Sexual Appeals in Advertising and Their Effects on Consumers

Category: Advertising
Last Updated: 13 Jan 2021
Pages: 10 Views: 455
Sex Appeal is one such method of differentiation that suppliers have found and proven to be successful. By targeting our basic animalistic behaviour, namely the drive for sexual reproduction, firms have found that through a cleverly designed message containing sex appeal, they can attract and hold on to consumers’ attention, thus making it more likely for consumers to choose that particular product over another. On the other hand however,sexual content may not be communicative and might even have a detrimental effect on brand information processing.

Using sex appeal in advertising is a time-tested technique that will probably be with us forever. If you are marketing a product or service, you need to be aware of the power of sex appeal in advertising and understand the nuances of using sex to market your wares. What is sex appeal in advertising? Appeals utilizing overt sexual information are common in mainstream consumer advertising. Sex appeal is pervasive in advertising and is used with increasing frequency. As advertisersseek out ways to break through clutter and draw attention to their messages, the use of sexually oriented appeals have been used as a communication technique .

Previous research for advertising has documented that sexually oriented appeals are widespread, commonplace, and increasing. Typically, sex appeals have varied along two major dimensions; nudity and sexual explicitness. The escalating usage of sexual stimuli in advertising indicates that companies will advertise in a way that most effectively moves the product. And sex does sell; one only has to browse through popular magazines to realize how powerful a tool sex is. Why Sex Sells: The most obvious reason sex appeal works in advertising is that it grabs attention. Both males and females are attracted to this type of advertising.

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It is a powerful instinctive attraction that will take our focus from anything else we may be doing. And advertisers know this. They play off of our curiosity. They know that it will be more likely to be recalled than most other forms of appeals because of the generated interest. Also, many advertisers have found that overly controversial images, even if they are taken off of the air, will stir up discussions about the ad and the product associated with it. Even if someone does not agree with what is put on an ad, they are still talking about it. By those discussions being had, the name of your product stays in the minds of consumers longer.

What to Be Careful of When Using Sex Appeal in Marketing: Make sure that people are not so distracted by the sexual appeal of the ad that they do not remember what the ad was for in the first place. It does not do any good to create a sensual or sexual message when all they can remember is the image and not the brand name. So, make sure the sexual/sensual image being used is connected in some way to the product or service being promoted. This will create a link between the two and make the viewer much more likely to remember the product or service being advertised. Many advertisers appeal to males in this way- buy the product, get the girl.

Especially beer advertisements- generally, a group of average looking guys will be in a bar and by purchasing or drinking a certain brand, they will attract interest from an attractive girl across the room. What is considered acceptable varies from one location to another. In a large metropolitan area with a diverse, less conservative population, you might be more likely to produce more risque advertising versus a rural and conservative or religious community. Tailor the message to the people you are targeting, which includes understanding their feelings and beliefs on public sexuality.

If you are setting up a business in a smaller community, make sure to note what other businesses do to advertise. Sex appeal may not be an acceptable form of appeal at all. It is not as attention-grabbing as it once was. There is still an element of surprise, but do not think that people will react or respond quite how they did when it was first being used. As we have become more and more surrounded by sexual images in movies and television, we have become almost desensitized to it, and an ad with half-dressed models does not nearly shock us as much as it would have twenty years ago.

So, instead of just having a group of sexy girls or guys in an ad, try to find more subtle and unexpected ways to use sexuality in your message. Dove did this by using "real people" in their marketing campaigns that started a few years ago. They used the different kinds of beauty, body shape, and age to promote their products. This unexpected campaign, which premiered during the Super Bowl, was extremely successful because it was something different that they were remembered for doing. Sex appeal can be used in many ways.

In short, make sure that the way you are using it is appropriate for the product that you are selling and the people you are selling it to. Amy Bax is interested in providing innovative informational resources to entrepreneurs. She is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri - Columbia. We're surrounded by advertisements that desperately compete for our attention. Everywhere we look, we find ourselves inevitably drawn to images of scantily clad attractive men and women that are supposed to somehow inspire us to purchase products they endorse.

Sure, this attention-getting strategy is popular. Is sex appeal effective? Sex appeal can increase the effectiveness of an ad or commercial because it attracts the customer's attention. It's human nature to be curious about sex. A pair of long legs on a billboard is more likely to catch (and hold) a guy's attention than a puppy, regardless of how cute it may be. Even women are drawn to them, perhaps with the desire of having goddess-like legs. However, misuse of sex appeal can be costly. Many campaigns deemed offensive have started brand boycotts that affect sales and damage brand reputation.

