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Roxy: Too Sexy For This Ad?
By: Jennifer Graber
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At the risk of sounding like a bad joke—what do you get when you cross a scantily clad backside, a bed, and a shower? A perfume ad? Nope. What about a lingerie ad? Not even close. The answer is: an ad for Roxy’s Biarritz 2013 surfing competition. Puzzled by the answer — then join the crowd.
The surf brand baffled, and irritated, many when it released a video promoting the Biarritz competition. The ad features a fit young woman lounging in bed (with not a lot left to the imagination). The ad then goes on to showcase — well, mostly the backside of the aforementioned young woman. By the way, the young woman is revealed (in a later video) to be professional surfer Stephanie Gilmore. Not until the very end, no pun intended, does one even begin to get a hint that the ad is actually for the Roxy brand or even related to surfing in any manner.
Roxy, and its family of brands, takes pride in creating a connection to the outdoors while celebrating athleticism, adventure, creativity, youth, empowerment, and so forth. The question is whether or not Roxy has lived up to its core values and brand promises by crafting and releasing this ad. Many have posited that Roxy, in fact, has not done so.
Those taking issue with the ad have a lot to say. Some in opposition of the sexy ad have said that "celebrating female athletic bodies" is okay, but the ad itself has nothing to do with surfing or the competition. Others, however, have had "fighting" words for the brand. Those most upset with Roxy have called the ad sexist (and “excessively stupid”). Others have gone further and said that the ad is a setback in a battle for gender equality and completely ignores the brand’s value of female empowerment.  
In marketing we are coming into a time in which responsibility is becoming a vital part of a brand’s action plan. Stakeholders, of all varieties, are pushing brands to be accountable — not only for its products but also its marketing, business practices, ethics, etc. Nevertheless, there is no denying that sex sells. Brands have been using that adage for quite some time. But at what point is there a line drawn? And did Roxy cross that line? Additionally, can we expect brands to potentially alter their revenue (be it positively or negatively) by changing tactics? In a sense, that could be considered "messing with" a company’s livelihood. Which is why many question the level of responsibility that brands should have when it comes to using sexual imagery in ads.
Should using sexual imagery as a branding tactic be regulated or monitored? And does using said imagery actually cause hindrances in the fight for gender equality and lessening the use of oversexualized stereotypes of women? Many women might answer with a resounding yes. But that does not mean that brands should totally abandon that tactic or that ads should suddenly lack passion and creativity. Like all things in life, and marketing, there is a simple rule to follow — all things in moderation. Okay, so maybe it is not that simple. However, brands should be acutely aware of the messages they portray. By achieving a Zen-like balance, especially with controversial topics and issues, brands can safely walk a line in which all interested parties are at least somewhat happy. The world is watching and listening, and brands like Roxy should take note.


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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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