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Saturday, September 22, 2007

The naked truth? it's just burlesque!

WALK through your local shopping centre and you will be accosted by countless near-naked women showing off their underwear or their fancy perfume from large backlit metrolite posters.

Open your magazine and a pair of frolicking naked oldies will confront you.

On night-time TV seductive ladies will invite you to "call me now". And of course on the internet anything is possible.

No wonder senators Steve Fielding and Helen Coonan rail against our sexualised advertising and marketing. But how bad is it really?

You'll remember as a school kid sneaking a look into the office of the local mechanic where, inevitably, some naked lovely would be staring down from the car parts calendar on his wall.

Chances are the picture was racier than you'd find there today. So the phenomenon isn't new, just more blatant.

And despite what's said in Parliament, no advertising in Australia today is pornography. That's what you find on the internet, not in Woman's Day. What we see in our media is more like a peep show. To use an old-fashioned word, it's burlesque marketing.

Burlesque is like the fan dancer who shows a bit, teases a lot, but runs behind the curtain at the last moment. Because the fact is, advertising is always several steps behind the front line of social acceptance.

Last night on free-to-air TV you will have seen more sexuality in the programs than you would ever find in the commercials that sandwiched them.

You will have heard language to make a sailor blush, that even now I could not write in this newspaper let alone print in the ad alongside.

Society sets its limits of tolerance first through individual interaction. You'll speak with your friends in a way you'd never dream of speaking with your mother.

Then fiction picks it up. All the great censorship scandals have been about books, whether Lady Chatterley's Lover or Ulysses or Portnoy's Complaint. It was another 20 years before the first-ever condom ad was run.

And then there's the problem that, most of the time, sex is not a very good sales tool. Too often you remember the foxy lady or lad and totally overlook the product they are selling.

The lightly clothed girl for Midnight Poison looks very much like the model for Coco Mademoiselle who's shielding her attributes with a bowler hat. Come to think of it, the most memorable thing is the bowler hat.

Virgin, as usual, has taken the tack of trying to shock us by showing naked old folk demonstrating that they haven't forgotten how it's done, in its campaign for Virgin Home Loans.

The mechanic's calendar featured a nude because a photo of the product -- articulated steering widgets or whatever -- would never have made it on to the wall. But she did not make a very persuasive case for the widgets.

Now I've just received an expensive brochure, backed by a big TV campaign, telling me I can protect my children from internet nasties.

Not that I have any littlies. When mine were that age, no blocking software would have kept them from finding what they weren't supposed to see. Any more than the mechanic was ever able to stop me peeking into his office.

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