Controversial advertising?! vs. Controversial advertising!?

What was considered to be controversial advertising in the 1930s maybe not so much different from what is considered to be controversial or deserving an angry/overexcited look today. However, the perceptions of appropriate public reactions to this kind of advertising definitely have changed. If in the early 1930s, multiple letters would fly to the editorial offices of publishers with complains about inappropriate advertisements, in the early 2000s the complaints would be supported by multi-million dollar lawsuits.

Take, for instance, the case of the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, the hotel that suffered because of its use of sex appeals in advertising, as it was pointed out by Erika Engstrom. In his interview for a documentary on controversial advertising practices, Tom Reichert describes huge success of Springsmaid sheet advertisements of the early 1950s, the early advertising campaigns that were able to combine sex appeals, humor, cartoons, advertising, and wit. If in the early 1950s, such type of advertising as girls with rosy cheeks who were displaying “their inner thighs and the matching flesh-toned fabric of their camisoles” were quite acceptable even for feminist critics, today advertisers who engage in this kind of publishing maybe walking a shaky ground.

Sex sells. Violence sells. No matter whether you agree or disagree with these two statements, the situation with sex advertising regulations on the ground in North America and the European Union testifies that today the issue of sex advertising is treated seriously. With international concerns about human trafficking on the rise, restrictions imposed on sex advertising in different developed countries vary. Even in countries where sex work is legal, sex advertisers have to comply with special regulations concerning that type of advertising. Sex advertising not only sells sex work services or products related to the industry, but also it is becoming a ubiquitous tool for the promotion of other industries, such as tourism, as well, as Barb Brents claims. No matter whether sex appeals are used for a laundry detergent or escort services.

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