Sex sells, say many advertising executives. But according to the German Advertising Council (Deutscher Werberat), copy writers had better be careful.
The sex appeal approach can mean stirring the wrath of the general public, not to mention official guardians of the public morals.
The mass-circulation newspaper Bild last year depicted a number of young and attractive women on a poster bannered "At noon I get hungry. For sex."
Posted at bus stops throughout the nation, Bild hoped to stimulate readership of a series on female sexual habits in Germany. But the idea backfired after complaints poured in charging discrimination against women.
Likewise, a TV spot touting the national lottery showed a happy elderly man with a young woman in a golf cart. An outraged viewer complained that the ad showed contempt for women, implying that a big lottery winner could buy women even though well past his prime.
Another TV spot showed an elderly lady in a city bus asking the driver about the next stop, who angrily shouted at her "don't speak to the driver while the bus is underway."
Letters flooded in complaining of discrimination against old people, causing the spot to be removed.
"We carry out conflict management between advertising companies and complaining citizens," said Juergen Schrader, chairman of the council.
He called on the public to address criticism of market communications to the advertising companies concerned.
The council reviewed a total of 270 advertisements following the complaints, headed by 99 in a category discrimination against women, followed by 29 protesting against ads which could endanger children and young people and 26 against excessive use of violence.
The Swiss enterprise Dorit, a manufacturer of meat processing machines, was criticized for showing a naked woman seated next to an apparatus with the inscription "best ham."
Another company called on the carpet for using sex appeal in its advertising was the Bochum company D & W Auto, Sport and Accessories.
Its ad had a bikini-clad girl in a sexy pose next to a cylinder gasket with the inscription "Licking prohibited."
MTV music channel aired a spot showing a young lady kicking a man in his skivvies with the inscription "Watch this piece of shit." Ignoring the dirty word, the council denounced the ad for promoting violence.
Not all of the complaints are justified as evidenced by a protest against a spot showing a man taking out a hot sausage from a grill with his finger and licking it, on grounds it could encourage children to to the same, possibly burning their fingers and mouth.
A review of the ad showed that the man had actually taken out the sausage with a fork.
And in the case of the Bild ad with the inscription "At noon I get hungry. For sex," the council ruled that it was a question of freedom of speech, since the woman pictured had merely spoken of her personal need.