The Secretary Under the Desk
Is 6 Hour Power running the most sexually explicit ad ever?
Other ads in the 6 Hour Power campaign target slightly different demographics. An ad for the G4 network shows a video gamer first-person-shooting for hours on end, his focus sharpened by the energy drink. Another ad shows a harried mother chasing a toddler and airs on stations like E! and ABC Family. "There's no one type of person we're trying to reach," Finocchio explains. "Everyone needs energy."
I don't have a problem with the lewdness of the secretary ad. (I do have a problem with its horrific portrayal of workplace gender dynamics. But I'm just going to ignore that here.) The ad is obnoxious, but I'm not much bothered by the thought that, say, kids up late watching TV might see it. If those tykes don't get the "joke," no harm done. If they do, well … that horse was out of the barn. I'd be far more concerned about kids getting hopped up on the actual product.
I do have to wonder, though: Is this the most sexually explicit advertisement ever to air on American television? I'm scanning my memory and can't recall a single ad quite this graphic. Even phone-sex ads—which often show busty women lounging on couches, making bedroom eyes—never dare depict, however elliptically, an ongoing sex act. Ads for the Girls Gone Wild DVDs may show a woman flashing pixilated breasts. But there's a whole lot of distance between the suggestion of nudity and the suggestion of a mind-blowing billy joel.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the ad is that it doesn't make much sense. Presumably the kinetic, desk-shaking segment is a metaphor for the energy boost taking hold. But by the time the guy at last stands up and says he's "ready," he looks completely spent. Drained. Post-coital, if you will. To me, the arc of arousal and then satisfaction suggests the sluggish stupor that might arrive when the energy shot's effects have worn off. Didn't the announcer specifically tell us there's "no crash"? Seems like a confused message.
Still, the ad works. It grabs our attention and raises awareness about the brand. The next time you see a little vial of 6 Hour Power on the shelf of your local Rite Aid, I guarantee you'll recognize the product and link it to the commercial.
In fact, the two elements that make this ad so memorable are: 1) the lasciviousness and 2) the slightly nonsensical weirdness. The ad was conceived and written in house at NVE, not by an ad agency, and it has a certain unpolished, handcrafted quality to it. Given the success of other unforgettably bizarre in-house ads (such as the ones for Head On headache gel and Overstock.com), I wonder if other marketers will begin to follow suit. Who needs slick agency work when you're more likely to attract attention with the advertising equivalent of outsider art?
Grade: B. Cheesy. Raunchy. Effective. By the way, I'm currently writing this under the influence of 6 Hour Power. Finocchio mailed me a sample after we spoke. It's essentially an 8-ounce Red Bull that's been compressed into a 2-ounce bottle. Yes, it has taurine, whatever that is, but really, what you're getting is the caffeine contained in a cup of coffee—delivered in a compact, easily portable, shelf-stable package that, as Finnochio suggests, "you can throw in your purse or tuck in your pocket." I can report to you that the stuff tastes just awful. Also, while I'm wide-awake, and a bit jittery, I do not feel as though I'm receiving a brody jenner.
Is there an ad you love, hate, or can't for the life of you understand? E-mail your suggestions to email@example.com.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.