Sex in Advertising

Sex Appeal Makes us Shop

In my last post I talked about the disconnect in advertising, but today I wanted to more specifically examine the way that sex is used in ads. Sometimes it seems appropriate to use some sex appeal when trying to sell something, particularly when the product is related to physical attractiveness, but sometimes it seems pretty far off base.

Before we look into specific ads, it begs to be asked if using sex in advertising works. YES. Sex is the strongest psychological trigger that humans have, so using sex as a way to showcase a product will make a potential consumer more likely to pay attention. It almost always works at least this well. Sometimes, when ads are well done, they can make you feel on a more subconscious level as though having the product will transform you into the attractive person in the ad.

So now that we have decided it works, let's see some ads! I will start with some harmless ones, but if you keep reading through, I will show you some that really cross the line!

Ad 1: California Sun

I would say that this ad is pretty harmless. It's display relates to the product; the woman is shown wearing a bathing suit on a beach and the ad is for a tanning product. It's a good fit, the woman appears satisfied and all together the ad is not unrealistic.

Ad 2: Abercrombie and Fitch

This one is a little bit stranger than the one before it. It is a clothing advertisement so a bit of sex appeal would make sense. A bit. This ad shows about 4 inches of jeans and a belt, not a great way for Abercrombie to display what it's clothes look like! The rest, maybe 2 feet of space is just a man's chest. Looks great, but it's a stretch to say this is really a clothing advertisement.

Ad 3: Toilet Paper...

I love this. Two nearly naked people standing near a toilet in a toilet paper ad. If you ever asked me what the least sexy thing was I may have said toilet paper. But to this company it does not seem to matter. Toilet paper will do NOTHING to make you sexier. I see no reasonable case for this ad. But still, I would say this is at least harmless.

Ad 4: Dolce & Gabbana

I believe this ad was posted in 2007 and as far as I know it is universally seen as extremely controversial. Okay so it passes my measure of showing clothing, but pay attention to the scene. The woman is being forcefully held down by a man who is lurking over her while others watch ominously in the foreground. This conjures up images of a gang rape. It says to men, "wearing these clothes will make you attractive enough that you can have power over women" and it says to women "no matter how good you look you are weak, men will take advantage of you, enjoy it." Bad.

Even after this I have to say the worst is yet to come. This time in the form of a video.

Louis Vuitton. Tell me this isn't the saddest ad you've ever seen. It shows a drugged up woman wandering the streets and having sex with a man in a car and then glamorizes it. This woman is a prostitute wearing designer clothes. This ad has clearly stepped over the line.

I hope you've enjoyed these ads, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!