So what's going on? Did Britain's population suddenly lose its collective reserve? Or do we still not quite have the stomach for images of sex at supper time?
From the evidence, it's in the balance. On the one hand, watchdogs are receiving record numbers of complaints from irate consumers who simply cannot digest advertising catchlines such as Pot Noodle's Hurt me you slag' or a poster for Lipton Ice Tea proclaiming that there's "no such thing" as the female orgasm. On the other, the figures speak for themselves, with Unilever Bestfood's Pot Noodle enjoying a surge in sales the likes of Camelot can only dream of.
"These brands know exactly what they are doing," says Warwick University's Dr Lyndon Simkin, a strategic marketing expert. "They know that by the time any ruling against them comes their campaign will already have run and hopefully had the desired effect. Brand managers are exploiting the loopholes in the advertising self-regulation system and pushing it as far as they can."
Such charges are naturally denied by the manufacturers, but risqué £ampaigns are certainly being noticed, with the university's marketing research unit having found that, out of a sample of 3,000 consumers, Pot Noodle's recent adverts had twice the recall rate of its nearest rival.
However, not everyone is impressed. "Seeing the word slag' on billboards was a bit much for some people," says Simkin. "Also, it's all very well Unilever celebrating a surge in sales for Pot Noodle, but it also needs to look at the bigger picture. Some of its brands are aimed at the same people who are complaining about the Pot Noodle slogans and consumers become aware of that."
But despite the growing number of complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld just a handful in the past 12 months. The orgasm' pun for Lipton, another Unilever brand, was judged as "unlikely" to cause serious offence despite generating 83 complaints, while moans about a national press ad for Greene King's Abbot Ale, showing a woman apparently writhing in ecstasy with the Carry On-esque catchline, Some things are better given longer', were also thrown out.
"It depends on where an ad appears," says the ASA's head of communications, Claire Forbes. "What may be acceptable in a lad's magazine may not be appropriate on a billboard next to a school."
But as manufacturers and marketers start plotting their next assault on the market using sex, Simkin has a bleak warning. "Some manufacturers seem to be forgetting that when they put out campaigns across the board, they have a responsibility to all consumers. It will only take one to take it too far and play with one of the few remaining advertising taboos, such as homosexuality or total nudity across the mass media, before someone in position of power decides that the current system of self-regulation simply does not work."