The amount of nudity displayed in commercials has certainly gone down in the US and the UK, but in many other countries, the use of sexual imagery to sell still prevails. That’s not to say this has totally disappeared from Western advertising.
If you've recently been traveling underground in London, you've probably spotted a slimming milkshake advert on the escalators with the slogan: "Shake it! Suck it! Slurp it!" and a woman sucking on a straw. Perhaps it's just an innocent advert about how to drink your milkshake, but it would be pretty naive to not at least consider the innuendo here.
In 2016, there was an uproar in the UK when a Protein World advert popped up asking: "Are you beach body ready?" next to a woman in a bikini. A protest was held, a petition signed, and a social media outcry commenced. The advert was believed to be body-shaming women with its ideals of what a woman should look like in swimwear.
We've also seen fashion brand Calvin Klein launch some dubious advertising. More recently, their ad showed an up-skirt shot of Klara Kristin's crotch and the slogan: "I flash in #mycalvins" for which it was was criticized heavily for its encouragement of sexual harassment. What's more, CK's Secret Obsession perfume commercial starring actress Eva Mendes was deemed far too sexual for US television and therefore could only be accessed via the internet. Nipples tend to have that effect.
Whatever your views are on this type of marketing, it cannot be argued that there is a certain stigma placed on products that use revealing pictures to sell. For this reason, we would like to lay bare the 15 TV Commercials From Around The World That Showed More Skin Than Product.
15 Asirom Car Insurance - Romania 2010
We're not sure if there’s any real need to show two women in their underwear bouncing on inflatable balls on any occasion, unless you’re selling bouncy balls that is. As it happens, this commercial is selling Car Insurance, but the creators clearly felt that the use of two scantily clad women and some headache inducing electronic music would do the trick.
And then, just because they felt like it, another gorgeous woman appears in a police uniform of all things...well, some sort of role-playing outfit that was probably found on Ebay, anyway. There’s a moral lesson to be had here: if you don’t buy the right insurance, a sexy lady in black underwear will come and 'cuff you. If you were looking for realism, you've come to the wrong commercial.
14 Don’t let a puncture ruin your day - France 2007
If you thought this was referring to a condom advert, then (thankfully) you'd be very much mistaken. This was in fact an ad for Goodyear tires, and it features a man and a woman about to do the deed. Interestingly though, there is more male flesh on display in this commercial than female. As the man begins to strip down, a gust of water blows him to the ground from a hole in the waterbed, ruining what was about to be a rather racy evening.
Another version of this advertisement line includes the deflation of a bouncy castle at a child’s birthday party, when an obese woman decides to give it a go. This sends a couple of bouncers into the air and even shows one hit the grass, making a pretty gruesome splat noise. Lovely.
13 Samsung - UK 2008
Is this meant to be every British man’s fantasy: a woman with a large bust eating a scotch egg while he reads The Sun newspaper? And just when you thought the British man’s 'dream' had officially become reality, two women in lingerie appear on his TV playing football like a couple of pros.
Unsurprisingly, this advert was banned due to its poor taste. The idea of women playing a sport well is overshadowed by the notion that men don’t enjoy watching women play unless they are semi-naked. Today, females are still fighting to be recognized in the sports industry and earn a remarkably low wage in comparison to the male athletes. We wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung is doing everything they can to end their association with this derogatory advert.
12 BMW - Germany 2001
As a man makes his way to his wedding in a BMW, his ex-girlfriends appear on their quintessential Italian balconies to throw all kinds of clothing items at his car. Because he is in a BMW, and not say a Prius, he is able to swerve around them and make it to his wedding on time. Phew!
But things don’t end well for the handsome Italian groom-to-be. When he goes to wipe his bride’s tears away with his pocket handkerchief, the handkerchief is revealed to be none other than a pair of white lace knickers. This man is a serial cheater, so no, we don’t feel sorry for him and neither does the bride’s father, who looks pretty gobsmacked by the whole thing.
