I may be stating the blindingly obvious here, but it seems as if
Saatchi & Saatchi is going out of its way to whip up complaints about
the poster campaign for Coco De Mer. It's not so much that the sex
shop's ads purport to show the faces of men and women mid-orgasm, it's
rather the details that have been breathlessly allowed to circulate
about Frank Budgen's shoot, with models stimulating themselves and then
clicking the camera shutter at climax time.
Such juicy titbits seem designed to cause maximum stimulation to easily
shocked mid-market journalists and easily excited tabloid ones. They
could also be the final straw pushing the ASA over the edge and scoring
a publicity-generating ban.
All of this is a generally accepted way of extending the reach of your
"erotic" campaign these days - witness The Mirror's front-page coverage
of Kylie's Agent Provocateur ad last week or fcukinkybugger snapping up
free PR without airing. The bar for risque is rising all the time and
with Coco competing for column inches with Ann Summers, Agent
Provocateur, Marks & Spencer and anyone who pops a model into a bra, you
have to go a little bit further to scandalise anybody.
You could even argue that Saatchis' decision to develop two campaign
strands seems insurance against the likely outcome. The orgasm shots are
designed to run parallel with less hardcore executions demonstrating the
amazing similarities between the inside of cabbages, wallpaper edges,
birds' wings and vaginas.
If "orgasm" gets the bullet, then this strand of the campaign will
survive with all the more kudos attached.
If you ask me, though, a ban would be a real pity. These ads are
They're attention-grabbing, obviously, but they also offer a real
differentiation from the way sex - and sex shops - tend to be sold these
For a start, these posters are unisex. They're also uni-age and
They're not exploiting the young or the naive. They don't encourage
paedophilia or any other deviance.
Finally, and refreshingly, they're not using gender politics as an
excuse to talk about sex - unlike most racy lingerie ads and the
high-street sex shops positioning themselves as an extension of "girl
power". They cut through all the dubious waffle whereby the dildo
becomes the ultimate symbol of female empowerment. Instead, they get
straight to the point.
Sex is tremendous, exciting, extremely amusing and open to men and
women, the ugly, the old and the terminally geeky looking.
The risk with a campaign like this is that by presenting sex at its most
stripped down and natural, it rather begs the question of why we need
the gadgets that Coco sells in order to get the most out of it. This is
the biggest challenge sex shops face in broadening their appeal - and
the reason why so many position their products as clinical, hassle-free
substitutes for men.
Does Coco have anything to offer that red-blooded people, with a healthy
imagination and a range of household implements, can't come up with for
The ads present a bold and artistic solution to this problem. Taken by
themselves, the images - even the orgasms - are fairly ambiguous. It's
only the addition of the Coco branding that confirms we're dealing with
sex. Coco becomes the filter that turns our minds towards the horny -
and for a sex shop attempting to broaden its appeal, you can't get
better branding than that.