Sexy “With Love” Ads Are Working, Unfortunately

Hotness is relative.

Same goes for the effectiveness of regional advertising; in this case, the With Love, Philadelphia XOXO campaign.

Procreation, however, is ubiquitous, on the uptick, and, not surprisingly, on the mind of every individual in the entire world at all times. Even as I write this, every atom buzzing in my Belushi-shaped body is working tirelessly to persuade me to click on to buy a ticket to Bangkok to “knock flip flops” with everything that has at least one leg (if you’re 80, you can blame Japan for missing limbs; if you’re 20, Islamic extremists).

“You’re a terrible writer,” my brain is telling me right now. “Give up!” it continuously urges, “Oh and by the way, when was the last time you called your ex-girlfriend? You know, the one with the tramp stamp? I heard she was in town. Here, I still think I have her number…”

And on and on for perpetuity.

This, of course, has been the case since Adam first laid eyes on Eve and her shapely, yet tasteful fig-leaf bikini in the Garden of Sleazin’. I mean, how else does one explain the recent world population bump up to 7 billion people?

The population is going up because people like to get down.

Using sex as a marketing tool is as cheap and effective as it ever was. In the jungle, they use mating calls. In the urban jungle, they use billboards. Philly has always lacked subtlety; it’s partly why I live here. But plastering 14’x 48’ billboards that basically say, “come bang here,” is a bit crass, even for me.

And it’s not just their crassness; it’s that they’re stupid. Stupid and ugly. There, I said it. We all know it. But because they seem to work, we’re stuck with them, in the same way we are stuck with those impossibly shrill infomercials for the ShamWow.

Using sex to sell a city is viable for places like Vegas and Amsterdam because unfettered sex is already legal there. And New York doesn’t  need to show its legs; everyone already wants to hit that: it’s New York.

Marketing is a powerful tool, but billboards alone can’t coerce a person into thinking our city is sexy (especially when said billboard is plastered with tumble weaves and fast food trash).

Where and when humans hump happens naturally. There are myriad places to get down in Philly and people find them intrinsically, without the aid of an ad campaign. It’s Darwinian, not pecuniary.

These Visit Philly ads are, of course, meant for those who gaze longingly upon Philly’s lighted skyline with all the whimsy and stomach-churning butterflies of a teenage girl about to embark on her very first date with Tommy, the star basketball player/future lawn-care specialist from her high school.

What this girl doesn’t know, however, is that Tommy only wants one thing, and this one thing is the very same thing Adam wanted from Eve some 6,000 years ago (give or take 13.7-billion years).

If it seems like I am trying to steer potential tourists away from my beloved city, it’s because I am. The influx of people into an already over-populated city makes the weekends an impossible nightmare, from which the only escape is to, well, escape. Either that, or stay inside. But it shouldn’t be up to the throngs of faceless gate-crashers to make that decision for me. If I want to take a trip to Montauk, I’ll to do so under my own volition, thank you.

If I want a table at Audrey Claire where I can spread out and read some Laurence Krauss, I shouldn’t have to think twice before leaving my apartment because of some dude who drove his SUV in from Whereversville, NJ, parks in a bike lane, doors a cyclist, berates the two-wheeled victim for not “watching out,” and decides to eat at this particular place because there was a “spot” right out front.

Am I being elitist? Yes and no. It’s a catch-22. You can’t be an elitist if you live in Philly because we’re a city of proud dirtbags and dirtbags can’t be elitists (unless you’re a hipster, in which case that’s your whole modus operandi).

I really can’t complain, though, can I? Campaigns like these stimulate our shaky, uncertain economy. Without them, we’d be Detroit.

And it turns out I’m completely wrong, anyway. I spoke with with the head of the With Love, Philadelphia XOXO campaign and learned that for every single dollar spent on their campaign, visitors spent $100 in Greater Philadelphia. Now that’s what I call a return on investment. Additionally, since 1997, Greater Philadelphia has grown by 10-million visitors; hotels are booming, with the overall number of leisure guests tripling. All this from a seasonal campaign that only runs $825,000. That’s less than one-percent of Michael Vick’s salary.

But these visitors don’t have to live with the 4am garbage pickups, the smells, the break-ins, the shootings, the astronomical car insurance rates and the utter lack of parking past 5 pm. We live with the reality. Therefore, I decree that we deserve the right to free and clear weekends, sans families in matching Sketchers. Yes, they are good for Philly’s bedridden economy, but they make getting an espresso from la Colombe on a Saturday impossible.

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Rodger Holst

Rodger Holst is a freelance writer and documentary filmmaker. Follow him on Twitter: @RodgerHolst

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