Undressing sensuality in advertising

Humans have come far, wandering across harsh deserts, brutal mountains, and storm-wrecked oceans. We have traveled through time, from nights huddled fearfully around protective fires to nights conquered by vibrant neon signs and and flickering streetlights.

We have come so far because because we are bold creatures, creatures drawn to mystery. We are explorers and discoverers. We feel disdain for the easily subdued and desire for the impossible challenge. Our imaginations pull us onward toward promises of hidden rewards.

The imagination is a pattern-maker, a meaning-seeker, and a story-teller. While a story with a satisfying ending may be ideal for a bedtime read, cliffhangers keep us up through the early hours of the morning.

Commercial photography by Kenny Morrison for Windsor Court.
While the old adage may claim that sex sells, in the most powerful advertising, storytelling through sensual imagery seduces. Photo by Kenny Morrison.

The imagination is a tyrant that will not permit rest until it has had ample time to invent one hundred possible conclusions. When the imagination is done, the logical mind takes over, assessing and reassessing the relative probability of each scenario.

Seductive advertising subtly takes advantage of our restless imagination and our logic, imagination’s compliant cohort, who trails along behind inventing rationalizations to bolster the fantasies we invent.

Vintage Springmaid Fabrics marketing campaigns relied heavily on subtle sensuality to sell otherwise mundane products to post-WWII America. Elliot White Springs, the owner of Springs Mills, tantalized consumers with double-entendres and beautiful women in bewitching attire.

The illustrated sirens cast come-hither looks and reveal just enough flesh to capture the imaginations of both men and women.

Vintage advertisement for Springmaid Fabrics.
Each advertisement was an unfinished tale of seduction that the consumer’s imagination was compelled to complete. Image via Baxter Mill Archive.

The success of the campaigns, however, relied more heavily on storytelling. Each advertisement was a cliffhanger, an unfinished tale of seduction, that the consumer’s imagination was compelled to complete. The logical mind followed suit, preparing a reasoned argument for purchasing the enchanted cotton sheets that promised to make that fantasy a reality.

While the old adage may claim that sex sells, in the most powerful advertising, storytelling through sensual imagery seduces. The difference is subtle, but that subtlety is precisely what our imaginations crave.

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