I came across an ad for a Vancouver luxury hotel, the Loden, in a national newspaper over the weekend and was very surprised by the imagery and the message it conveyed.
Take a look at the ad below: the text reads ‘Intimate Connection, Be Our Guest’. We see a young, attractive women undressed in sultry, expensive-looking lingerie, applying perfume while gazing, disinterestedly, at her male companion who is watching her, (and who is, of course, nearly fully clothed), blurred and seated in the background. My immediate reaction to this advertisement was that this hotel is inviting men to use it for prostitution. Hired an escort for the evening? Use the Loden!
Using sex to sell a product, or an experience, certainly isn’t new; it’s used to sell everything and anything. This ad uses sexual imagery to market the hotel as a place for sex, encouraging its (male) guests to use it for discreet, ‘intimate connections’, as the ad terms it. Hotels have always been more than just a place to sleep; they offer a private, anonymous space in which people can ignore the social and relational obligations they have in public—and the law, for that matter, as prostitution isn’t really legal in Canada. Hotels have been used as a space to engage in prostitution for a long, long time, but it’s not something they talk about very much, so I was very surprised to see this ad seemingly actively promoting it.
Maybe I’ve read it incorrectly? Maybe this is a rich, heterosexual couple having a romantic weekend? Or maybe they’re having an affair? Mayybeee.
I did contact the hotel, and spoke with the sales-coordinator who stated (I’m paraphrasing here) that the ad was meant to show a feature of the room in which the wall between the bedroom and the bathroom opens up (so that you can be watched while half-naked in the bathroom?!??) and that the hotel does not encourage prostitution.
Marketers usually have a pretty good idea how their ads will be construed, and I doubt they could have missed the message here. Although they may have been attempting to highlight the features of the room, that intent is not at all apparent from the image.
The medium is the message, and I read this as a promotion for the use of the Loden Hotel for prostitution.
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