Sex Sells: Especially on DRTV

It seems like it wasn’t so long ago that I edited the first “sexually related” commercial on broadcast TV for Trojan prophylactics. Somehow, the pharmaceutical manufacturers were able to convince the FCC, FTC, religious communities and broadcast stations that advertising condoms was about disease and pregnancy prevention, rather than pre-marital sex and promiscuity.

Someone close to the campaign suggested I buy stock in Church and Dwight, the manufacturer of Trojans. I wish I had. As soon as the spots hit the airways, the stock quintupled overnight.

In the past 20 years, the marketing of sexual products has progressed from disease and pregnancy prevention to enhancing the sexual experience.

Which brings me to sex and Direct Response TV. It didn’t take long for a bunch of partying Bourbon Street entrepreneurs to create a product that made everyone (TV stations, DRTV vets and home viewers alike) realize that just the suggestion of seeing naked young co-eds would get the phones to ring off the hook, clog a Web site and set records for video tape sales. Even straight up pornography was packaged (the Emmanuel series) and sold through DR spots on public access channels all over the country. Thankfully, after a rebellion from other advertisers, the stations stopped selling time to these kinds of products and left the selling of X-rated materials to the Internet.

But once sex came out of the closet, major pharmaceutical companies started using DRTV to sell modern day sexual enhancement drugs like Viagra and Cialis, prescription drugs that that solved the problem that many macho men and underserved women suffered with in frustrated silence: impotence. What made it OK to bring that problem out of the bedroom and into your living room? Because the problem could now be solved and sold. And America was ready for this problem and solution to be brought to the masses.

So, what were DRTV marketers going to create to take advantage of this new marketing opportunity? Say “hello” to Bob and Enzyte. Sure, Bob was smilin’ for a really good reason. He had his mojo workin’ again. The male species was saved and it was now available for all men to use and women to enjoy. Bob became a hugely popular geek for reasons that resonated below the belt. Again, sexual enhancement and DRTV reign supreme. Another new category is discovered and conquered by the DRTV industry.

Since then, Bob has shrunk in size, but topical creams and ingestible products for men and women have risen to take his place. For those adult products that can’t be sold directly via DRTV, Web directed spots for search engines, games, toys, magazines and other spicy matter suffice. So, what’s next for DRTV and sex? I have no idea, but I think that the only direction it can go is “up” because it works and makes a lot of people happy in the process.

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