This ad could either be criticizing or playing into old-fashioned ideals of marriage but one thing’s for sure: if you're gonna cheat, make sure you buy yourself a BMW beforehand.
11 NewYorker lingerie - Germany 2008
You can always count on Germany for some racy advert material; they have no qualms showing a little nudity here and there. But the theme of this ‘Dress for the Moment’ campaign ad is a tad too dark and twisted for most audiences. It features a newly married couple and a groom who is ancient enough to be the bride’s grandfather.
As the creepy old man peers through a keyhole at his young bride, the scheming woman puts on a provocative show in none other than her NewYorker underwear, causing the man to drop down dead. In doing this, she rids herself of two burdens, her elderly hubby and money shortages (if she had any). For reasons not unknown, this ad was banned in America because it was just too damn raunchy.
10 WTF Soft Drink - Canada 2007
This advert will definitely provoke a “What the f***?” out of many viewers, which is great because the drink is aptly named WTF. The beverage is owned by Mac’s convenience stores, and the teenage-targeted brand was created by the ad agency itself. The commercial sees two women put on an affectionate display with one another, before they are interrupted by a…tree man? In retaliation, they begin to cut the tree down with an axe. The tree man clearly gets some sexual pleasure from this, and lets out some strange juice which is then drunk by the ladies or used to wet their bosoms.
This WTF campaign saw the release of many other controversial internet video ads, including one where a robot humps a gym horse. Due to the nature of these ads, they were later pulled by Mac’s, who claimed WTF stood for “What’s the flavor?” as though that really made much difference.
9 SFR - France 2004
SFR is a French mobile phone company, and although this advert seems more like a warning against unsafe sex, it's actually advising you to get a cell phone in case your doctor calls with some embarrassing news. While a woman and a man engage in foreplay, the phone goes off and his doctor leaves a voice message notifying him of a fungal infection he has recently contracted.
This advert would never work nowadays; the death of the answering machine meant the end of many humiliating mishaps. The sex in this commercial might seem unnecessary, considering they are selling mobile phones, but overall. it's an amusing take on how technology impacts our lives. Looking back at commercials such as this shows us how the mobile phone was perceived at the start of its popularity.
8 Tuborg Beer - Denmark 1994
Back in the '90s, people had no problem accepting adverts that were on the verge of breaking a few rules. For this reason, many commercials from this era stand out as bold creations aimed to make you gasp.
In this ad, the more the guy sips from his beer, the more attractive his date becomes. And by attractive we mean that it appears she is wearing more make-up, while in his sober state, she isn’t wearing any. The woman is exactly the same, but the male’s idea of 'sexy' is her wearing lipstick and gazing at him seductively. While this advert definitely generalizes men's ideals of femininity, it mostly succeeds in making them seem incredibly stupid. There is even a Tuborg alcohol-free version, in which the woman stays the same. Creative, but maybe not very PC!
7 Stratos Chocolate - Norway 2000
This bizarre commercial starts off innocent enough, with three boys bike-riding home through a quiet suburban town. However, we later see them rushing to go and spy on the ‘woman next door’ who is sun-bathing in her knickers. In the hopes of getting a decent view of her breasts they decide to give her a phone call, all while enjoying a Stratos bar of milk chocolate.
It’s not the nudity that makes this advert highly disturbing, but rather the idea of these young boys gawking at a naked woman like it’s OK. Had they been older, this commercial may have been just as shocking, but it’s possible they would never have gotten away with it if they’d used 50-something men. Plus, it’s really just not that clever or funny.
6 Fleggard - Denmark 2008
In 2008, Fleggard, a Danish-German cross border shop, shocked many with a commercial that showed beautiful women sky-diving naked from a plane, flown by a suspicious looking grey haired pilot. There are two versions of this commercial (to put it bluntly, one shows tits and the other doesn’t) but both are highly controversial. Nevertheless, these commercials almost immediately captured the world's attention. And that's what an advertisement is supposed to do, right?
