Using sex to sell unsexy products is stupid

Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 10 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 20-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours.

Sex doesn’t sell anymore: It’s been proven. It doesn’t drive purchases like it has in the past. But that has not stopped all kinds of bland brands — from coffee to banks to air fresheners — from stiffly inserting suggestive come-ons into their ad executions. Unsurprisingly, it rarely works or even makes much sense.

Boutique Vocal Singing School, Mexico
Juárez ad agency Licuadora BTL released this campaign last week for a local singing school. “For Those Who Music Is Pleasure.” A good friend of mine is is a fine singer with a master’s degree in musicology. She tells me it’s impossible to sing well or even coherently while orgasming.


The campaign features four women and zero men because men look ridiculous when … appreciating music.

Passage Fitness First, Belgium

Oh, you do want to see some male “O” faces? (Although I guess these could be hernia faces.)

“Improve your sex life. Start working out.” The campaign makes some sense, I guess. But, eww. I sure ain’t spotting for this undersexed hair-trigger weirdo — or using the equipment after him. Agency: Mortierbrigade, Brussels.

Komerční Banka, Czech Republic

Sticking with “O” faces, climaxing and banking go together like intercourse and withdrawals (heh). Komerční Banka is a member of the Société Générale Group. Copy translation: “Enjoy the first banking transaction.” Exactly what kind of deposit are we talking about here?

Café El Fuerte, Panama


“The Best Way To Wake Up.” Nobody likes coffee the way these people like coffee. Agency: Zaga DDB, Panama City.

Editora Record, Brazil

“Honey, you’re making it hard to read.”

Editora Record is a Brazilian publishing house. Copy translation: “Reading Excites Imagination.” Well, this shot just makes no sense. How can reading excite the man’s imagination when he can’t see, thanks to his inconsiderate wife/girlfriend and her fat head? Agency: Giacometti, São Paulo, Brazil. Here’s the second ad in the campaign.

Poise “Sam” Microliners, USA

This is probably R. Kelly’s favorite commercial.

Incontinence is hot, in certain very small circles. “Sam” is small, but he can last forever (yippee?). The spot apparently didn’t last forever, though; Poise deleted it from its YouTube page.


Renuzit Fresh Accents, USA

Freshen up your sex life!

This campaign (here’s a commercial) is, of course, only one of many examples of the stupid “hunkvertising” trend of the last five years. But it is the absolute worst. The link between sex and the product isn’t tenuous; it’s nonexistent. Agency: Red Tettemer, Philadelphia.

Layconsa highlighters, Peru (NSFW)

It’s “Where’s Waldo?” only Waldo is boobs.

Lastly, we go back to 2010 for the copyranter award for the Most Gratuitous Use Of Breasts To Sell An Office Product. This is goddamn ridiculous, but pretty much just another day in super-sexist South American advertising. Agency: DraftFCB Lima.

Brands? You are not sexy. No, not even you, every beer brand in the world.

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