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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sex + Watchdog Groups = Great Advertising??

In today's political climate, the following seems to be the perfect recipe for creating memorable, far-reaching TV advertising:

1. Shoot a commercial featuring lots of sexual innuendo, but stopping just short of anything really naughty.
2. Before airing, allow conservative watchdog groups to get wind of it so they can get in an uproar and start a grassroots campaign to stop it.
3. Make sure that bloggers and the national news media talk about it, and vigorously debate family values vs. free speech. Provide TV networks with clips of the ad so they can run it over and over. If you're really lucky, Leno or Letterman will joke about the ad in their monologues.
4. Once the commotion has died down, offer to pull or scale back airings of the ad, thereby saving a bundle on airtime.

Who knows if the Carl's Jr. fast food chain intended to follow this strategy, but they appear to be benefitting from it nonetheless. Their new TV ad, featuring Paris Hilton washing a car while wearing a sexy swimsuit, is loaded with innuendo. Way too much, says the Parents Television Council. The PTC's main complaint is that, unlike a risque program that can be placed into a late-night time slot, a commercial can pop up at any time (though Carl's would not likely buy time on children's shows for this ad).

If the PTC's goal was to suppress this ad, it failed miserably. As noted above, the ad is featured on news and talk shows everywhere, and can even be viewed online at spicyparis.com Historically, attempts by watchdog groups to censor and boycott what they see as offensive media usually backfire. Instead of shutting down this programming, their actions have put everything from the '90s sitcom Married With Children to GoDaddy.com on the map.

Was stirring up controversy part of Carl's intent? Possibly. In any case, they made their point, and got their name out there. But the critical question remains: Now that we know that Paris Hilton can wash a car, can she sell burgers?

Source: CNN/Money