Sex Appeal: an effective tool for Advertising Introduction Advertising, the business of drawing public attention to goods and services (elook. org), in today’s competitive market, is often assisted by sex appeal. Likewise, an attribute of sex in advertising is that imagery used typically may have no connection to the product being advertised. However, the purpose of such imageries is to solely drag the attention of the potential customer or user. Sex appeal in advertising is often considered as one of the effective tools for attracting consumers’ attention and has become more and more important to some advertisers for the same reason.
Discussion From different studies on the history of advertising it is found that Sex has been employed in attracting consumers since the beginning of advertising. At the beginning, wood carvings and illustrations of attractive women (often unclothed from the waist up) adorned 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. Even more at present context, sex appeal in advertising builds up the argument that people are curious about sexuality. This credence in marketing opines that sexuality sells products.
Rebecca Howard in her article “Sex in Advertising: Does it sell? (Howard)” draws different opinions of writers that the sensuality and imagery portrayed through the ad should be relevant to the message it carries as well as the nature of the product. According to Donna Rouner, a Colorado State University associate professor of Journalism and Technical Communication, the success of advertising that uses sexual imagery often depends on the product being sold. “Research has shown that people are pretty turned off by sex in ads if neither the product nor the lifestyle (being portrayed) is relevant to nudity or sex,” Rouner says. Where sex works for people generally is when the product itself has to do with sex or intimacy or nudity” (Rouner). Sex sells. These days advertising and sex have been tied together to large extent. The use of sexually suggestive images to sell just about everything really emphasizes the point that sex is a merchandisers’ best friend (laimisk, 2010). In different newspaper, television as well as websites we find many advertisement of such kinds. For instances let’s go through some advertisements taken randomly from different sources: 1.
LavAzza Italian coffee ad: Spicy. Hot. And not half as likely to cause the kind of reaction that the ad above might receive. Pretty interesting to consider when one gets down to it. What about this ad for an Italian coffee company? It makes everyone think of sex, doesn’t it? 2. Spic and Spank – A company in Germany sells their household appliances, including vacuums, using images of women in fishnets and men tied up. The ad is more successful in attracting people’s attention. However, it doesn’t effectively connect the message with the product.
Because one can’t even notice the vacuum cleaner in the bottom left which in fact requires a careful look or else he/she may miss the entire point of the ad. 3. Renova Toilet Paper: What about this print ad for Renova, a toilet paper brand from Spain? What’s sexy about toilet paper? 4. Che, men’s magazine: This suggestive ad campaign was used in Belgium to promote a new men’s magazine, Che. It suggests that for a men’s magazine, using sex to sell is an obvious marketing choice. 5. iPOd: This is as ad for an electronic product. The imagery used here highly suggests for sex appeal.
Since, the image has creatively taken one of the best selling electronics products in the world it can be taken as an effective ad. 6. Dolce & Gabbana: The advertisement for Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring Summer 2007 collection featured a bare-chested man holding down a woman by her wrists while other men look casually on. This ad was criticized by the media watchdogs and Spanish authorities. 7. Yeti Carpet: This advertisement (hoarding board) was found in Kathmandu. Though it emphasizes less on nudity it is appealing and connects the message carried by it with the product being advertized. 8.
Lowenbrau: (centre) this advertisement taken from a hoarding board at Koteswor, Kathmandu has a nude (from waist up) women sleeping at the focus. It has used sex appeal as a tool for advertising. Now let us compare above advertisements with four different bases: nudity, creativity, message carried and degree of sex appeal. • In first case, the ad has a nude man and a nude woman very closely attached to each other. But more creativity is used in hiding their sexual organs and that draws people’s attention towards coffee beans when they imagine more of the image. It provides a message that this coffee can generate more heat when one drinks.
Here the degree of sex appeal used is high compared to other ads. • In second case, the ad has a nude man and bare legs of a woman. Since the image too suggests total nudity, it is considered successful in drawing people’s attention. Also, it has higher degree of appeal. But the message carried is very hard to retrieve and doesn’t directly connect with the product being advertized. The product, vacuum cleaner is placed at the side which viewers don’t take care of. • Likewise, in third case, the ad uses nudity which doesn’t match much with the message carried and the nature of product being advertized.
