Advertising Is Simple. It All Comes Down to Three Things: Sex, Hope and Baby. It Is Not the 'What', but the 'How'.

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by: Idris Mootee

Let’s be happy is the global theme of the year. At least most of the ads will be trying to do that. It is starting with the Coca Cola launching a new marketing campaign with tagline "Open Happiness." Both Coke and Pepsi at the same time are launching big new campaigns and big marketing blitzes behind their flagship colas, we are seeing a Cola war in the making. Not a bad thing for this economy.

Coke launched its new campaign with television advertising during broadcasts of "American Idol" on Fox.” And will continue for a few weeks. One of the new TVC for the US depicts people using their digital devices (computers, phones, etc.) and turning into their alter-ego online avatars. When one man–who has not turned into his avatar–reaches for a Coke at the same time as a scary-looking beast, the beast turns into a pretty woman and a real-life connection is made.

One of the new commercials will feature a music track that will be released as a commercial music single. The music is billed as a collaboration between recording artists from Gnarls Barkley, Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco and Gym Class Heroes.

Pepsi had a presence at Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, with headlines featuring "Yes you can" and a redesigned logo similar to the image Obama used during his presidential campaign. As part of the campaign, the company created a Web site through which people could upload a video message to Obama.

A lot of other companies will also be refocusing on their core and try to protect any erosion or at least secure their share of the pie if the larger pie is shrinking. I think we can see a lot of brands using variations of the Obama platform and market themselves the same way they market a presidential candidate.

Let’s think about the “Hope” industry? How big is that? Fashion, cosmetics, personal care, self improvement, health and diet and many many others have all been selling “Hope” for years and most hardly deliver anything. When it comes to marketing, it always comes down to three things that always sell: Sex, Hope and Baby. Ask an anthropologist; they will tell you that they are all related.

Smart marketers consider not only the attention-getting power of an advertisement or commercial, but also what kind of emotional response it provokes in viewers. Studies found that sex does catch people’s attention in advertisements, but usually without much brand recognition. Women have been the primary focus in sexual advertising in the past and present, but men are starting to be used more often as the sex object in advertisements. Not sure the ethical side is worth any discussions. As the morals and ethics of society change and differs, what is considered appropriate and acceptable by societies and cultures also varies. The Tom Ford campaign (above) is tasteful and high fashion, but it is a border line between that and porn. Remember those Calvin Klein and Abercrombie and Fitch ads? The breast cancer campaign is brilliantly executed so sex is that to get you attention, but it is also beautiful and relevant to the cause. 

So the answer is not the “what” but the ‘how’? After all, humans are innately hard wired to respond to titillating imagery and the possibility of sex. It’s just in our DNA. So it’s natural for marketers to use this attraction and for people to respond. But, it can be a lame cop-out used by marketers who lack imagination to create more compelling work that will sustain itself beyond the initial titillation. It is all about style. The same can be said about using “hope”, in that case it is about how authentic you are and the credible is your promise. And whether it is relevant to your brand and positioning.

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