Published May 06, 2010
LOS ANGELES – The adage “sex sells” is hardly anything new in Hollywood– but is one’s naked body, preferably that of a celebrity, becoming the only way companies and organizations can sell a product or promote a cause?
These days, every celebrity seems to strip down for their sponsorship deals, "charitable" work or simply to prove they are all-natural. Model Helena Christensen is the latest star to do it, stripping down to promote sneakers as part of her European Reebok campaign. Other stars who've stripped in recent months include Joanna Krupa and Eva Mendes for animal rights, and Kim Kardashian in Harper's Bazaar to celebrate women's curves. Some companies, like Dove, have even taken to hiring "real women" to strip down to promote their products.
All of these ads beg the question -- is exposed flesh really the only thing that grabs consumer attention these days?
“American consumers and audiences have become completely desensitized with the help of the media. From the 'Melrose Place' billboard campaign to PETA's no fur ads to the latest Helena Christensen Reebok ad, companies feel like they can't reach consumers unless sex is involved,” pop culture/entertainment guru Kimberly Lansing told Pop Tarts. “Yes, the saying is true: sex sells, but who walks around naked in their running shoes? Ok, maybe the random freak on Chat Roulette. When celebrities of all ages and walks are participating, it's scary to think what the future of entertainment, advertising, and pop culture in general will look like in 20 years.”
Still, supermodel Joanna Krupa, who has not only posed nude for PETA, but for numerous publications including Playboy and Maxim, doesn’t have any qualms about flashing her flesh, especially when it comes to her personal passions.
“I am happy with my body and have no issue with displaying it for something that is close to my heart and important to me, like selling a healthy body image, beautiful swimwear or, most importantly, raising awareness about the endless abuse against animals,” Krupa told us. “A company or a cause needs to find ways to generate interest and make itself memorable in order to be effective. Sadly a touch of 'shock effect' works, no matter how much we try to deny it, we all look at it and go 'wow!' Or 'what the heck?!' And it sticks to our minds, we pass it on to friends or discuss it with colleagues and that means 'mission accomplished' for the ad.”
PETA’s Senior VP Dan Mathews also defended the organization’s use of naked (and gorgeous) ladies in their campaigns.
“Nothing attracts attention like nudity. It's especially helpful when trying to get the attention of people who turn away from animal issues because they don't want to hear about blood, guts, and suffering,” Mathews said. “Our biggest campaign involves promoting veganism and fighting the obesity epidemic, and it's more effective to showcase a fit vegan body when the person isn't wearing much. There's a lot of competition for consumers' attention, so as a charity, we have to be creative and provocative in order to stay as visible as the cruel industries that we fight.”
In 2008, a commercial for Calvin Klein’s Secret Obsession perfume, featuring a greased-up Eva Mendes on a bed, caused such controversy that it was banned from U.S airwaves. But the racy ad was very much welcomed across Europe – and Mendes herself couldn’t get her head around why it became such a big deal.
"I don’t know why (it caused such a fuss). I thought it would be really fantastic and I was so proud to be the face of Calvin Klein and to be a part of their legacy,” Mendes told Tarts last year. “I think it was just way too much for the American public."
So are we behind the times in not accepting that corporations and naked stars seem to go hand-in-hand these days?
“In America, the church seems to still have more impact than in Europe and that shapes the overall moral sensitivities of people,” Krupa said. “My take is that we should surely teach our children about boundaries when it comes to nudity, but we have got to stay reasonable and discuss and stop with the demonizing.”
But according to Jenn Hoffman, a Los Angeles-based media expert, stars stripping off to support mega-million dollar companies actually isn’t all that mainstream.
“Celebrity nudity isn’t as prevalent as we think. In fact, most stars are not willing to get naked for any price fearing it looks too desperate. Some celebrities will appear nude because it’s part of their 'brand.' For example, Helena Christensen is a model who made a career primarily from showcasing her body. I think the ad effectively markets the product. I can’t imagine a better way to sell a body-toning shoe than by implying you can attain Helena Christensen’s perfect body by wearing it,” Hoffman said. “Kim Kardashian became famous from a sex tape, so her decision to appear nude isn’t too surprising either. In fact, Kardashian getting naked is almost a total bore at this point marketing-wise … As a society we have always been attracted to physical perfection but that will never be the only way to sell a product. A clever, smart or funny ad can be just as effective as flesh. It just depends on what you are selling.”