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Sex sells

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After the storm over Stroh’s’ ”ironic” beer spots starring the mammary glands of the Swedish Bikini Team, the ad world was predicting yet another wave of libidoless ads. But instead, perhaps trying to recession-proof themselves, many advertisers are only turning the heat back up. The only difference is now they’ve found savvier ways to sell the same old thing: S-E-X.

Leading the hot pack is Jordache jeans, with model Ashley Montana grinding to a funky harmonica in a trailer park while wearing a tight and partly unzipped dress. The twist is that she inspires a grungy-looking guy to start stripping himself — right down to his Jordaches. Recessionary chic! ”When times get tough, you go for the jugular,” explains Jordache ad director Jerry Taylor. ”You do things you wouldn’t normally do, whether it’s comedy, controversial conversation, or sexual entertainment.”

Jordache competitor Bugle Boy also aims at the male pulse, but its gimmick is fake irony. Shots of hot babes in bikinis arching their backs suggestively are presumably saved from outright sexism by the self-conscious message across the screen: ”But if this doesn’t sell some Color Denims, they’ll make us put guys in the commercials…None of us want that. Do we?”

Except maybe Pepsi. It wants very young men in its commercials, the better to cloak Eros in the whimsical and wholesome. Model Cindy Crawford, wearing tight cutoffs and a white tank top, saunters over to a vending machine and gulps some pop. From over a fence, two dreamy-eyed preteen boys gawk at her until one asks, ”Is that a great new Pepsi can, or what?” Is that a great way to diffuse sexual tension and still lure kids and adults, or what?

Taking a similarly cheeky-clean approach, the spot for the new soap Lever 2000 shows moms, dads, and kids washing different body regions. For ”all your 2,000 parts,” says the voice-over, complete with double entendres about ”cheeks.” Though it went national only six months ago, Lever 2000 is now one of the best-selling deodorant soaps around.

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