginning with an F. One campaign even included the irresistibly suggestive line “I’m going to fly you like you’ve never been flown before.” Ticket sales perked up nicely.

More or less subtly, the subliminal promise of sex is still widely used to sell everything from double glazing to processed meat products. Despite repeated calls from industry bigwigs to make insurance sexier, however, our industry is still largely free of ads making a dubious appeal to male viewers’ covert lusts, But not entirely…

Since Bankstone News revealed the murky world of S&M sauce and provocation depicted in advertisements for Professional Insurance Agents in under the counter trade mag Insurance People back in February last year, we are happy to report that PIA has dramatically cleaned up its act – to the extent that its ads can now be carried even in mainstream publications like Insurance Times – see below:

A dingy world of backroom exploitation has given way to fresh air and sunlight as pixieish Pia – whose name, by a happy coincidence, coincides with her employer’s initials – frolics blithely along the train tracks somewhere rurally nondescript. What vile mind could turn to seedy thoughts when confronted by an image of such maidenly innocence? So now that the whole sexploitation thing has been cleared up, PIA are clearly in the clear. Or are they?!

“It is NEVER safe for young people to play on or near rail lines,” write Olivia Hartsbane of the National Institute for the Promotion of Safety. “To depict images of this nature is extremely irresponsible and could put the lives of children and young adults at serious risk. This is frankly outrageous and must be stopped.”

Out of the frying pan, as they say.


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