U.K. TV Will Air First-Ever Sex Toy Ad, for Lovehoney, on Oct. 3

Agency Says Spot Is Tame; More Provocative Ads Are Allowed for Non-Sex Products

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Lovehoney will become the first sex-toy retailer to advertise on TV in the U.K. on Oct. 3, when a 30-second spot debuts at 10.15 a.m. during an episode of imported U.S. reality show "The Real Housewives of New York."

The ad shows a fully clothed couple smooching to a punky guitar soundtrack. As they pull away from each other, the man says, "Have a good day at work," and the woman says, "You too." He then picks up his briefcase and walks out the door. It finishes with a voiceover saying, "Lovehoney.co.uk. The sexual happiness people."

Nick Ellis, creative director at Lovehoney's agency, Halo Media, said that Lovehoney's aim is to reposition the eight-year-old brand into the "well-being" category, but that they had had to make some changes to their original ads before they could be broadcast or posted on billboards.

"You can use sex to sell most products, but as a sex-toy retailer, no hint of anything overtly sexy is allowed," Mr. Ellis said. "We wanted to use the track 'Teenage Kicks' but Clearcast [which vets all TV ad scripts before broadcast] wouldn't let us, so we wrote a soundtrack which has a similarly urgent, youthful feel."

Clearcast eventually cleared the ad for viewing at any time except during children's programming.

The two billboard ads show a couple kissing, one in a train and one in a supermarket. London Transport would not allow the train version to be shown in subway stations, and insisted that Halo Media edit the supermarket ad so that you couldn't see the man's hand on the girl's waist before they would agree to run it. They also changed the copy to read "adult toys" instead of "sex toys."

"You see how hypocritical people can be," Mr. Ellis said. "There are much more suggestive ads out there, but because of what we are selling, there is a level of taboo. It's ridiculous that we are not seen as working in the well-being category. A healthier sex life leads to a healthier body and mind."

Women's magazines, particularly Hearst titles Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Company, were all happy to run the ads as they were.

Mr. Ellis said that Lovehoney is the U.K.'s biggest sex-toy retailer, and that two of every three sex toys sold in the U.K. are from the company. The business was started eight years ago by Richard Longhurst and Neal Slateford, two former Future Publishing employees whose ambition was to be the Amazon of sex toys, creating a site where their girlfriends would be happy to shop.

Lovehoney recently created a wholesale division to sell their products through stores in America, and global sales now top $30 million. A U.S. site is being planned for next year.

Halo Media, an independent agency based in Bristol, won the Lovehoney business in April. They have been working together on revamping the website as well as on the advertising campaign.

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