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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Advertising in Paris: The naked truth

Flame-Haired Angel and I have begun the long emotional process of separating ourselves from Paris. Not yet certain of our departure date, our hearts nevertheless cleave to the things we love about the city. That last post’s long meditations on nudity brought one to mind. So, at great and obvious risk of being thought to obsess on the subject…

As a city of attractions, Paris has few equals. Its notable calling cards are an embarrassment of riches: the architecture (Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe), the museums (Louvre, Orsay, Rodin, Picasso), the parks and gardens (Tuilleries, Luxembourg, Versailles), the shopping (Champs Elysees, Faubourg St Honore), the restaurants and cafes (where to start?).

One cannot exalt Paris adequately, however, unless one also includes the city's women on its list of splendours. In other cities, suggesting the women are a tourist attraction might crassly cast one's mind to a vibrant sex trade. But Parisian women are famous the world over, and justifiably so. Acknowledging that merely exalts another aspect of the city’s indulgence in beauty, its penchant for seduction, its joie de vivre.

Handily, the city fathers - - and one does suspect the handiwork of men, rather than the touch of, say, city mothers - - have made it easy for anyone keen to appreciate Paris’s feminine charms. They have put them on display, in fact, placing a generous sampling of naked women along the city’s streets: on billboards and bus shelters, in shop windows and at news stands. All fertile territory for public display of naked women.

In advertising.

Well, sure, it’s advertising but, in Paris, it just seems to be hawking the city’s obsession with female beauty. As London advertises theatre productions, Los Angeles advertises Disneyland, and Sydney advertises the sparkling blue of its harbour, Paris puts naked women on posters.

For a city that’s all about the sensual, and often about the visual, there’s not a huge surprise in its permissive attitude toward nudity in advertising. What is occasionally odd is what the market has done with that freedom. The choice of some ad campaigns to use nudes makes complete sense. Others, not so much.

Skin care and diets? Sure.

Fashion and beauty magazines? Definitely.

Rock bands? A little odd, but if it works… No problem.

Public health campaigns?


I suppose I can see it when it’s breast cancer awareness month.

…though, I have to admit to nervousness in anticipation of testicular cancer awareness month.

It’s a little harder to grasp the applicability of the nude to anti-smoking messages. Or, at least, it was until I saw this ad on the side of a building up the street from my apartment. I believe the tagline translates, roughly, as “Don't smoke and you'll have a nice set of lungs.”

With this ready acceptance of the naked breast as a public fixture, I’m forced to wonder at the one group of advertisers that seems disposed to show modesty. Only the folks selling titillation seem at all reticent about actually showing tits.


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