The High Pressure World of Advertising

I've often thought that there was something badly awry in the world of advertising and every so often I come across examples that really confuse me. Take, for example, the condom machine in one of the York University gents. The machine sells two types of condom: Ribbed (for her pleasure) and Ultra-sensitive (presumably for his pleasure although this isn't explicitly stated). The picture over the ribbed condoms is a red sports car... now this I can kind of understand in a way - people associate cars with sex and sex sells. Admittedly most people more strongly associate condoms with sex but that's neither here nor there and a picture of a condom on a condom machine might have a negative sales potential given their rather unaesthetic nature.

The picture over the ultra-sensitive condom is a pastel-coloured cartoon windsurfer. Now this, I really don't get. Are windsurfers particularly sensitive? Are they particularly sexual? I consider myself fairly typical of people who would use a university toilet and I don't find myself drawn to windsurfers sexually. I don't know anyone who has ever mentionned this. Perhaps the message is more subtle than this and the subtext is that the condom is ultra-fine or featherlite or ultra-sensitive (or whatever they call it) and therefore would be blown by the wind. This really begs the question what you're doing holding the condom out in the wind in the first place. If you're wearing it then that's likely to be really quite cold and if you're not wearing it then for godsakes stop wafting it about in the wind it's not a windsock, read the leaflet, you're not using it right. I can kind of see the motivation for the pastel colours which do say "sensitivity". Perhaps what we're meant to think of is the fact that windsurfers wear rubber wetsuits, but unless you're a fettishist that's not particularly sexy and even an adman wouldn't describe a wet-suit as "ultra-sensitive" or "feather-lite".

The main picture for the entire machine is a photo of a slim, attractive man and a slim, attractive woman, picked out in red on black about to engage in a medium passion kiss. This I can understand. They're clearly in an about-to-have-sex / having-sex (but not yet at the drooling, sweating, looking extremely foolish phase yet) situation. What confuses me is that at this moment the man is thinking (so we are to gather from his "thinks" bubble) about ejecting from a cartoon fighter plane. This really does puzzle me. Admittedly I don't have sex as often as I'd like but I can honestly say that I've never even considered ejecting from a fighter plane while having sex. Mr. Clow is of the opinion that the man is thinking of ejecting since it sounds like ejaculating. I find this puzzling. After all, would we have found it convincing, for example, if the man's "thinks" bubble contained Rodin's The Thinker speculating? I think not. And the whole idea of advertising by what something sounds like is just not viable. Would you advertise salt butter by showing someone a bolt cutter?

Perhaps, then we are meant to suppose that the man is thinking of fighter planes in the same way that people in films think of baseball stars. (A technique that doesn't work for me, being English I can think of everything I know about baseball stars in ten seconds or less which is really no help). This doesn't work though because then the message that the picture conveys is "men who suffer from premature ejaculation use our condoms" which is what an ad man might call a "negative image". In our sexually insecure society we have not yet tried to reinterpret this as a positive thing (for example with phrases like "temporally orgasm enhanced" or "orgasmically pre-punctual") so we have to assume that this is not the message that we're supposed to get from the picture.

On the other hand, maybe we're supposed to think of heroic fighter-pilots yelling "pull out, pull out" as they fly from the cockpit of their doomed plane. However, the phrase "pull out" in a sexual context really mitigates against condoms as it seems, in my mind, connected with other less reliable forms of contraception. Also, a fighter pilot ejecting is really a failure as a fighter pilot because he's returning without his plane and, even tho' such notables as Biggles did this every so often, Colonel Raymond would generally give you a dressing down for it. Are we then to assume that the man is considering abandonning this sexual sortie in the face of enemy resistance? Perhaps, the man in question has forgotten the condom and therefore must abandon the mission in the manner of a pilot who suddenly finds himself without fuel.

In the end, I can find no satisfactory resolution to the multitude of questions raised by this vexing machine. Perhaps they are best left unanswered - or perhaps there are factors that I am not aware of - for example, maybe a major manufacturer of ejector seats pays the condom machine maker to paint the machine in order to give their product a sexy image. These, however, are nothing compared to the deeper mysteries of condom machines such as "Why would anyone buy a product called `A luminous rat tickler' or `lager and lime flavour' in a sexual context"?


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