However, more than being appealing it catches the attention of people at first sight. There is very less creativity used. Thus, this ad doesn’t provide a satisfying answer to what has a toilet paper brand to do with sex. The intended meaning “luxury” doesn’t sufficiently connect with sex appeal here. • Moreover, Che, a man’s magazine has used a poster that has tried to generate sex appeal and in fact seems successful in attracting men too. This has used more creativity. The poster fits to the waist down part of a female (receptionist or shopkeeper).
The message carried by it is closely associated to the nature of the product. The ad seems simple and effective. • Fifth, this ad is more effective and appealing. Though there is nudity, it is symbolic. The imagery has used more creativity and thus associates the product with the sex appeal and makes the intended message more meaningful. • Next, the ad has used higher degree of sex appeal. Due to nudity and appealing imagery it seems successful enough to attract consumers but the other aspects of the ad like message, nature of product and creativity seem unable to connect with each other.
The ad advocates more for brand recognition rather than the product being advertized. • Seventh, this ad too seems appealing and effective in attracting customers. The product and imagery are interconnected with the message intended by the ad. Though it has used less nudity, it is an effective ad. • Finally, this ad is appealing too. It catches sufficient attention of the passers by because it has an image of nude woman sleeping with her half back portion shown. The message written in it tries to connect with the nature of product. But less creativity can be found here.
From above illustrations we can come to the point that sex appeal is first step to attract the attention of people whereas the degree of creativity and symbolic meaning are the aspects which encourage probable customers to buy the product. In our daily lives, we are surrounded by many such advertisements which desperately compete for our attention. “Everywhere we look, we find ourselves inevitably drawn to images of insufficiently clad attractive men and women that are supposed to somehow inspire us to purchase products they endorse.
Sure, this attention-getting strategy is popular” But, is it effective? Obviously, sex appeal can increase the effectiveness of an ad or commercial because it attracts the customer’s attention. It is the nature of every creature and moreover, in case of human beings, everyone is, to some extent, curious about sex. A nude female body on a poster is more likely to draw a guy’s attention than a kitten or a puppy, regardless of how cute they may be. Even women are drawn attention by it, perhaps with the desire of having elegant look.
Sex supposedly sells, and no matter what commercial product one is looking for, there is no shortage of marketing campaigns aiming to convince one of the special sex appeal that appears with the “pleasure” of housekeeping he/she may enjoy from using a particular brand of vacuum, with driving a particular brand of automobile, and the erotic experience associated with wiping one’s behind with a particular brand of toilet paper (Jimz N’ Floz). Apparently there is no true limit to the type of commercial product that can be tied to some unrelated sexual image. “Does sex sell? ” Actually, sex does not sell, but sexiness does (Cebrzynski, 2000, p. 4). Using sex appeals in advertising is a good way to target certain market segments but not all. What is identified as sexual appeals in advertising? Where and when should sex be used in advertising? Does the use of sexual appeals lead to an advantage for brand remembrance? There are several different distinctions as to what is being categorized as sex appeal. A study conducted by (Reichert, T. , Heckler, S. E. and Jackson, S. , 2001) revealed four characteristics of sexy ads: (p. 267). 1. Physical features of models, 2. Behavior/movement, 3. Intimacy between models, 4. Contextual features such as camera effects
Ramirez and Reichert (2000) sought to find what people consider sexy in advertising. The most common referent was physical features (66%), followed by a model’s movements and verbal and nonverbal communication (39%), contextual features (26%), and proxemics. (15%) (p. 269). They made an important note that what people referred to as sexy differed gender to gender. The study showed that females responded more to context than males did at 35% to 20%. It also showed that 28% of the females responded to proxemics or references to physical distance or relative interaction between models compared to 6% of the males (p. 69). “Advertising research reveals that sexual appeals are attention getting, arousing, affect-inducing, and memorable” (Reichert, Heckler, and Jackson, 2001, p. 14). But, although studies have demonstrated that sexual appeals attract attention to the ad, they do so typically without a corresponding advantage for brand information processing. Although using sexual appeals in brand advertisements has not proven to be as effective as needed, using them in social marketing may be beneficial. From a social marketing perspective, sexual appeals may be beneficial for the simple reason that they are attention-getting and potentially motivating desirable message characteristics in a saturated media environment” (Reichert, Heckler, and Jackson, 2001, p. 18). From above study, we can come across the points that an advertiser may take into consideration the following points before using sex appeal as a tool in advertising: • Adequate research should be made on consumer’s interest, market’s demand and the product before making the advertisements. Appropriate and attractive models (male/female) should be chosen depending upon the target audience. • Study the cultural aspect of the targeted market or consumers for the effectiveness of the Ad. Conclusion It is the task of advertisement to ensure that the product or service reaches to the level of consumers’ conscience (Shrestha). Sex appeal in this regard appears to be one of strong tools of advertisers; no matter either it is ethical or unethical. However, the brand recognition or the consumers’ perception upon the product being advertized is largely shaped by the commercials displayed through such advertisements.
