Sex in Advertising Evolves with Culture / `Battle of Sexes' Changes to `Balance of Sexes,' Says Day

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If advertising and life in general have any kind of linkage (and there are those who say they don't), the linkage is that sex is so much an important part of both, says Barry Day, vice chairman and world-wide director of professional services for McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

And just as sex is an important part of life, Day told members of the Oklahoma City Advertising Club Wednesday, then sex must always in some way or another have something to do with advertising.

As such, it would follow that since advertising and life in general have changed over the recent past, "presumably the way we use sex in advertising has also changed."

Advertising is so often merely reflecting the mores and fantasies of a culture, said Day, and lending a hand when it comes to giving those ideals shape and form.

Day was appointed vice chairman of McCann-Erickson, a 60-nation advertising agency, in 1981. He joined the firm in 1970 as creative director of its London office and five years later was appointed executive vice president of McCann-Erickson International.

In a given year, he spends about six months traveling well over 200,000 miles around the world. He stopped off in Oklahoma City to be the featured speaker at the advertising club's monthly meeting.

If there was a message in Day's presentation of advertisements from around the globe, it seemed to be that sex in advertising, and the way it is perceived by others is slowly changing from being taken so seriously by all people to those using humor as a way of offsetting the seriousness.

The presentation was set to Cole Porter's song, "Let's Fall In Love," among others.

The "battle of the sexes in advertising" is also changing, and it is moving from a "battle of the sexes to a balance of the sexes," Day said.

"The female persona was neatly packaged in the early days," Day said. "You were what you wore."

But before feminists take up in arms against this obviously sexist statement, Day said, men were treated the same.

However, things changed with the advent of the 1960s, beginning with the "symbolic male surrogate," Day said.

"And if you don't know what that is, then I'll tell you," he added. "The male surrogate was someone who could indulge a women's fantasies when the husband was safely away. That was Mr. Clean - you know, the bald man with the earring. Nowadays, there are lots of bald men with earrings, but back then that was something different."

Day also told of the Man From Glad, which, "sounds like a show for gays I know, but it wasn't. In those days you could say gay and mean cheerful."

Then there were the automobile commericals, showing a fast sports car as a man's mistress - while the sturdy family car represented the wife. …