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Some industry experts think the sex pitch has gone too far. Others say it is all in the way it is done. Fashion straddles the line between art and commerce, and so do its ads. In 2001, a magazine and billboard ad campaign for Yves Saint Laurent featuring a nude Sophie Dahl laid out on her back as if in orgasmic rapture created a firestorm of controversy. Some people viewed it as art, like a nude painting or sculpture, while others considered it a shameless ploy for attention. Vogue Australia editor Kirstie Clements has nixed ads in the past for being too overtly sexual. Sex sells Cosmo, but not so much Vogue, says Clements.

I have rejected an ad for sex aids, but I have no problem with the Sophie Dahl YSL ads. I think they are very chic. Sexy for us has to be chic and sexy. A sexy-looking Gisele sells, yes. But a girl in bondage, no. Depends on your product. Sex is not the only trick in the book. Today, premeditated weirdness has just as much pull as a gratuitous glimpse of flesh. In 2000, menswear label Daniel Christian’s fall ad campaign showed only the face of a wrinkly old woman with the message buy a Daniel Christian shirt or pair of jeans and the bag comes free.

Who wouldn’t want to buy a pair of jeans after seeing that? These ads also work because there’s so much word of mouth and so many articles about them in the newspapers and other media, says Arthur Asa Berger, author of Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture. If you can create an ad that gets talked about in television news shows and written about in newspapers, you are getting a lot of free publicity for the brand. One of the revolutionaries in this seemingly illogical method of advertising was Benetton, whose ads in the eighties and nineties ranged from the harmless (two smiling children) to the provocative (a duck covered in crude oil) to the controversial (death row inmates). Oliviero Toscani, who photographed the confrontational ads and was dropped shortly after the death row campaign, always maintained that it wasn’t his duty to sell the clothesit was the company’s. Oh, Oliviero, how we miss you.Get style inspiration through following me on Pinterest Ltf

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