Sex in Advertising is Alive and Well


Earlier this year, the East Coast-based fitness chain Equinox came under fire for running an advertising campaign that focused on sex (see above). When residents in an around Bethesda, Md. complained about the campaign, which while appearing in print, appeared also on bus shelters (above right) and billboards, a spokesperson for the company said that the ads would come down “as previously scheduled.” Interestingly, the company ran also a small number of ads like the one below that dispensed with sex altogether.


All of the ads were photographed by renowned fashion photographer Terry Richardson, so it would seem that Equinox may have intended these ads to be as much about art as they were about commerce. The sexual connection here seems to be that being fit improves one’s sexual performance. The ads certainly do attract attention. Was that their main purpose? To get attention and stir up controversy? It would seem so, particularly since the ad featuring the woman and child more appropriately communicates the benefits of fitness club membership. But why brazenly run the sex ads in highly visible areas where vulnerable people such as children will be forcibly exposed to them? Why did the spokesperson seem to be nearly defiant in her response? Last month, the gym announced that it had discontinued its ad campaign and that it would launch a new campaign with a new ad agency (although the ads remain on its Facebook page). Unfortunately, this would appear to be yet another case of sex being used in advertising to needlessly attract attention, as we have seen on girls in japan, with Ford of India, Skullcandy, and Axe. Yes, sex in advertising is unfortunately alive and well.

Thanks to my students Celeste Blann and Whitney Jenich for the tip!

Sources: Equinox,

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