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Our exclusives and on-the-ground reporting are being read and shared by many high-profile journalists. Support The Moscow Times! Contribute today. By Astrid Wendlandt. Naked women promote cigarette lighters, busty ladies sell shoes, nasty women flog fax machines, seductive women whisper the glories of cellular phones and leggy women in micro-mini skirts lay it on thick about latex paint. Russia's billboards, magazine s and posters are full of that count on the appeal of sex -- specifically, the appeal of scantily clad women -- to arouse consumer interest.
Sometimes these are grotesque, advertising industry sources say, sometimes they objectify women as little more than an accessory for the New Russian man, and often the idea of sex appeal has little to do with the product at hand. But those who commented confirmed the old suspicion -- sex does sell.
One ad, for the mobile telephone provider Beeline, features a woman with heavy-lidded eyes and her top lifted to expose a cellular telephone tucked into her skirt. For the Beeline magazine spot, Notkin said, the company's ad budget was tight and the company sought maximum bang for its buck. The ad, a relatively straightforward phallic fantasy, had to be "something impressive," he said.
The most obvious target for sexually charged plugs for high-technology gadgets, fashion and alcohol is the young generation of so-called New Russians. According to Macdonald, a product should have an intrinsic or logical link to the sensual or sexual images of the ad in order to be effective.
Thus, just as alcohol or fashion products would generally work in such a context, household appliances or automobile tires may not. In one Moscow ad campaign, for Italy's Salita shoe company, the link -- in this case, the pairing of shoes and cleavage -- may not be patently clear.
A recent ad in the series promotes the company's spring and summer collection. In it, a smiling and well-endowed woman in a generously opened jacket holds a bag of Salita shoes in one hand, while hooking the finger of her other hand around a button at her chest, as if poised to unfasten her jacket. Salita representatives in Italy would not comment on the ad.
One Salita representative in Moscow, however, said she found the "too sexual" and lacking the desired effect. In a similar vein, industry sources found billboard advertisements for the shoe company Tervolina, which feature a sensually posed woman against a backdrop of a sea of shoes, making an illogical link between the product and sensuality.
Another key in the sex-and- equation is the dosage of sex used, and how it is presented. If the sex element of an ad is badly portrayed, advertisers say, it comes off as overdone, kitschy or even grotesque. Usually, they say, lack of experience on the part of the ' producers is the main problem.
Sex can be a complicated element to use effectively in advertising. The risk is high that in the hands of beginners the may end up locked in cliches, where "girls look like prostitutes and men like mafiosi," Macdonald said. But ad-makers' lack of experience may not be such a drawback in Russia, where viewers may also lack the consumer acumen of Western audiences.
Russians consumers, Panov said, are less exposed to advertising in general, and less attuned to the subtleties than their Western counterparts. An ad for fax machines made by Italy's Olivetti is one example of an extreme ad that may not make it any time soon to the shores of politically correct North America.
The Olivetti magazine spot depicts a bottle blonde woman with a fax machine between her spread legs, with a caption that re, "Fax me. She said she hopes that in the next few years, there will be more stringent laws against such type of advertising. But for now, the playing field of Russian advertising is relatively open. According to Alexander Segal, consultant for the State Duma's committee on communication, there isn't any legislation that sets advertising ethics, only a law that forbids outright pornography.
But that law's reach is not clear either, he said. The only problem, he said, is that no one knows what the norms are. For example, she said, on television are more strictly controlled than on billboards or in the press, which she says explains why sexual appear more frequently in the street and in print than they do on television. Alcohol and cigarette , commonly paired with sensual images, are also officially banned from the air.
Although sexy may reach their target audience among members of a young and wealthy generation who are proud to proclaim that sex in Russia is no longer a taboo, they have also attracted the attention of a less approving audience in the government. Tanon said some conservative forces in the Duma recently asked for for tampons and sanitary towels to be taken off the air, arguing they were offensive to children.
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