The following is X-rated. Grab the kids. Cover their eyes. We are looking through magazines. Not Playboy. Not Penthouse. Not even True Romance, or Wild Biker Digest.

We are looking at three very respectable publications: Esquire, Vanity Fair and GQ.

We are looking at . . . the ads.

Whoa! Here’s an interesting one. A woman sitting on a ledge while a man has his head up under her skirt and, ho-baby, she is rolling her eyes with a look that suggests he is not there by accident. Her bare toes are pulling his cotton plaid shirt out of his pants and her fingernails are digging into his hair and — you did cover the kids’ eyes, didn’t yo—-

Time out! Here they are again, next page, on a rooftop, and he has her pinned down, with her naked legs high in the air, her toes pointed up, his face deep in her neck and, well, let’s just say were this Olympic wrestling, she definitely would have lost by now–

Ohmygosh! What’s this? A different couple, completely naked, on a swing, and they are pressed together so tightly you couldn’t slip a credit card between them, and his head is thrown back and her head is thrown back and while there is no caption, if there were a caption, I believe it would be this: “YES!”

I need to catch my breath.

By the way, I have no idea what these ads are for. But I’ll take a dozen. Who knows what to buy?

Then again, a dozen what? The ad with the lusty couple has only the words
“Wilke Rodriguez” in the upper corner. Wilke Rodriguez? Is that his name? Her name? The name of the arresting officer?

Is it a clothes ad? A perfume ad? An ad for a fun apartment building? Who knows? The second ad — with the swinging couple — has only one word:
“Obsession.” I have no clue what to buy. But I won’t let my nephew near the swing set anymore.

This is a problem I have constantly with modern advertising, from print to radio to TV. It looks good. It goes fast. What the hell was it?

What is the product?

I remember, as a kid, flipping anxiously every Sunday to the back of our newspaper’s weekly magazine. There, in black and white, were pictures of women in . . . brassieres! Whoa! My brother and I would point and giggle. This, I suppose, was the beginning of our titillation through advertising. But you know what? Even at age 9, I understood what they were selling. Brassieres.

Today, alas, I must be slipping. In Esquire I come upon this full page ad, in four quadrants: 1) a picture of a flower 2) a stop sign that says “Don’t Use Our Sea as a WC” 3) a black hand shaking a white hand, and 4) 48 newborn babies. Underneath is a big word “MOSCHINO” with a little word “jeans.”

OK. I missed something, right?

Here’s one: A Latino man, held down by two thugs, while a third guy sticks a microphone in his face. The only words? “United Colors of Benetton.”

Yeah. Um . . .

Wait. Look. A voluptuous blond, with more cleavage than the Alps, and she’s smoking a cigarette and hanging on a tree. The only words? “Guess Jeans.”

Great. Except she’s not wearing jeans. She’s not wearing pants. She’s wearing a body suit, unzipped. And, of course, a brassiere.

Some things never change. Deep ideas sink the message

Now. I don’t know when advertising went so . . . loony. I think a bunch of frustrated artists, photographers and film directors decided they were tired of starving and headed for the big bucks of commercialism. But in order to feel, you know, cool, like they weren’t selling out, they got together and said “Let’s make ads that no one understands! Then maybe we’ll get something really important, like a Movie Of The Week.”

Thus we have “deep” ads like this, in GQ: A pair of brown shoes, beneath the words: “Annie tried to make me coffee today. It tasted like the stuff at the mechanics garage, but it was still the best I ever had.”

The End. Now. What exactly am I supposed to buy? Shoes? Annie? A coffee maker for the guys at the garage?

Whatever happened to ads that said why to buy something and what it was? Why are companies so interested in creating a “mood,” rather than explaining their product?

Maybe because the product falls apart the minute you take it home?

Or maybe because most of these things — jeans, perfumes — are pretty much the same overpriced stuff. The only way to get you to choose one is to make you think the girl will let you put your head up her dress, too.

If she does, let us know. In the meantime, I miss old-time ads like this one, which appeared the Free Press back in 1878:

LADIES UNDERCLOTHES!

A nice assortment at MISS MOORE’S

Simple? Maybe.

But I don’t need a cold shower after reading it.

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