Sex In Advertising?

Does sex really sell? Well, you decide for yourself.

Jef Richards, an advertising professor with The University of Texas, Austin, said “In advertising, sex sells. But only if you’re selling sex.”

Not according to the a survey conducted by MediaAnalyzer.

Sex in print advertisements actually improves the advertising effectiveness for men, but make it less likely that they will recall any brand name the ad was promoting. This is simply because men and women focus differently when their eyeballs connect with a sexy advertisement. MediaAnalyzer published its report in Adweek using the following MasterCard advertisement as a reference.

Sex Sells in MasterCard

31% men looked at the boobs first, then proceeded to the face (26%) and to the burger (24%). Only 3% men looked at the logo. This was a remarkable difference to 31% women who made equal efforts to look at both face and burger, follow with the brand (7%) and then lingered at the headline (14%). So men spent time admiring the sexual imaginary. While the women read the text and look at who’s offering what.

Sex Sells ApriliaLet’s look at another rather innovative way to sell a motorbike by an Italian brand, Aprilla. The advertising text is “On my scooter everything has to be perfect“. Why a woman’s butt? Why not a man’s? Why must it be a photographed female body? Why can’t it be a hand-drawn keyline of a human body? The brand most probably speculated that any man who owned a gorgeous bike would consider it “sexy”. Naturally, everything MUST look good on his bike … including his girl. A chick with a firm butt is therefore a pre-requisite. This scooter might not be a super model, but the brand statement does make it sound as if it were. Honestly, if you don’t look at it from the sexual perspective and forget about discrimination of the fairer sex, this ad is actually quite hilarious. Come on, how many men will actually go around measuring a woman’s butt? Anyway, if the MediaAnalyzer’s report is true, than Aprilla should be laughing it’s way to the bank.

Sex Sells MicrosoftHowever, some sexy (and funny) advertisements did not make it big, meaning they did not manage to establish themselves as the globally must-use version. Can you for a moment believe that the straight laced Microsoft actually ran ads with sexual connotations? Just look at this MS Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003 ad. The adverting text read “What price are you paying to get your assignment done?”. This ad was only used in New Zealand for a short run. The dumb blond was obviously the one paying the price to a teacher or a nerdy fellow student. Whatever the case, the academics and the education enforcers were certainly not amused by this ad.

Well, this last one was steamy and hot, so much so that Candies’ Fragrances for Men & Women had to cut 2 versions, one for periodicals targeted at adults and another one for teens.

Candies Ad

The ad on the right has condom packs on the counter and the guy’s crack was there for all to see. The left ad was touched up so that it is less offensive. But is this ad sexy? Or is it blatantly immoral to encourage teenage girls to have a tryst? Moralists and feminists would be quick to point out that the male lead here looked domineering, demanding, and ready for action. And the girl, by her very posture, was an accessory, a plaything, destined to provide pleasure. Would man buy the fragrance? Probably. Perhaps not the women.

Sex appeal and sex in advertising are here to stay. That’s absolutely, definitely and undeniably certain. But does sex sells? Yes it does, especially if it is related to sex. Yet again, maybe not. You decide. You tell me.

Leave a comment here.

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24 Replies to “Sex In Advertising?”

  1. I say Sex sells in Advertisements especially for men! They do remember the ads but perhaps not in great details apart from the sexy part! A more subtle way to use sex is in Motor Shows! Even in IT Shows, they parade all the skimpily dressed SWT’s for promotion! In days ahead, you should expect more daring sexy ads! NZ is a test-bed for these ads mind you! Cheers!

  2. If sex didn’t sell, we would barely notice the fashion industry. Ads for fragrances and clothes rarely play on anything but sex. There might be a reason why software companies don’t, but it’s still fun to see Microsoft try.

    I noticed, though, that two of the four examples you show include humor too.

    It would be interesting to see how two similar ads performed, where one used sex and the other used a combination of sex -and- humor.

