Does or Should Sex Sell Safety?

Does or Should Sex Sell Safety? (Or encourage people to read a blog article?)

sexy safetyCertainly most agree that safety messages can be monotonous, boring and unappealing hence largely ignored, despite their important content (or otherwise). Airlines such as Virgin and Air New Zealand have made several entertaining attempts, using sex, music and bright lights to get passengers to look up from their newspapers for the flight safety briefing (see Bare Essentials of Safety). However, the concept isn’t new – in the 1970’s a creepy character in a bikini called “Safety Sue” was used to sell the water safety message (see Safety Can Be Sexy).

At a safety show in Sydney a few years ago, a company used an attractive model in a wet t-shirt to sell emergency showers, quite a debate ensued amongst the safety profession with the outcome being that most saw the fun in it and that no harm was done, the thought being that selling safety being no different to selling any other product (see good clean fun or offensive). Scruffs, a brand of workwear and safety gear aimed at Tradies in the U.K, has been extremely successful through a marketing campaign that uses double entendres and soft-core sex. Despite their TV ads being banned, that only assisted (See Our Obsession with Forbidden Pleasures) and they rely now on people sharing their videos on youtube and facebook (if you are not easily offended see Worlds Sexiest Safety Commercial). The young female star of this ad was later sacked from her day job as a school teacher.

Dr Rob Long wrote recently that “the idea that humans are objective and not influenced, framed and primed by social psychological context is naïve in the extreme” (see Framing Folly and Fantasy in Safety). He was referring to the framing of negative perfectionist goals by executives assuming that people are objective and choose to be safe or not.  Dr Long states “framing the safety message in deficit ‘loss framed’ discourse is actually dangerous and anti-safety. A deficit mindset promotes risk rather than mindfulness”. I wonder then whether the “gain framing” of using sex to appeal to primal instincts and convey a safety message is any more effective?. Dr Long  also suggests that “One of the best ways of learning safety is through scenarios. Scenarios are constructed to either replicate real situations to maximize perception of recognizable cues or, to enhance the imagination of possibilities”.( See Scenario Learning in Risk and Safety). Despite our fantasies, these portrayals of sexual encounters in safety or the workplace is never going to be a realistic scenario!

I don’t think there is any doubt that, rightly or wrongly, that these messages get through to certain people in the short term. However, are these messages quickly forgotten like all of the other cute, sexy, catchy (ie dumb ways to die) messages that go viral on Youtube? Or, in fact do these attention getting tactics, also frame the wrong response and do more harm that good for safety?

Thanks to Gab Carlton for sharing this latest safety classic – in case you missed the message, its a reminder to always wear your Hi-Viz vest – 55,000 shares on Facebook and counting! Oh and yes, I am aware that she is not wearing hard toed boots!

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below