AdWeek's three-page-long article on boobs can be summed up like this: some people are sick of advertisers using breasts to sell us everything from "chicken wings and cars to fishing line," while others are still lapping them up. (Sorry, ew.)
Here's a breakdown of boobvertising pros and cons according to AdWeek's sources:
In defense of Boobvertising's success:
- Time's recent breast feeding cover is this year's best-seller so far; newsstand sales for the issue were 50 percent higher than average over the last 26 weeks.
- Remember the 2007 print campaign for Tom Ford for Men cologne that showed a long, hard bottle of cologne stuck between two naked and cupped breasts? Ford, who is gay, came up with that ad to convince straight men that they could still buy his very expensive scent, according to Sallie Mars, the chief diversity officer at McCann Worldgroup. (Mars, by the way, coined the term "breast for success" marketing to denote sexist ads. Nice one.) The company reported strong sales after the ad ran, so we guess it worked?
- Sad but true: "Many restaurateurs build their businesses firmly on the breasts of bikini-clad waitresses." Also, we see what you did there with "firmly."
- Science says so: male drivers are 60 percent more likely to give a lift to a lady hitchhiker with a C cup than an A cup, and the male pupil in the eye looks at a woman's breast within 200 milliseconds.
There's no doubt that boob-heavy ads are attention-grabbing for all genders — that Time cover still haunts my dreams — but does the ogling actually lead to sales and brand loyalty?
The Downside of Boobertising:
- Ben Judd, who researches sexual imagery in ads, said boobvertising is "a complete waste of time" since consumers notice the breasts before the product. "The more nudity you show, the lower recall of the brand," he said. One study found that 61 percent of respondents who viewed sexualized ads were less likely to buy.
- Brands Marketing professors at the University of Wisconsin found that sexy Super Bowl ads from 1989 to 2012 were 10 percent less likeable than other spots. (Which is kind of shocking?)
- Women, predictably, tend to be less than titillated by boobvertising. "How many times have we seen the pair of tits sell the sneaker, the car, bottle of water. I perk up much more with campaigns that use humor," said Jennifer Pozner, founder and executive director of advocacy group Women In Media & News.
- Some beer brands are actually considering making beer ads that — gasp — don't include cleavage! "We're not going to rely on stereotypes and things that may have played well with a male-centric audience years ago," said Anheuser-Busch's marketing VP. "That old imagery is too limited in its appeal and is not reflective of today's society and today's consumer." And some companies have realized that women like beer, too!
- The existence of GoDaddy.
So what's the bottom line? Despite evolution in the advertising world, we might have to go with Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group: "We can deny it all we want, but [breasts] are a very subliminal piece of powerful marketing." [Insert your own horrible pun about boobvertising's staying power here. Maybe "won't deflate anytime soon"?]
The Breast of Advertising [AdWeek]