Does Sex In Advertising Work?

Category: Advertising, Gender, Sex
Last Updated: 07 May 2020
Pages: 6 Views: 379

The question “does sex in advertising work?” attracts advocates both for and against. Most of those who are against the selling power of sex appeal are most scholars. The scholars argue that sex in advertising is unrealistic and a very doubtful situation at its top. On the other side, advertising professionals and consumers believe that sex is the most efficient tool for selling.

Sex in advertising works best for most of the businesses and that critics like scholars should take a second thought about it. Their arguments are based on experiments with adverts constructed and shown to a variety of people in an artificial environment rather than the real world. In the real world, the advert designed by professionals are shown to the target consumers, whereby these are the people the advertiser wants to attract.

The impact of this model is that the outcome is actually from the target customer and not just a group of people. I think the big question should be, “How does it Work and when?” many people know that sex attracts attention, but advertiser realize that sex manipulates people in many other ways. It’s quite normal for people to be curious about sex. A Billboard showing a pair of nice long legs catches a man’s attention than a teddy bear despite how cute it may look. Women could be drawn to them possibly with a yearning to have great legs like a goddess.

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Does Sex Sell?

Most people would say if asked that question. Sex has always sold and it will always do. The major ethical issue of concern should be to watch the extent to reach or put in mind the boundaries which are clearly cut. Though sex is appealing there should be some level of decency that should not be compromised just for the sake of advertising (Reichert 2007).

The tactic to do this should be that the approach comes indirectly and steals into people’s sexual senses and let loose their desires without their conscience. Therefore for an advert to be efficient, it should be kept clean and not seem like it’s a condom advert! Because, any dirty content may end up costing the business so much.

A vast majority of customers like sex according to advertising experts, however some may ask if it’s wise to incorporate it in current marketing strategies that include under age population. Expert in advert designs consider sex as a fundamentally great get-out for selling. This is because sex is something that the whole world shares a common interest. This makes it an extraordinary marketing strategy that is quite attractive.

The world of advertising has grown so much that advertisements are competing desperately for our attention. This leaves the people surrounded by adverts all over and everywhere we turn to we are inescapably attracted to pictures of meagerly dressed women and men supposedly meant to make us purchase some product they approve (Reichert 2007).

This attention attraction strategy is very effective and it’s now very popular. The major predicament associated with using sex in marketing is that there has been an increase in sexual content on adverts. A lot of people now have the notion that advertising industry is developing a reputation of smuttiness, seedy adverts and nudity. Some people are hence avoiding such adverts for those reasons alone (Reichert 2007). This is not an excellent result for the adverts and therefore, strategies are underway to try and promote sex advertising as justifiable and honorable medium of marketing business products and services.

The other menace of sex advertising is that at times, the promotion can be lost in within the smut. As much as sex draws people’s attention, sometimes there is so much of it that people don’t know where to turn to. The consequence of this is that people would tend to automatically pay no attention to or book mark this adverts assuming it’s one of the many products which are just the same anyway.

The best way to do these adverts is to maximize on the benefits sex appeal brings and stand out from the rest at the same time maintain respect for your market. Brains are very complex with the way they work and usually associate our desire for sex and whatever the product is being advertised without our conscience (Levit 2005). This triggers off our sexual desires however nude people is not the only way to attract attention (LaTour et al, 2003), there are other smart ways of getting sex appeal e.g. use of color, sounds and shapes (curves).

Effective Sex Adverts

A beer advert start by a man making a phone call in a booth, suddenly this fine lady appears, seductive, beautiful giving him the look. He melts down into a pile of shuddering goods and hangs up in mid-sentence as he opens the door. The lady smiles seductively and pushes past him into the booth. He steps back….as she closes the door in his face. With an appearance of what really happened, he rushes for a beer.

The above example gives a sex appeal to the consumer. Some adverts are usually subtle and others are blatant. Sex is considered the second strongest instinct of appeal in psychology after preservation instinct (Levit 2005). The dissimilarities in male and female psychology causes varied approaches to and their sensitivity to sex. The relationship between sex and advertising comes is complex.

The intention of adverts is to lure people to purchase the products in question in one way or another. Adverts have to do their job faster without going into so much detail. Advert designer are usually able to find sexual connection between many products (Taflinger 1996). However the sexual association is achieved easily in men than women. Basically it’s because men have less complex criteria for desire; a woman beautiful enough, young and healthy is enviable.

For these reasons, adverts targeting male consumers effectively draw the attention of the men using women’s bodies and relate obtaining the product to getting the woman. The advert effectively exploits a man’s instincts rather than his intellectual understanding of things. The adverts never discuss her qualification for sexual desire…only her mere presence is enough (Taflinger 1996).

In women the story is different, because though they have a sexual reaction instinct; it’s sometimes strongly affected by their intelligence. The use of male models attracts their attention and develops desire but the readiness to engage in sex is rarely provoked just because of a man’s body. Since the process of attracting a woman’s attention by sexual desire is complex, adverts targeting women rarely use sex appeal as their argument for attraction.

Research has however found a solution to this, women like something concrete and hence in order to lure a woman, and adverts targeting them have romance as their inducement. Romance perfectly matches a woman’s intellectual perception of love, courtship, the process by which men contest to be and women decide on mates. This clearly shows that sex is the strongest appeal used in advertising, only that it’s highly gender connected.

In practice, sex appeal varies according to the target consumers and also because many products are projected to one gender of the other. An example of an advert targeting women perfume went like this; a woman strolling down a street. A hand some man smells her perfume and begins to pursue her, stumbling and blundering like a dog. He quickly purchases a bouquet of flowers which he hands to her with the look of admiration when he catches up with her. She smiles back contemptuously and walks away much satisfied with his response as he looks on. (Taflinger 1996)

Examples show very little or no suggestion of real sex though they may propose it as a possibility but not unquestionably because of the product. Only one thing is certain and that is; for women targets, sex I blatantly suggested whereas for men it’s subtle.

Criticisms of Sex Advertising

Critics argue that sex is only used to draw attention of customers and therefore this is “borrowed awareness.” They explain this advert taking the advantage of interests sparked by sexual information and taping it into generating interest for their products. Others say that while sex may stop attract attention, it only does so for shorter time and may not be able to sustain long term growth (Lambiase & Reichert 2003)


Sex draws attention and evokes hardwired response that translates into sales which is the main aim of advertising. Research has also shown that sex is used for more that just drawing peoples attention. Most adverts again, more than three times as much use sex adverts as a selling inducement.


Lambiase J & Reichert T (2003) Promises, Promises: Exploring Erotic Rhetoric in Sexually Oriented Advertising, in LandaScott and Rajeev Batra (Eds.), Persuasive Imagery; A Consumer Perspective pp. 247-266. Mahwah, NJ. Erlbaum

Levit, M. (2005): Sex in Advertising; Does it Sell?; Retrieved on 8th November 2008 from

LaTour, Michael and Tony (2003) Nudity and Sexual Appeals: Understanding the Arousal Process and Advertising Response in Tom Reichert and Jacqueline Lambiase (Eds), Sex In Advertising pp 91-106 Mahwah, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Reichert T (2007) Does Sex Advertising Work?: A Review of Scholarly Research Informed by Professional Opinion.: Advertising and Society Review 8 (2) retrieved on 8th November 8, 2008 from project MUSE database

Taflinger R.F (1996) Taking Advantage You and Me, Babe: Sex and Advertising. Richard Taflinger’s Home Page at Washington State University http://www.wsu/sex.htm

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Does Sex In Advertising Work?. (2018, Feb 28). Retrieved from

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