The Naked Truth About Advertising, Underwear and Valentines Day

Underwear is a popular Valentines Day gift but what message does it give?

This time of year our shop Your Life Your Style is full of hearts. Glass coasters with hearts fused into them, heart shaped cushions, handmade cards with stuck on hearts… other shops have enough flowers, chocolates and romantic CDs to fill Westminster Abbey. All intended to show we love someone this coming Monday.

Underwear seems a popular choice as a Valentines Day gift but I’m not certain it’s a good idea. I’ve been wondering how men who receive Marks & Spencer’s new BodyMax underwear will feel. To remind you, this is a new range intended to make a man’s abs more flat, his bum more firm, and his maleness… just plain more. All those years your wife or girlfriend has been saying size doesn’t matter and suddenly she buys you ‘frontal enhancement’ underpants.

It’s worse still if you buy them for yourself. The trouble with all these body changing clothes, for men or women, is that, once you’ve attracted your potential mate with a bulging crotch or uplifted padded boobs, there comes an inevitable moment of truth. Your pants go down and the mountain brings forth a mouse. The bra comes off and your man’s face drops along with a couple of other things. I suppose we hope that by then our partner will be so overcome by passion, they’ll forgive the deception. Or maybe we just make rely on everything looking better by candlelight.

In business we have no such luxury. The law doesn’t allow us to pretend our product or service is one thing and then hope once the customer has bought it, they’ll just accept the disappointing reality. Nor would it be good business sense. Contrary to a widespread public perception, advertising is not about lying. The industry regulator the Advertising Standards Authority even says in its core statement that advertisements in print, TV and radio must be ‘honest, decent and legal’. It’s about to get tougher for businesses because from 1st March the ASA is taking on complaints about websites.

Shops shouldn’t need legislation to make us honest because truth is our biggest marketing tool. I’ve always found that if you are honest about your products, describing them accurately, admitting their limitations, even sending customers elsewhere if that is their best bet, and apologising when you get something wrong, your customers will trust you and come back to you again and again.

These days, all good websites allow customers to comment on products and service from the mighty Amazon to our own little (and only slightly enhanced) Your Life Your Style. We don’t always like what is said but it shows customers we have nothing to hide and it is an additional spur to be clear and accurate about what we promise.

Of course you can’t satisfy everybody and we’re all entitled to an opinion. One customer gave a poor review to our ‘rabbit’ draught excluder. There was nothing wrong with its quality but she didn’t like his slightly mad expression! Still, at least we didn’t pretend it was a bigger size.

This article also appeared on the Daily Echo website

My Back Pages: M&S Know How To Party

Are M&S are becoming the biggest sex shop on the high street?

This is a blog entry I wrote recently on another website:

Move aside, Ann Summers. Not content with selling ‘Frontal Enhancement’ underpants that are padded to make one’s manhood look bigger, Marks and Spencer now appear to be pushing the idea of women partying in their underwear (see photo). It seems M&S are rapidly becoming the biggest sex shop on the high street.

Perhaps their next move will be a change of name to S&M.