Ecoya and Special Group aim to appease the fun police with ‘invisible nudity’

Ecoya came in for some unwanted attention for its very visible nudity in 2011, with its Lady Godiva-inspired billboard getting a slap from the ASA (and also getting stolen). And in the latest campaign it’s maintained the sans clothes approach, although this time it’s claiming the nudity is ‘invisible’. 

Featuring naked dancers from The Sydney Dance Company dripping in hot wax and embracing each other in romantic positions, the Just Add Candlelight campaign was dreamed up by Special Group and shot by acclaimed Australian fashion
photographer Jez Smith and aims to illustrate the seductive
vibe that natural candlelight can create.

“Taking time out of our often de-personalised lives, lighting a
candle and igniting a special moment is important in our day to day lives,” says Ecoya chief executive Stephen Sinclair. “ … We were conscious of having a ‘safe’ version for mainstream media. Some of the embraces are suitable for environments that require ‘safer’ imagery, and others are not. Special Group and Jez have met this brief perfectly and we love what they have delivered.”

Special Group has been working with Ecoya for about four months (there was no pitch), and has already completed a Christmas campaign. 

“We were really trying to evoke the idea of more pleasure, more
romance, more sensuality, but in a simple, striking, visual way. We thought
the idea of pouring wax over naked bodies, but just leaving the wax for the
viewer to see could achieve this” says Special Group creative director Tony Bradbourne.

The campaign will be rolled out globally in-store, through print
and billboard advertising.

Despite plenty of doubters at the outset, Ecoya, which was established by the chaps behind the Business Bakery, posted a maiden operating profit last year after a sales jump of 58 percent ($22.6 million from $14.3 million). It also bought local cosmetics company Trilogy, which Special Group also works on. And it’s proving to be a good buy, as it made a $12.1 million profit in the six months to September last year, up from $10.4 million a year prior. 

“Our plan is to continue investing in our brands, expanding our retail and distribution footprint and driving strong sales growth whilst remaining close to neutral from a profitability perspective,” ex-chief executive Geoff Ross told the NZ Herald in June last year.

And while we’re on the topic of Ecoya, we thought we’d republish Darryl Parsons response to the last complaint about the naked woman astride a horse. It didn’t get them off the hook, but he raised some good points.  

This ad for Ecoya bodycare is part of a series of three executions in which women are shown relating to animals. Ecoya bodycare is a natural based range of products and the company has an ethos of environmentalism which underpins everything they do. So these executions were just a visualisation of “women interacting with nature” – the advertising extension of the company philosophy. I’m not saying this was the most brilliant piece of advertising thinking in the world, but that’s how we got to where we did.

The execution that has caused outrage is the ‘Lady Godiva’ execution which is roughly based on the 18th century painting by John Collier. It shows a nude woman riding a horse.

However, even though she is nude all you can see is a naked leg, a naked arm and a naked waist/torso. No boobs. No bum. No pink bits. Not even any cleavage. Technically, you could argue that the 300 year old oil painting by Collier is more explicit. So while one complainant says “it leaves nothing to the imagination” it actually in fact leaves everything to the imagination as there is nothing that we would currently consider ‘offensive nudity’ present.

If the woman was wearing a bikini then I doubt anyone would have complained. But all you would have seen of the bikini would have been a string going under her arm and a string going across her hip. Those two bits of string would have probably made everything okay. Which is just silly …

I really do think that the complaints have come from some people who are uncomfortable with their own sexuality and are projecting it back onto the Ecoya billboard.

That said, those people have every right to say they were offended and/or unfairly sexually aroused.

So at this point I would also like to point out that Ecoya bodycare is a range of body and skin care products for women. Arousing men, either intentionally or unintentionally has zero benefit to Ecoya. Similarly, using women in an exploitive or derogatory way to sell products to women also has zero benefit to Ecoya.

I will admit the woman on the horse looks sexually empowered in some way. But I’m completely okay with that. I don’t see anything wrong with strong women and it’s interesting that none of the complaints have come from feminists. If this image was used as the front cover of The Female Eunuch I don’t think anyone would mind (except me as I think Germaine Greer is a bit of a dick), or if it was part of an exhibition at the Art Gallery I don’t think anyone would complain either.

We’ve even got the horse/girl poster up in Smith and Caughey and no one seems to care. And let’s be honest, their clientele is hardly the most liberal body of people in the greater Auckland area.

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