The bare facts of advertising

Kevin Cowherd

January 09, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

I AM STARING now at a picture in a magazine of two women standing on what appears to be, oh, a hotel balcony.

One woman is pointing off in the distance. The other is laughing uproariously, obviously delighted at a witticism uttered by her companion, unless I'm reading too much into this.

What makes the picture so unsettling (at least to me) is that both women are dressed only in their underwear. Bras and panties, that's it. Maybe they're wearing shoes -- there's some sort of huge fern at their feet and you really can't tell.

But the focus is definitely on their underwear and soon you arrive at the terrifying realization that this is an advertisement for a nationally known brand of lingerie.

I don't know . . . maybe it's me. Maybe this advertisement makes perfect sense.

Maybe it'll have women everywhere racing wild-eyed into clothing stores, waving their checkbooks and charge cards and shouting at startled sales clerks: ''THOSE TWO ON THE HOTEL BALCONY . . . GIMME WHAT THEY'RE WEARING!''

Fine. It's just that . . . well, when I see this picture, all sorts of questions run through my mind.

No. 1, what are these women doing outside in their underwear? Is this normal behavior? (Let's not even get into the various state and municipal laws on nudity. Besides, what difference does it make? The cops are too busy tracking down murderers and dope dealers to worry about a couple of kinky babes in their Playtex flashing passers-by from the sixth floor of the Sheraton or wherever.)

Another thing that puzzles me: How did these two women reach the joint (I assume) decision to rendezvous in their underwear?

We can only speculate on the thinking that went on here. Did one call up the other and whisper: "Psst, meet you on the balcony. And remember: No clothes. Just, you know, bras and panties . . . "

People don't simply ARRIVE at a place in just their underwear, is what I'm saying. Even at the wildest nightclub, a woman in bra and panties would be told by the bouncer: "Lady, throw a bathrobe around yourself, for God's sake!"

Or maybe she wouldn't. I don't get out much anymore. The point is that underwear advertisers persist in showing their models socializing -- no, CAVORTING (God, I love that word) -- in the most improbable scenarios.

This is hardly limited to ads for lingerie, either. One of the most bizarre ads I've ever seen (this goes back a few years) showed a man in his underwear standing at a bus stop, with his briefcase tucked under one arm.

Milling around the man were 50 or so fellow commuters -- none of whom, it must be pointed out, seemed to find anything odd fTC about the situation.

Now, I'm sorry. But if that isn't CAVORTING, then I don't know what is. At a bus stop! In his underwear!

Has anyone ever -- EVER -- appeared at a bus stop in real life clad only in his underwear? Without having a net thrown over him and being wrestled into the back of an ambulance, I mean?

No. I think not. And yet the advertisement made it seem as if this sort of thing -- waiting for the crosstown bus in your skivvies -- happens all the time.

In fact, judging by the bored expressions on the faces of the other commuters pictured, this might have been the 12th guy to show up at the bus stop in his underwear that day.

Well. Seems to me a more realistic ad would picture a man standing in his underwear in, oh, a locker room (NOT on a hotel balcony or at a bus stop, OK?)

And this man would be wearing a rather sheepish expression, as if the full realization of being photographed with no clothes on is finally sinking in.

His hands would be crossed at his . . . well, you know. Maybe he'd even have one knee coyly tucked over the other. Finally, his face would be bright crimson, which the photographer would not airbrush out later because -- remember the key word here is REALISM -- you're SUPPOSED TO FEEL EMBARRASSED AT HAVING YOUR PICTURE TAKEN IN YOUR UNDERWEAR! Which evidently was not the case with the young woman pictured in an ad some months ago wearing only a bra and panties in a firehouse.

You knew it was a firehouse because -- talk about clues -- there were boots, hoses and fire axes scattered in the background.

Then again, with a woman walking around in her underwear and a fire helmet, what else could it be?

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