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No one wants to bring sexy back

May 28, 2013

No one wants to bring sexy back

We’ve all heard the term “sex sells”, but according to Bauer Media, sex isn’t really doing it for young women any more.  Cleo, the young women’s magazine famous for their sex-driven covers and historical male centerfolds has scrapped pushing sex on their cover and opted for a sexless cover.

Bauer Media interviewed 1500 girls aged 14-26 across Australia over three months via video diaries and focus groups.  The results found that 41% have not had sex and only 7% of respondents have had a one-night stand.

Cleo editor Sharri Markson suggests that girls nowadays are more conservative than in previous years.  “It’s just not cool to walk around with a magazine that has sex on the front.”  This finding however goes against the growing trend of unashamed young women who are reading books such as Fifty Shades of Grey in public.  The Cleo research also points out that oral sex is still one of the most searched terms on the Cleo website, arguably because it is easier to keep this information private from their parents.

The Cleo research highlights that young people’s media intake is a conscious decision and that their parents’ media consumption is still having an impact on young women.

Are advertisers getting the “sex doesn’t sell, it gets complaints” message? The Advertising Standards Bureau published a list of the most complained about advertisements in 2012, of the ten listed, one was because of sexual content as apposed to the ABS list for 2010 which sees six of the ten advertisements listed as sexually inappropriate.

Regarding the Foxtel ‘WTF’ billboard which has since been taken down, Former Australian senate candidate Wendy Francis said, “I’m in my 50s. I’m big enough and ugly enough, but that’s really distressing. My stomach actually turned.” She says however, “The damage is already done. It’s already up now, it’s got media attention. This is exactly what these advertisers want. They know this is damaging children. They know that this is not normal behaviour. They know that it will create attention.  They are not thinking of our society, of children being confronted by adult concepts. And these are adult concepts that are not even normal.”

Ira Kalb from the University of Adelaide states: “For the many products that are not related to sex, using sex to sell them does not work. It can even backfire. A recent University of Wisconsin study shows that audiences view ads 10% less favorably if they use sex to sell un-sexy products.”

“This study agrees with the data David Ogilvy accumulated over his long and storied career in advertising. In his book Ogilvy on Advertising, he says that sex sells only if it is relevant to the subject being sold.”

In other words sex sells if you’re selling sex.

If a company is not selling sex it would be more productive to invest the companies time and money on spending time with their consumers and focusing on thy why – why to people buy your brand and how do you make it a habit.  Thereby avoiding a spot on a future top ten most complained about list.



When I first arrived in London way back in 2002, a number of things struck me.  There was a pub on every corner, a blue sky didn’t necessarily mean it was a nice day outside and you could respond to the question ‘alright?’ with the statement ‘alright’.  Working in a Lake District pub, each day Continue reading

Below are two images I saw this week that reminded me to keep things simple. The first is the form that St. Vincents give their child patients as a way of gaining feedback.  Raw, honest and straight to the point.  We also love that they are gleaning insights from their littlest of ‘customers’.   The Continue reading


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