Not so long ago, the only places most people were exposed to advertisements promising enhanced male s-xual performance were their inboxes or late night TV. Some consumers no doubt find these irritating, a waste of time, embarrassing or maybe even quietly amusing (just how many different ways can you spell “peen1s” in order to bypass a spam filter?) but, in the main, they are avoidable.

Today, though, the subjects of premature ejac-lation and er-ctile dysfunction are just as likely to pop up uninvited on a super-sized poster alongside a freeway or on FM radio during drive-time.

We can set up spam filters and adult content blockers on the information superhighway but not on the Tullamarine Freeway. TV current affairs shows like Today Tonight have recently run stories suggesting that some consumers are upset at finding these billboards “in your face” and larger than life, especially when the kids are in the car.

My own experience suggests that the advent of ads about s-xual performance on popular FM radio stations may also be viewed as unwelcome by some listeners. My teenage daughter has learned to recognise them and reaches rapidly for the button to change station when we’re driving to or from school. At least with radio she has the ability to make that choice.

In the last few weeks, ads suggesting to shoppers that “longer lasting s-x” is something every man wants (every man except Sting, perhaps) have appeared on the back of supermarket dockets across Australia.

The Advanced Medical Institute (AMI) has bought ad space with the Shop-A-Docket organisation in numerous local supermarkets. Next time you review what you paid per kilo for zucchini, turn the tape over and you may well find a message about premature ejac-lation nestled among the coupons for $30 facials, 15% off de-s-xing at the local vet, a $59 lube service or a free footlong at Subway (just some of the examples among Shop-A-Docket’s “success stories“).

Shop-A-Dockets have the potential to reach 93% of Australian households, according to the company’s website which — rather like AMI — provides extensive statistics on exposure, performance and durability.

But there are no filters at the checkout. Consumers can’t ask to receive a docket with “no adult content, please”; we simply get the next 30 or 40 centimetres on the roll. That represents a somewhat riskier media strategy for AMI as advertiser, for Shop-A-Docket as the agency that places the ads, and for the supermarket chains that agree (for a fee) to carry this advertising on their register receipts.

To check that they weren’t moving (ahem) too quickly, the agency tested consumer reaction first. “We selected one metropolitan test market and ran the ads there to ensure that they weren’t going to generate adverse publicity,” explains Shop-A-Docket Managing Director Simon McCord. There was also “a bit of to-ing and fro-ing” involved in settling appropriate wording of the message, being sensitive to community expectations, he says.

Neither the test run nor the subsequent national roll-out – targeted to certain local areas based on their demographic profiles – has attracted any adverse response from consumers, according to McCord. “I’m very pleased to be able to report that we’ve had absolutely no consumer reaction at all.”

“There clearly is a health issue out there and we’re happy that our medium can assist in reaching that target, as long as we’re not offending consumers.”

But have the ads had the desired response? AMI hasn’t shared any data with Shop-A-Docket, but McCord is taking further spending commitments by AMI as a positive sign.

So what “advance” should we expect next from Advanced Medical Institute in its apparent quest to expose the issue of men’s sexual health in as many media as it can?

How about a blimp?

Dr Stephen Downes has worked extensively on sponsored medical education programs about male s-xual dysfunction. He blogs at QBrand.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW