by on December 4, 2019

In these days, we like it or not, SEX is everywhere! 

Sex in advertising is the use of sex appeal in advertising to help sell a particular product or service. According to research, sexually appealing imagery used for marketing does not need to pertain to the product or service in question. A few examples of sexually appealing imagery include  nudity, pin-up models and muscular men.

"Sex sells" became a controversial issue, with techniques for enlarging and titillating the audience challenging conventional moral standards.But let's speak littlebit about the CONCEPT. So...''Gender Advertisements'' a 1979 book by Canadian social anthropologist Ervin Goffman. There you can find series of studies of visual communication and how gender representation in advertising communicates subtle, underlying messages about the sexual roles projected by masculine and feminine images in advertising. The book is a visual essay about sex roles in advertising and the differences, as well as the symbolism implied in the depictions of men and women in advertising.

We can speak about more types of sexual advertising, like : 

  • Physical attractiveness - The use of physically attractive models in advertising is a form of sex in advertising. Physical attractiveness can be conveyed through facial beauty, physique, hair, skin complexion as well as by the model's inferred personality. This form of sex in advertising is effective as it draws attention and influences the overall feeling of the ad. Furthermore, such ads create an association between physical attractiveness and the product which sends a message to the consumer that buying and using the product will help them achieve that physique.The sexual arousal (sexual desire during or in anticipation of sexual activity).  The sexual arousal possibly elicited by physical attractiveness in adverts is thought to transfer onto the advertised product.
  • Sexual behaviour - Marketers often use tactics such as using sexual imagery in their advertisements to capture the consumer's attention for longer. Sex in advertising is also incorporated using hints of sexual behaviour. The latter is communicated by the models using flirtatious body language, open posture and making eye contact with the viewer. Sexual behaviour can also be displayed using several models interacting in a more or less sexual way. Sexual behaviour in advertising is used to arouse sexual interest from the viewer.Research has shown that sexual arousal elicited by an advert subsequently affects the overall ad evaluation and the chances of future purchase.

    For example, in a Guess clothing advert, while the models are physically attractive, it is their behavior such as position, posture and facial expressions that communicate sexual interest to the viewer. Women are often shown as being shorter, put in the background of images, shown in more ‘feminine’ poses than men, and generally present a higher degree of ‘body display’ than men in print advertisements.

  • Sexual referents - Sexual referents are a more implicit example of sex in advertising. Sex can be invoked in advertising using sexual double entendre or innuendos. The latter rely on the viewer to interpret them. They can be words or images that while not being explicitly sexual, trigger sexual thoughts from the viewer. Elements such as lighting, music, models’ behaviour and camera effects can contribute towards communicating implicit sexual meaning. Sexual referents are a powerful tool as they drive viewers to create sexual thoughts and interpretations of the product.

  • Sexual embeds - Sexual embeds are a controversial form of sex in advertising. They are a powerful technique that advertising agencies do not want consumers to consciously notice. They are subliminal elements that are detected as sexual information solely at the subconscious level. Sexual embeds can take the form of objects or words that, at the subconscious level (or when occasionally consciously identified) explicitly depict sexual acts or genitalia. For example, a perfume bottle could mimic a phallic shape and its positioning could suggest sexual intercourse. Embeds are especially effective as they unconsciously trigger sexual arousal in the consumer which drives motivation and goal directed behaviour such as purchase intention.

    An example of this technique is a particular cake mix advertisement from Betty Crocker, in which it would appear the chocolate icing on the heel of the cake has been painted to look like female genitalia. Amongst millions who viewed the commercial, very few will have noticed anything unusual; however, while this detail might not have been consciously perceived, it would have been interpreted sexually at the subconscious level. This advertisement, directed at women, puts an emphasis on the sense of touch by using words such as "moist", and on the whole the ad creates a subconscious association between the product and sexual pleasure.

  • Gender roles - After women achieved the vote in the United States, Britain and Canada in the 1920s, advertising agencies exploited the new status of women. For example, they associated driving an automobile with masculinity, power, control, and dominance over a beautiful woman sitting alongside. More subtly, they published automobile ads in women's magazines, at a time when the vast majority of purchasers and drivers were in fact men. The new ads promoted themes of women's liberation while also delineating the limits of this freedom. Automobiles were more than practical devices. They were also highly visible symbols of affluence, mobility and modernity. The ads offered women a visual vocabulary to imagine their new social and political roles as citizens and to play an active role in shaping their identity as modern women.

The earliest known use of sex in advertising is by the Pearl Tobacco brand in 1871, which featured a naked maiden on the package cover. In 1885, W. Duke & Sons inserted trading cards into cigarette packs that featured sexually provocative starlets. Duke grew to become the leading American cigarette brand by 1890.

Other early forms of sex appeal in advertising include woodcuts and illustrations of attractive women (often unclothed from the waist up) adorning posters, signs, and ads for saloons,tonics and tobacco.

In several notable cases, sex in advertising has been claimed as the reason for increased consumer interest and sales.

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