Sex appeal doesn’t always necessitate vulgarity or nudity, it can instead, become symbolic and creative so that in most cases only the target audience can make sense out of it and thus, become attracted towards it. Like in the case of first, fourth, fifth and seventh ads (above images) sex appeal with creativity and symbols connecting the product with message conveyed persuades consumers to buy those products. In case of other ads there is more vulgarity and nudity which is more likely to generate the attention of criticizers more than of the customers.
However, the universal idea that sex appeal can be used as an advertising tool rests upon the fact that everyone is curious about sex. And that nosiness toward sex drags the attention of the probable consumers. Works cited • Fang Liu and Jianyao Li, Does Sex Sell In China? -Chinese Consumers’ Evaluations Of Sex Appeal Advertising. ANZMAC 2005 Conference: Marketing Issues in Asia. 53. • La Tour, M. S. , and Henthorne, T. L. , 1994. Ethical judgments of sexual appeals in print • Reichert, T. H. ( 2001). The effects of sexual social marketing appeals on cognitive processing and persuasion. Journal of Advertising , 30(1), 13-27. • Reichert, T. Heckler, S. E. and Jackson, S. (2001). The effects of sexual social marketing appeals on cognitive processing and persuasion. Journal of Advertising. , 30(1), 13-27. • goliath. (n. d. ). Retrieved 04 23, 2010, from goliath. ecnext. com: http://goliath. ecnext. com/coms2/gi_0198-415990/Ethics-in-advertising-sex-sells. html • Howard, R. (n. d. ). college avenue. Retrieved 04 21, 2010, from http://www. collegeavenuemag. com/features/hot-button/sex-in-advertising-does-it-sell/ • laimisk. (2010, 04 21). The sex raeally sells. Retrieved 04 22, 2010, from laimisk: http://en. kllproject. lv/2010/04/21/the-sex-really-sells/ • Rouner, D. n. d. ). Scribd. Retrieved 04 20, 2010, from http://www. scribd. com/doc/27015053/College-Avenue-Magazine-Volume-5-Issue-2 • Shrestha, S. (n. d. ). Advertising Association of Nepal . Retrieved 04 21, 2010, from adnepal. org. np: http://www. adnepal. org. np/document/content/Sex%20appeal%20in%20ad. pdf • Elook (n. d. ). Retrieved 04 23, 2010, from elook. org: http://www. elook. org/dictionary/advertising. html Photos taken from: • Lavazza: Retrieved 04 20, 2010, from kiotay08. files. wordpress. com: http://kiotay08. files. wordpress. com/2008/08/italain-coffee-ad. jpg • Spic and Spank: Jimz N’ Floz. (n. d. ).
Retrieved 04 21, 2010, from http://www. jimdeadman. com/? p=1284&cpage=1 • Renova Toilet Paper: (n. d. ). Retrieved 04 20, 2010, from adland. tv: http://adland. tv/ooh/making-toilet-paper-ads-sexy • Che, men’s magazine and iPod (n. d. ). Retrieved 04 19, 2010, from inventorspot. com: http://inventorspot. com/articles/ads_prove_sex_sells_5576? page=2 • Dolce & Gabbana: (n. d. ). Retrieved 04 19, 2010, from frillr. com,2010 http://frillr. com,2010 • Yeti Carpet: taken on 04 19, 2010, from a hoarding board in Dillibazar, Kathmandu. • Lowenbrau: taken on 04 19, 2010, from a hoarding board in Koteswor, Kathmandu.