Is the 6 Hour Power secretary spot the most sexually explicit ad ever?

Advertising deconstructed.
March 9 2009 3:19 PM

The Secretary Under the Desk

Is 6 Hour Power running the most sexually explicit ad ever?

The Spot:A sexy secretary answers her intercom. "It's time," says her boss, calling her into his office. We next see the boss experiencing violent spasms of ecstasy. He's seated at his desk, and the secretary is notably not visible. "It's working! I can feel it!" he shouts, his face contorting. We cut to a shot of the product: 6 Hour Power, a concentrated energy drink. "Feel it fast. Energy that lasts. No crash," says the announcer. "Now I'm ready," says the boss, standing up from his desk, sweaty and disheveled.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

Ad Report Card reader Lindsey K. e-mails the following request:

Please do a write-up on the awful 6 Hour Power ads that are running on Comedy Central and Adult Swim right now. I have talked to several people and they all hate the ads, but are also confused by them. What exactly is going on? Is he having a seizure? Is he jacking off at his desk?

I watch a lot of late-night TV, and I've seen this ad several times now. I still can't quite believe my eyes when it comes on. First, let's get the big question out of the way. What's happening behind that desk?

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In my view, the ad very clearly implies (right up until the reveal of its final shots) that the secretary is back there, hidden from view, fellating her boss to orgasm. Allow me to present the evidence:

The overt sexuality of the secretary character is out of control. You rarely see skirts this short or cleavage this prominent outside the confines of soft-core porn. She even waves her pen suggestively near her slightly parted, glistening red lips.

At the height of his excitement, leaning back in his chair, the boss flips his necktie over his shoulder. Leaving us to wonder: Just what was the tie in the way of?

There's a framed photo on the man's desk. It's of a blond woman, presumably his wife. In the midst of all those desk-rattling spasms, this photo gets knocked over and smashed on the floor, suggesting that some sort of insult has been inflicted on the innocent woman pictured.

Barring Lindsey K.'s interesting theory that the man is seizing—a notion I'm sure the energy stimulant's manufacturer would prefer not come into play—it's hard to imagine what else might cause the man's ratcheting physical tension and explosive release.

We know the secretary has been called into the office, but we can't see her, which suggests a classic trope of male office lechery: the hot-to-trot secretary kneeling behind the executive's desk.

Seems cut and dried to me. But when I called up Karen Finocchio, vice president of marketing for NVE Pharmaceuticals—the makers of 6 Hour Power—she rather coyly argued that my prurient interpretation exists solely in my head. "It's the theater of the mind," she insisted. "That framed picture could be of his mother, for all you know. And the secretary isn't scantily dressed. It's not beyond what a woman might wear at the office. There's nothing showing!"

Fair enough. Though there's a whole lot of Cleveland visible thanks to her unbuttoned blouse. And I swear that skirt is a repurposed wristband.

Finocchio assured me that the ad has been approved by all relevant authorities. It airs only after 10 p.m. and only on cable channels that already broadcast edgy programming at that hour: Comedy Central, Spike, the Cartoon Network, etc. The spot targets groups Finocchio refers to as "corporate young America" and "the CollegeHumor crowd."

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