We just can't seem to say goodbye to interns. Even when they leave us to travel half-way around the world, they're never far away thanks to the interwebs. Former intern Erica Campbell files this salacious dispatch from the sex tourism capital of the world:
I hadn’t realized a 95% Buddhist country that frowns upon women in tank tops would accept prostitution so openly, let alone advertise it in neon with promoters hawking “Ping pong!” Or that the massive “massage” parlors, marked by few windows and billboard-size photos of the “masseurs,” would change the meaning of Thai massage for me. While struggling with my feelings about it, I wondered – how does this blatant display of sex-for-profit translate to advertising? According to a study published in Investigating the Use of Sex in Media Promotion and Advertising, it translates consistently.
Female nudity was measured on a scale: 0 = fully clothed; 4 = nudity/bare bodies. Thailand and the U.S. showed the most female nudity in their advertising, especially compared to countries like China, South Korea and Brazil. Thai TV and magazine ads had the highest degrees of female nudity, challenging the assumption that Eastern values heavily influence advertising censorship.
But my own observations contradict this study’s findings.
During a half-hour talk show featuring a modeling reality show winner, commercials for brands like Dove, Sunsilk, Downy, Herbal Essences, B-ing (a diet drink), Nokia and Coca-Cola, didn’t show female nudity. The women were at 1 – covered shoulders, knee-length dresses or skirts, no cleavage. The billboards around Thailand are similarly scored. Magazine ads were around 2 or 3, which was proven in the study, but by no means equivalent to what’s seen in the U.K. or U.S.
My theory on this discrepancy is this: when you’re selling sex on the streets and in establishments dotted around the country (one can expect a “Happy? Happy?” even at the most respected massage parlors), sex doesn’t pack a punch in advertising. It’s for sale everywhere with many farangs visiting Thailand solely for this purpose. Sexuality in Thai ads isn’t used to sell products in the same way as other countries, perhaps because sex as a selling point is overdone outside advertising. I offer these commercials as evidence:
30-second spot for Low-fat Sealect Tuna