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Adventures in Marketing: CVS Can’t Say ‘Vibrator’ Without Giggling

Some quick background info: When it comes to pharmacies (at least in the northeast), people seem to be either Walgreens people or CVS people. My mother and I are loyal members of the latter group, and share a CVS card (the membership card that allows customers to receive discounts and build rewards as they shop). Because my tech-challenged mom doesn’t have an e-mail address, I get all of the promotional emails and coupons (addressed to her) in my own inbox.

Yesterday, I woke up to an email offering me (well, my mom) 20% off everything at CVS’s online store. The subject line of the email read: “20% Off Everything. Even the hush-hush stuff.” At first, I assumed that meant things like tampons or adult diapers–things no one waves in the air with pride and might be more comfortable receiving via snail mail. But then I opened the email and saw the accompanying picture of a young woman who looked much more like she was getting away with something a little naughty than dealing with a leaky bladder.

The caption read, “If it makes you blush, we’ll ship it to you hush-hush.”

And then, through my still-groggy morning fog, it hit me – are they trying to entice me into their online sale by promising the discreet delivery of a…um… personal pleasure device? And then, finally, the traumatic realization that this email was not addressed to me washed over me. “OMG, they’re trying to sell a vibrator to my mom.

I followed the link to confirm whether my suspicions were correct, and while the “personal items” listed did include things like pregnancy tests and incontinence products, one of the first items featured was, indeed, a vibrator.

Once my brain cleared itself of the slew of horrific potential “your mom” jokes, I thought, “you know, as a marketing strategy, this really isn’t half bad”. I have never purchased anything from CVS’s online store because it’s easy enough for me to swing by the brick-and-mortar pharmacy on my way home. So reminding me that there are things I may want or need to buy that I might be too bashful to bring to the checkout counter is actually a pretty good strategy.

Do I wish we lived in a world in which women felt comfortable skipping with glee to the register while brandishing a sex toy like a weapon of fearless female independence? Of course. Do I wish society was more accepting and kind when it comes to potentially embarrassing conditions like hair loss or incontinence? Of course. But since we haven’t all reached that level of liberation, this ad plays on both our wild side and our insecurities. Clever. Now if I can just manage to look my mom in eye again, we’ll be all set.

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