Sex and Professionalism… Seriously? Image

Sex and Professionalism… Seriously?


Sex in advertising is not new. The use of sex or erotic imagery in advertising to draw consumer attention to a product or service completely unrelated to sex has existed for as long as advertising itself.

Recently, in Calgary, this conversation was fuelled by the local media as they shone the spotlight on one industry member’s advertising campaign. For a few days last week, it seemed as though industry members and other stakeholders had nothing else to talk about. And it even spread across the country with features in the National Post and the Montreal Gazette. In the parlance, this story had legs.

What did the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) hear about it? Is the campaign too provocative? Isn’t this just a clever application of “double entendre” in advertising? Should this type of advertising be allowed? Don’t we have legislation, regulation and rules about this? Who should censor this type of advertising? Can’t RECA or the real estate boards do something? Does this set the reputation of women in real estate back a generation? Doesn’t this advertising campaign draw undesirable attention to the individual? Aren’t there personal security issues here? For goodness sake, somebody, anybody … do something about this!!!

One conversation that needs to take place and be given more than lip service is about professionalism. Professionals develop a keen understanding of their competence, their image and the characteristics that distinguish them from colleagues and competitors. Of equal importance, though, professionals should be aware they are inextricably tied together with colleagues and competitors. They need to understand that what they do, how they act, how they serve consumers and the image they present reflects not only on them as individuals but also on the professional collective – on all other industry professionals.

Being a professional should mean certain things are taboo. Sex in advertising is one of those things. There are so many meaningful and appropriate ways through which industry professionals can distinguish themselves; sex and provocativeness shouldn’t be one of them.

The real estate industry is self-regulated and self-regulation means industry professionals must accept responsibility. For the sake of the industry’s image, when you see something that offends your professional sensibility, say something directly to that colleague. Don’t wait for your board or the governing body or the media to react. Speak directly with the individual. Express your disappointment and your expectation that they immediately make changes. While you’re at it, reinforce that you would expect them to act in the same manner if the roles were reversed.

Do suggestive or provocative ads belong in real estate advertising?