Advertising’s New Favorite Demo: The Horny Mom

Hefty managed to make a sexy ad about trashbags.

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Until the designers on Project Runway construct bikinis out of garbage bags, Hefty products will hold about zero sexual appeal. And yet the company has joined compatriots at Liquid Plumr, Kraft, and Renuzit air freshener by creating commercials in which seductive (often topless) men play to the fantasies of hot and bothered moms to sell their definitively unsexy products.

In 2012, the Internet was abuzz with how “mommy porn” like 50 Shades of Grey gave booksellers and the publishing industry a much needed lifeline. So it makes sense that marketers would adopt a similar, sexualized strategy (which Adweek calls hunkvertising) to reach out to women, who reportedly make 80% of household purchasing decisions.

And thus, an ad for literal trash bags shows garbage men with McDreamy hair and McSteamy pecs snapping bag openings against the mouths of trash cans as they croon, “That gripping drawstring, so tight.” This elicits a quick gasp from the sensibly dressed and coiffed lady of the kitchen that sounds like she just read a salacious E.L. James passage.

Although that’s less extreme than Liquid Plumr’s 2012 ad in which a cardigan and glasses wearing marm in a supermarket aisle fantasizes about two plumbers. “I’m hear to flush your pipe,” “I’m here to snake your drain,” they say in an ad that has since been pulled from Liquid Plumr’s YouTube account. It’ more recent ad with similar themes is called “Quickie.”

One Million Moms have complained about the hunkertising genre for expected reasons. “A full 2-page ad features a n*ked man lying on a picnic blanket with only a small portion of the blanket barely covering his g*nitals,” reads the group’s call to action. “Christians will not be able to buy Kraft dressings or any of their products until they clean up their advertising.”

kraft salad dressing hunk man sexy

Kraft

But these ads are problematic for another reason. While an argument could be made that this formula degrades men, the ads also manage to poke fun at moms for embracing a form of sexuality. The point of these ads is that they are farcical — the Hefty ad even adds in a Hefty man to drill in the joke. It’s ridiculous and funny to see these buttoned up women taking down their hair and grunt with carnal desire for the salad dressing man peddling a container of gloppy Thousand Island.

And thus, as Lisa Wade wrote for Sociological Images, “the joke affirms the gender order because the humor depends on us knowing that we don’t really objectify men this way and we don’t really believe that women are the way we imagine men to be.”

Of course, women aren’t the only ones to be targeted by advertisers. The horny dad demographic is alive and kicking: