Not so long ago, I was visiting a fairly mainstream website (owned by one of Australia’s larger media companies) when a banner ad popped up with an unexpected proposition… “Would I like a Hummer?”
Despite my moderate take on most things, I was surprised.
We’ve all been made lurid offers at one time or another while trawling the never-ending abyss of expressive freedom that is the World Wide Web. But I never expected this from one of the mainstream players.
Until I realised that the puerile part of my brain (that bit that makes me giggle when I hear the word ‘Titmouse’ and has me work in ever creative ways to get my friends from New Zealand to say the word ‘Six’) had led me astray.
Of course, this is exactly what the advertisement had intended.
Because, despite the sexual double-entrendre, the advertisement was, in fact, for something less exciting. It was for a service as dull and completely asexual as financial lending.
Yup, a Hummer is a very large American Four-Wheel-Drive and the business behind the advertisement is called, I kid you not, Debbie Does Carloans, fronted by a website reminiscent of that staple of yesteryear, the old auto-shop calendar (women draped over cars, holding various odd mechanical apparatus, with expressions suggesting that life could never be better).
I’ve included the link above because I’m sure that you’re mature enough to decide whether you want to click through or not.
Despite my initial surprise (and obvious curiosity) and even though I was honestly amazed that this sort of blatantly sex-centric advertising still exists (I thought John Singleton had retired?), I can also see the merits of the marketing angle.
The brains behind Debbie Does Carloans clearly knew what they were doing.
In short, they identified a demographic (young, male rev-heads), then created a product specifically designed to appeal to that demographic. Further, the entire concept is based on a history of sexual marketing that brings another dimension to the campaign.
It reeks of parody, with a touch of retro (two powerful tools strong enough to soften even the hardest of cynics).
And, of course, that makes me want to write about it (despite the possible inference that I am cheapening the Anthill brand by leading this blog and our weekly email newsletter with the risqué headline above).
More than one Anthill author has already made the observation that the sex industry is one of the most powerful litmus tests of where technology and business is heading.
We’ve all heard that Gutenberg’s printing press was quickly pressed into service by pornographers, after he failed to make a commercial go of it, assisting massive widespread adoption of the device.
It’s also been suggested that the battle between Betamax and VHS was won as a result of the porn industry’s wide adoption of the cheaper format, VHS.
And finally, the decision by Toshiba to cease production of HD-DVD earlier this year was apparently partly influenced by the fact that Sony’s Blu-Ray alternative has greater disc capacity and, therefore, allows more camera angles, which is of greater appeal to a certain high-volume category of viewing customer.
Yet, the question remains…
Was my initial reaction prudish or justified? While this sort of advertising is blatantly sexual, is it gratuitous? Or more to the point, is this the sort of information Anthill should be writing about?