Naked Male Ads Stir Controversy in Europe

Yves Saint Laurent Uses Full-Frontal Nudity

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PARIS (AdAge.com) -- Just when it seemed that French fashion houses had given up on the use of so-called porno chic ads, crosstown design rivals Yves Saint Laurent and Dior have set off a new controversy with the use of provocative sexual imagery in campaigns for their newest perfumes.

Because AdAge.com deems the image otherwise inappropriate for publication, it has whited out the genitalia displayed in this controversial Yves Saint Laurent print ad.

YSL has hit hardest, and won massive media coverage, with a surprising print press campaign featuring full-frontal nudity for the launch of its new masculine fragrance M7.

The minimalist, black-and-white M7 campaign -- approved and lauded by YSL Creative Director Tom Ford as effective advertising -- depicts martial arts champion-turned-male model Samuel de Cubber reclining nude on a bare floor, with all his talents on display.

Defends ad
Mr. Ford defended the ad -- destined for publication in upper-end fashion magazines such as French Vogue, as well as low-circulation titles directed at trendsetters and the gay community, beginning in late October -- noting in a press statement that "Perfume is worn on the skin, so why hide the body?"

Marketing mavens at Gucci-owned YSL had reminded journalists that the M7 ad is also a tongue-in-cheek homage to a famous nude photo from 1971 of fashion house founder Yves Saint Laurent, who retired from active work in early 2002.

Mr. Saint Laurent's modesty outweighed that of Mr. de Cubber, however, and he crossed his legs in the shots taken by photographer Jeanloup Sieff. Editors at a number of upper-end male magazines have reportedly balked at publishing full-frontal nudity in a fragrance ad, leading YSL to propose a tamer, alternative head-and-torso shot, leaving readers to wonder about the rest of Mr. de Cubber's anatomy.

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The M7 ad breaks just weeks after a similar controversy hit LVMH-owned Dior over the launch of its new Dior Addict campaign. Racy ads for the new fragrance depict a sweat-covered woman writhing in what appears to be orgasmic ecstasy.

Ads angrily denounced
A Paris-based feminist collective angrily denounced the Dior Addict campaign in mid-October, urging advertising authorities to demand the withdrawal of images that allegedly present women as "objects of desire ... for sexual climaxes."

French advertising watchdog BVP has not weighed in on either ad, but did move in 2001 to reduce the use of gratuitous sexual imagery by issuing new standards on the presentation of human beings in advertising.

The new standards were drafted after feminist leaders, legislators and ministers in France's previous Socialist-led government held parliamentary hearings on the wave of "porno chic" ads and threatened legislative action.

YSL was at the center of the last porno-chic wave, principally after a number of countries pulled a racy ad for its Opium perfume featuring model Sophie Dahl reclining nude in a sexually-suggestive pose.

More nudity from London
In a related development in London, Procter & Gamble Co.'s P&G Beaute will this month launch a nude male TV ad campaign for its new men's fragrance Lacoste Homme. Starring stark-naked Australian model Ian Lawless, the spots will air in key international markets.

In the P&G Lacoste Homme TV spot, a naked man covorts through his apartment as the camera avoids a full-frontal view.

Created by Callegari Berville Grey, Paris, three separate spots (20, 15 and 10 seconds long) see Mr. Lawless get out of bed and cross his stylish apartment in the nude. With a smile on his face, he walks past a wall of sporting trophies.

He then kicks a silk cushion as if he was playing soccer, catches a box of tea as he would a ball and springs athletically into his armchair. While drinking a cup of tea in the nude, the door opens, suggesting an unexpected visitor. As an ultimate proof of his panache, the Lacoste man remains perfectly at ease.

The scene cuts to a silver crocodile with Lacoste logo, and finally on the Lacoste Pour Homme perfume bottle featuring the silver-gray crocodile.

A 10-second teaser features the silver-grey crocodile emerging from the liquid and rising to the surface. The camera pulls back to reveal the crocodile on the perfume bottle.

Naked in armchair
The commercial -- like the print ads that feature a naked Mr. Lawless sipping tea in his armchair -- was shot by top fashion and celebrity photographer Herb Ritts. The caption runs: "Style on skin." Grey Global Group's MediaCom handles media.

The TV spot will air initially in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Russia and Lebanon. Additional markets, including the U.S., will follow.

Commenting on the spot, Gerd Finke, global brand manager for Lacoste Fragrances, said, "The panache, attitude and style of the Lacoste Pour Homme man is strong and vital. [Mr. Lawless] is the perfect embodiment of the Lacoste brand."

Targeting trendy young men, the Lacoste Homme line includes eau de toilette spray, after shave, shower gel and deodorant. Until now, P&G Beaute's focus on the Lacoste brand has been to revive the Lacoste Original fragrance and body-care range, also with a print campaign through Grey. When P&G took on the Lacoste fragrance license, the range was five-strong and included one women's scent, three men's and one children's toiletry line.

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in AdAgeGlobal.com.

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