Some might say it’s more tongue in cheek than sexual, but the level of nudity is pretty up there. Lucky for you ladies, there is also a version for women which caters to your every desire, from a topless man drilling cement, to a fireman with a baby in his arms. But alas, there are no bum cheeks in sight and it’s unfairly tame compared to the original advert.
5 Nivea Body Milk - Germany 2014
Now this one sure does show a whole-lotta skin!
Nivea adverts are renowned for showing a little flesh, but this one is pretty provocative, what with all the close-ups. To introduce the first shower body milk, Nivea opted to display a bit more body than usual. In its Body Milk TV commercial, we see a lady having a bit too much fun for someone having their early morning shower. Her shower lotion artistry seems more seductive than practical.
It’s been some time since we’ve seen those infamous Herbal Essences adverts with the screaming women (who knew shampoo could give someone so much pleasure?) and this one certainly uses similar ‘sexy shower’ techniques. We think we’ll stick to whatever toiletries are on offer at the time, thank you very much.
4 IKEA - Sweden 2000
No one wants to walk in on their parents role-playing, much less if they are wearing pig and farmer outfits. Disturbing or not, this is a humorous and smart way to sell furniture. When the daughter and her boyfriend walk in on her parents playing farm animals, the father quickly grabs the first thing within reach, which just so happens to be a photo of his daughter. Seeing the funny side to this, the parents burst out laughing and the daughter is left nothing short of mortified. The caption “Time to leave home?” makes for a great finish.
This is not the first time IKEA have dabbled in the controversial. In 2001, a French IKEA commercial was banned because it showed a boy obliviously playing with a dildo that had been left around the house. The advert caption read "Tidy up".
3 LifeStyles Condoms - US 2009
Condom ads are renowned for their explicit content, and this one does not disappoint in that department. This almost-banned ad features some very intense foreplay as we are shown a young couple frolicking around in bed. Things get pretty steamy when the woman motions to someone in the corner of the room. At that point a beefy man appears in a white wife beater and angel wings and proceeds to search for something in his back pockets before handing her a condom.
As the Condom Fairy dances, seemingly ecstatic that he was able to help the young girl get laid, the following words appear: “Yes, the condom fairy does exist. But he may not make it to your house on time so go buy your own…just in case”. It undoubtedly got some chuckles and, more importantly, promoted safe sex.
2 Choco Party - Japan 2000s
After watching this ad a couple of times, we were still left scratching our heads. The commercial's storyline is probably not very relevant for those of you who enjoy watching a woman jumping up and down in her bra. But still, let’s analyze the ad anyway.
First we see a lady in an orange bra and knickers jumping around doing some weird 'rock, paper, scissors' sign language which apparently means “Choco-Party-Good-Good!”. So this chocolate is not just good, but good good! As she does this, some noises occur which seem to represent some kind of point scoring, as though she were playing a video game. We can't help but think that we're totally missing something here. Then again, the great thing about this advert is that it makes no pretenses whatsoever about the fact that it’s using boobs to sell.
1 Pepsi - Mexico 1999
We’re certainly no strangers to the odd sexy beach ad, especially when it comes to the marketing of cold drinks. And Pepsi loves a bit of seaside action. In 1999, the cola company showed just how far a woman will go to get her hands on a Pepsi.
When a striking woman sets her sights on a Pepsi stand, there's only one way to tackle the boiling sand. Using her clothes as foot shields, she is then able to hop towards the kiosk - until she runs out of garms, that is. By taking her bikini top off, she is finally able to reach her destination and the vendor is more than happy to give her happy hour prices.
Although this ad undeniably uses a ‘sex sells’ approach, it does have a certain retro charm to it and offers us some insight into a more direct approach of advertising. Additionally, at just 17, Sofia Vergara starred in the original version of this Pepsi advert, although the bikini top stayed on in that one.
What other commercials featured more skin than product? Let us know in the comments.