Now, I have to admit from the outset that I’m grateful to Naturist England for posting an advert for T-mobile on its Facebook page. It isn’t particularly novel as adverts go but it is funny in a cheeky way and it got me thinking about all the other times that nudity has been used in advertising.
The range of products is quite surprising. From sportswear to car manufacturers, from canned fizzy drinks to game consoles, they have all used nudity in promoting themselves to the public. For me the first advert featuring nudity to stand out in this way was the Danepak lean and low bacon Ad from 1992. There is nothing spectacular about it, you can easily substitute a clothed family for the ‘naturist’ one, and apart from some of the humour not working, and it would still have worked as an advertisement for Danepak. It might have been the first time that whole families had encountered the idea of social nudity on screen however, and I can imagine the titters by young and old as their imaginations ran riot with the idea of being nude in public.
In many of the adverts the nudity was simply contrived, like the one for Sony PlayStation online services, which was launched in 2006 featuring a streaker being ignored by players of the new service. By then streaking had long lost its appeal to exhibitionists seeking five minutes of glory as police officers chased them around the pitch. When the fad was new, broadcasters would show their antics in full, now they rather show rain clouds or the distant horizon. The director’s idea behind the use of the streaker was to illustrate the quirky British sense of humour. I just think it showed us as rather sad people, ashamed of our bodies incapable of living a rich, healthy lifestyle. Another is the advert from Toyota featuring two of its sales executives who would go anywhere, do anything to find out about their customers. Not sure what they learned at a nudist resort, apart from how to have fun.
What is the point of all this nudity in advertising? Well, that’s simple. It is to help you remember. It is the visual equivalent of the strange, out of context questions used by marketing surveys featured from time-to-time in the newspapers. These surveys are often about a subject that is of little immediate interest, but later you might be thinking about – say, moving – and while you might not have any particular estate agent in mind, you might recall the advert or survey that featured nudity for some strange reason and you’ll give them a call. Stéphane Deschênes spoke about this in the marketing naturism pod cast for The Naturist Living Show in June 2013.
How well the advert serves as a memory jogger depends on how the individual receives it. A well conceived advert might be remembered long after it was shown on TV or in the cinema. The first of the better adverts that I remember was by Bluefly for their “Nothing to Wear” campaign. It is strange how fashion retailers are prepared to use nudity to promote the clothes they have in their stores, but we won’t use nudity to promote the clothes-free lifestyle we advocate. The other advert people still talk about is by Elave Skincare, possibly because it featured full frontal nudity by company staff, including the chief executive, who volunteered to appear in the advert naked to symbolise the purity of their products. This was a definite break from tradition, when objects would normally be placed in front of, or over, sensitive areas like breasts and genitalia but as the tag line was that Elave had nothing to hide, it would seem out of place if they then went and hid parts of their bodies.
How advertising works is by the constant dripping effect of many screenings. These days this is usually on the small screen and while neither Bluefly nor Elave made it onto British TV they did find audiences in the cinema. This might be considered a poor choice when considering the average weekly TV audiences is just over 45 million but according to The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association there were 165.5 million admissions during 2013, not an insignificant figure by any means.
Strangely, not all adverts featuring naturism (or nudism) in its storyline show naked people, even those with carefully placed objects to preserve their modesty. For their advert Boots showed a group of women contemplating the idea of heading to a nudist beach with lots of enthusiasm before doubts creep in and they create reasons why they shouldn’t, before trotting off to the clothed beach.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create an advert along similar lines but with a different result, to reach out to the 3.5 million Britons said to enjoy the lifestyle in the UK? After all, if ‘normal’ advertisers are comfortable with the idea of nudity, who are we to shy.
Being realistic however, it is unlikely that we’ll see an advert on British TV or in the cinema any time soon. There are just too many hurdles to get over, not least our own reticence to engage with the public through mass media. But if we could find the money and the will to follow Naturisme.fr then we shall have a very high standard to aim at. This advert, shown in French cinemas was directed by PY Jerome and short listed at Canne in 2005.