It's official: sex is good for the circulation

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There is one radiant set of ad cliches that leaves all others - from the Big-Swinging-Hair shampoo ads to the Batteries-Not-Included toy commercials - absolutely standing. I refer of course to saucy ads alerting us to the fact that a Sunday tabloid is carrying the most comprehensive, explicit and generally outrageous sex-guide since its rivals' last week. Such ads always look deeply spoofy, but they're not intended as spoofs at all (though clearly made by people who are laughing themselves sick).

The point is that these ads - like the features they promote - are profoundly genteel and uninformative. The best one - I think it was for the People, though it is an archetype - had peachy Essex models (evenly browned, depilated, in white nylon underwear) in a series of utterly motionless poses, with lighting and legs arranged to avoid improper perspectives. Clearly the regulatory bodies were on set with rule books, stopwatches and tape measures.

The latest News of the World ad in this great tradition is slightly more ambitious. It starts with a man in a shower - back view, heavily misted - and a woman advancing on him from the room. So far, so marginally modern. Once in the shower there's a lot of heavy, soaped-up grabbing and kneading and so forth, shot in sub-Hollywood ways so it's unclear who's doing what. While this is going on, a lot of naughty words float around the screen like typographical goldfish. "Arousal", "erotic", "brazen", "intimate", "desire" and, yes, "explore". (There, I've said it.) "The A-Z of Passion - it's steamy, it's explicit and it's absolutely free with the NoW," says the voice-over. Then there's a crude pack-shot and a final scene of a satisfied woman's wet face with eyes closed.

The advance lies in implying there's something in it for the girls - but this is somewhat undercut by the model's strong resemblance to Nicola Horlick, here apparently hell-bent on conceiving a sixth child.