Could North Americans handle Britain’s cheeky advertising?

In 1975, an irreverent U.S. broadcaster named Lorenzo Milam decided to write a book that would serve as a how-to guide on how to start up a non-commercial radio station on a shoestring budget. He decided to call the book Sex and Broadcasting because, as his aunt advised him, the mere suggestion of sex would automatically double the book’s sales and quadruple its readership.

Milam’s aunt couldn’t have been all that wrong. Sex and Broadcasting became something of a classic among its niche audience, and Milam’s book of advice is still considered a valuable reference nearly 40 years later.

The makers of Tom Ford Neroli Portofino body oil are likely hoping that their racy advertising campaign will also double sales and quadruple product use. The ad shown below, which appeared in the London Evening Standard on April 19, a free newspaper distributed at London Underground stations, depicts a young nude couple, with parts of their anatomy not printable in a respectable newspaper cleverly concealed, dousing each other with the product.

London Evening Standard, April 19, 2013

London Evening Standard, April 19, 2013

The ad is the least racy of three used in the full campaign; the other two not-safe-for-work adverts being easily found on Google Images.

A newspaper can get away with such advertising in Britain, which tends to be a bit more socially conservative than its European neighbours, but still has a rich history of suggestive advertising and pushing-the-edge comedy.

Would such ads play well here in North America?

Perhaps they would be tolerated in the continent’s more outward-looking global crossroads cities, but it’s reasonable to presuppose that ads of this type would get a rougher ride in North America’s vast, less worldly, and often very insular provincial regions where reaction was most outraged at Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” that exposed part of one of her breasts on network television. (Violence is fine on North American network television. But sex or nudity? Outside of a few cable television niches, not so much.)

Even as late as 2011, a former NDP MLA in British Columbia caused controversy when he suggested that it was inappropriate for Premier Christy Clark to wear an outfit in the Legislature that displayed a decidedly modest amount of cleavage.

All this suggests that the Tom Ford ad, which was deemed suitable for publication in the London Evening Standard, might still not be considered suitable for publication in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg Sun or Metro.

But, I’ll leave this up to the audience. If you opened the Free Press, Sun or Metro one day and saw the ad above, how do you suppose you and those around you would react?


My brief holiday in London happened by pure chance to coincide with the funeral of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The opportunity to be an eyewitness to history and to watch the funeral procession go by en route to St. Paul’s Cathedral was too good to pass up.

However one feels about Mrs. Thatcher, who is still both loved and hated by many Britons, nobody does pomp and circumstance like the British.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

2 Responses to Could North Americans handle Britain’s cheeky advertising?

  1. The advertisement has nothing to do with hockey, so it wouldn’t even register.

  2. The Analyst says:

    Doesn’t the Winnipeg Sun already publish “risky” or “libertine” content with its Sunshine Girls? For some reason, it seems that the more ideologically conservative, tabloid or “shock jock” media can get away raunchy content than the more moderate, mainline press.

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