Monday, February 07, 2005

Too Much Sex? 

There is a cry of woe among journalists in the US over censorship imposed on TV and radio since the Super Bowl half-time incident last year. There are stories on every side of the issue such as this. What I haven't seen is a discussion of whether sexual innuendo has just gone too far in popular culture. That is apparently one contention of Tom Wolfe's new book, which focuses on college experience that according to other articles, Wolfe caught well.

This is not a call for censorship but for common sense. Sex is just one of many things people do. They breathe, eat, sleep, work, marry, bear children, raise families, get sick, die. I guess none of those are as interesting as "tits and ass."

Sexual innuendo is not a factor in corporate PR work. No one would ever counsel a female CEO to dress provocatively for Wall Street analysts. It would not only be a distraction but a profound disservice to the woman. When then do we push sex in beer and auto ads? Or, if we allow such flagrance for women, why not have men parading semi-nude in public as well?

There is hypocrisy here among young, predominantly male creatives for whom sex sells. I would like to think it a phase that will moderate in time. It has been a long time, however.

Marketing PR is not above using pretty women and handsome young men to make points. Corporate PR and brand positioning are a more cerebral. Both, however, should be concentrating on product benefits more than "sex sells," since we are largely in the business of unpaid persuasion.

Am I an old fogey, or is this an issue on which PR should be taking a stand? No one should advocate censorship. There is a First Amendment and the Victorian era showed it doesn't work anyway. But is moderation too much to ask?


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