Ads I Hate!

It's not news, of course, that sex sells. But I'm intrigued and a bit surprised to learn that, here in the good ol' U.S. of A., kinky sex really sells.

Once Madison Avenue merely plopped a busty blonde into every commercial aimed at men, hoping that we fellas would ask ourselves, "You mean if I buy that brand of beer/car/razor blade, chicks like that will dig me?" The unspoken answer, of course, was yes, but any ensuing scenarios were left to the consumer's imagination. The blonde was mere window-dressing.

It's not been so long since the average beer ad went something like this: A doofus approaches the bar and asks for a cold Brand X. A long-legged lass with store-bought curves and a thing for men who drink Brand X slinks her way over to say hello to this suddenly fascinating hunk of man.

And that is where the ad would fade out. The rest was up to the viewer. Today, much less is left to the imagination. I don't know if Madison Avenue has lost faith in our collective ability to take the ball and run with it, but they're spelling things out much more explicitly for us now, and they're not settling for silly old-fashioned scenarios like one doofus for every one blonde.

In one current automobile ad, two next-door neighbors are chatting when one asks if the other is interested in swapping. Though we learn soon enough that he's suggesting they switch cars for the day, the other fellow (and we viewers) are clearly meant to assume he's suggesting a little neighborly swinging. We even get a quick look at his wife, who is quite fetching, to ensure that we're thinking along the lines they intend.

Who wrote this ad -- Larry Flynt? Do wife-swapping jokes really play well out there in Anytown, USA?

In a beer ad I've seen a few times lately, a young man has managed to insinuate himself into a lady friend's home for the first time. He makes a trip to the kitchen to retrieve a couple of ice-cold beers (which are certain, we're to believe, to ensure his success in the boudoir). During his brief absence, though, a woman who shares the flat makes an appearance; the young couple do not, to their chagrin, have the place to themselves. There'll be no loving tonight.

But the resourceful young man, pleased to learn that the roommate is a looker, grabs a third beer and heads back into the living room, clearly confident that he's going to get luckier than he's ever gotten before: Dear Penthouse, I never thought it would happen to me, but on my first date with that hot new girl in Sales, I ended up in a wild threesome...

The ad's tagline? Never miss a genuine opportunity.

A genuine opportunity? Of all the men in the history of the world who have brought a woman home to an abode that turned out to be less empty than he'd hoped, I wonder what percentage have managed to so turn the circumstances to their advantage. I'm guessing the lottery offers better odds.

But maybe I'm just out of touch. After all, in another recent beer ad, a slacker-type, while doing his laundry in the basement of his dorm or apartment building, eyes a pretty young thing who's also doing her wash. She removes a few articles of clothing--ostensibly so as to add them to the load in the washer--and he is left feeling hopeful. When finally she is attired in only a pair of shorts and a bra, he offers her an ice-cold beer and--voila!--off comes the bra.

Allow me to reiterate: The young man offers a beer to a woman he's never met--a woman to whom he's uttered not so much as a syllable--and she is so grateful, so moved, so impressed--who knows what emotion inspires her?--that she presents herself to him in the near buff.

I can conjure only two audiences for this particular advertisement, and I can't imagine that either are going to be too pleased by it: The first group comprises men of a certain age--say, from their thirties upward--men who have, in their lifetimes, bought beers for dozens of women, who have learned the hard way that it is rare indeed for a woman to respond to a proffered pilsner by baring her breasts.

The other group is made up of younger men -- those not yet of drinking age and those who are, but just barely. These poor souls are likely to have their hopes unrealistically elevated by scenarios such as the one described above, and the brewery behind it risks their ire when those hopes are dashed on the rocks of reality.

(The others who must suffer through these commercials, of course, are women, but I can only assume that females from nine to ninety have learned to tune out beer ads altogether. Women are no more the target audience for beer spots than men are for feminine hygeine products.)

But now that advertisers are using wife-swapping, ménages à trois, and anonymous quickies with complete strangers to sell their products, I'm left wondering: Has Middle America transformed, unbenownst to me (I'm so often the last to know), into a vast swinger's paradise? Do Rome, Indiana; London, Missouri; and Paris, Texas; now rival their European namesakes in decadence and profligacy?

Maybe. But one could argue, instead, that these ads actually represent a return to more traditional values. After all, it hasn't been so long since one company's idea of a swinger was a white terrier. Attractive women absolutely flocked to Spuds Mackenzie, and I don't even want to think about where we were supposed to go with that.

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