  3. Interesting post about sex selling in advertising. I think sex is always an attention catcher and it may help in certain instances when the brand values of the product or service is geared towards sensuality, intimacy and a titillation of the senses. Totally agree that Microsoft is out of whack when they used sex to sell software. Its just like Creative Technology using that to sell their Creative Nomad MP3 players several moons ago.

    BTW, you do have an interesting blog and I have added a link to it from mine.

  4. “Sex sells” whether you are in Japan, India, China, USA, Singapore, or Norway. The reason is Sex is a “Basic Need” According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you need to satisfy the basic need before the other higher needs are triggered of. Therefore, wherever you are, Sex is something you cannot ignore. In short “Sex Sells”. Afterall, marketing is about touching our emotions. “Long and Belonging” is one of our emotional needs. Be in touch. OHH

  5. Hi Bokjae – Sex sells for women too. Many women like to read the FHM magazine to awe at great bods.

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    Hi Priscilla – The researching part is pretty interesting as I got to see lots of naughty ads.

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    Hi Walter – You’re right about Creative Technology. I don’t quite get their ads sometimes. Thanks for the link, very much appreciated.

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    Hi Anonymous
    Interesting perspective. Some might just argue that sex is not a basic need as one will not die not having it.

  6. I agree 100% sex sells. There was a popular saying also: Nothing sells better than sex. Now when adding a sexual sensation could give a widespread audience to adds, why would the advertisers put their hands off from it!! The main reason of ads is publicity, now if that comes through positive marketing or negative marketing or sexual marketing , it hardly matters. :D

  7. It sure sells more than anything else.
    It hasn’t changed – from the 50’s to right now.
    I’ve seen it all! Don’t ask me why ‘cos I don’t
    know. Perhaps just “human” ?
    But there are exceptions too – I’ve a lady in my
    list went furious over a “sexy” image I placed in
    one of my html newsletters-she threatened to
    unsubscribe!
    Nice read.

  8. I don’t find it so surprising that microsoft uses sexual conotations. Studies show that the most ambitious men tend to have a high sex drive. My point? well microsoft is big has ambitious guys what do you expect?

  9. Hi Kanak
    Some people thinks that bad publicity is better than no publicity. However, it doesn’t quite work the same way with lousy marketing.

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    Hi Bokjae
    Thanks for the mention at your blog. It was a pretty interesting post and I followed your links to read the rest of the stimulating posts too. Thanks…

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    Hi SChee
    I sure like to see the sexy image that so enraged your subscriber.

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    Hi Africa Vacation Reviews
    Interesting perspective … … but then, I don’t see any more of such Microsoft ads.

  10. I’m using this as a reference in a research paper I have to do for my English 102 class. It was incredibly helpful and I hope you don’t mind! (:

  11. Hi Penny Stocks
    I will. Thanks for visiting.

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    Hi Megan
    You are most welcome. Will appreciate if you include a credit line at your footnotes. All the best with your papers.

  12. I am not a conservative person. I like sexy pictures and even porn. :) But to use sex in advertising is way cheap, especially in billboard. These ad agencies should have respect to all groups of people. Yes, the world is getting more and more liberated, but at the cost of losing respect to others’ rights? There is a word called “ethics” you know. For some, sexual themes are offensive so be ethically considerate. Have respect. You can fxck a pig in your old private house but for God’s sake, don’t let anyone see you; some might puke.

  13. Hi Provestra
    LOL, I like your feedback and observation. We can like sexy pictures and even porn, however, we must be sensitive to others’ feelings. Without respect, we have animosity, chaos and even worst, wars.

  14. I tried to read your whole post, but I kept getting distracted by the hot Italian ad for the perfect butt. I guess that’s because I’m a guy. Seriously though, great post and great discussion of HOW sex sells and to who, and when to use it, and when NOT to use it!
    Anyway, I’ve got to go back and look at that Italian ad again now. :)

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