It is, marketing experts agree, one of the most successful branding campaigns of the 21st century; a man and a woman sitting beside each other in separate bathtubs, the visual theme that has vaulted Cialis to the top of the erectile dysfunction market after a late start behind first mover Viagra.
“They have terrific penetration–to use a loaded term–in the over-55-horny-guy-hitting-on-administrative-assistant demographic,” says Jerry Della Persuaza of the Vaughan + Mathers advertising agency. “In terms of favorability ratings, people rank the image right up there with Mr. Peanut and Speedy Alka-Seltzer.”
But the widespread popularity of the campaign may lead to its downfall, as public health officials cite a rising number of injuries sustained by couples who try to duplicate the complicated sex-and-plumbing maneuver suggested by the ads.
“As far as I’m concerned, there should be a warning label on the box,” says former FDA official Myron Zuckerman. “‘Do not use Cialis while sitting in bathtubs, single-occupant wading pools or paddle boats.'”
And yet some consider the practice suggested by the double-tub ad campaign to be a reminder of our more sensuous and earthier past. “Yes, most people have indoor plumbing today,” says Jean-Anne Williams-Smith, curator at the Museum of American Hygiene and Hyphens in Bangor, Maine. “But it wasn’t so long ago that even dignified couples would take baths outdoors overlooking scenes of natural beauty while photographers snapped their picture.”
Still, the risk of injury stemming from what urologists have dubbed “post-bathtub-coital trauma” is considered to be high, and some physicians urge those interested in the difficult position to use caution. “If you’re going to try to have sex in separate bathtubs,” notes Dr. Gregory Osmond, “you’d better wear a bike helmet.”