Abercrombie & Fitch has been involved in several scandals, the latest from their most recent catalog entitled "XXX Wet, Hot Summer Fun. " On April 18, 2002, only a week after the catalog hit the stores, the Illinois State Senate passed a resolution condemning A&F's advertising tactics. This resolution, backed by several nonprofit organizations, suggests citizens and shareholders boycott Abercrombie's products and to take a stand against the company's marketing strategies. Although sexy images in catalogs are not at all uncommon, "XXX Wet, Hot Summer Fun" featured naked boys and girls frolicking in natural settings.

Not quite appropriate for an apparel catalog targeted at teenagers. Sex in advertising has stirred controversy for many years, an advertiser must be careful when incorporating it in a campaign. Great advertisers consider not only the attention-getting power of an advertisement or commercial, but also what kind of emotional response it provokes in customers. Studies show that the attractiveness of the endorsing model provokes positive responses. Nudity and graphic erotic content, while still increasing consumer's attention, doesn't really generate positive feelings among viewers.

In other words, advertisers must be careful to avoid the "cheap shot," which may negatively affect a brand's image. To avoid that, the sexual content in advertising must be appropriate to the product category and have a proper underlying message. One spot, called "The Premature Pour," shows a beautiful seductive woman pouring Heineken into a glass. When a guy across the bar responds by pouring his own, he nervously pours too fast and spills foam all over the table and himself. The sexual content is implicit, yet direct.

The sexual reference in this and other spots in the campaign worked, causing sales to rise 13% in the first two quarters of 2002. However, Steve Davis (VP of marketing in Heineken USA), claims that, "Provocative is a very good place to be, as long as we're not inflammatory. But the spots also work for a different reason. From the tag line to the plot, they are about a desire for Heineken. Our ads make the beer the hero. " Sex sells, yes, but only when used "in good taste. " As marketers we must think not only in getting customers' attention for the short term, but also in building a brand reputation that will yield long-term results.

The positive roles of sex appeal in advertising: One might ask ‘why do advertisers promote sex appeal? ’ The answer in its purest form is thatit works well in most cases and according to Bumler (1999), most advertising executives usesex appeal as the most powerful weapon in their arsenal and therefore they use graphic images to get and hold on to audiences’ attention. From a marketing perspective, sexual appeal maybe advantageous for the simple reason that they prey on basic biological instincts and thus, an incredible motivational factor, which is a desirable attribute to break through clutter.

Advertisements that attract attention have the increased likelihood to affect persuasion,especially in a saturated media environment typified by passive viewing exposure. Numerous research studies have revealed that sexual appeal, when used in advertising are attention grabbing, likeable, arousing, effect inducing, memorable, and somewhat more apt to increase interest in the topic advertised in comparison to non-sexual appeal. Sex appeal serves several crucial roles in advertising. Firstly,sexual material in advertising acts as an initial attention lure to the ad, which is referred to asthe stopping power of sex .

Attention is a necessary condition for learning, attitudinal change and behavioral effects. A second function of sexual stimuli in advertising is to enhance message recall as sex is arousing, easy to relate, emotion inducing, and most of all, memorable. Finally, the third role of sexual content in advertising is to evoke emotional responses, such as feelings of arousal, excitement, or even lust, which in turn can create stimulation and desire for the product (Bumler 1999). This role may affect the consumer’s mood and can result in favourable cognitiveprocessing of the ad and increase the persuasion impact.

Sex appeal in advertising is also effective ineliciting fantasy or expressing the imaginative fulfillment of motives, such as sexual gratification. Latour, Pitts, and Snook-Luther (1990) have provided insight into the emotional impact ofsexual appeals, specifically the level and nature of evoked arousal and attitudes toward theadvertisement and brand. They have found a direct relationship between the positive arousalevoked by sexual appeals and evaluations of the brand. Nonetheless, whether sexual appealelicits a positive or negative reaction depends on the appropriateness to the advertisedproduct.

Richmond and Hartman (1982) ascertain that sexual stimuli will enhance brand recallonly if it has an appropriate relationship with the product category and the advertisingexecution. When sex appeal is used inappropriately, such as utilizing it solely as an attentiondevice, exploiting the female body, degrading the female role or insulting propriety, weakbrand recall may occur and may in fact produce a negative attitude towards the brand.

This implies that the use of sex appeal in advertising must be appropriate to the type of products eing advertised and when sex appeal is used thoughtfully and appropriately, it may produceacceptable and satisfactory results. Negative effects of sex appeal in advertising: While studies have shown that overt sexual portrayals attract attention to an advertisement, other numerous advertising research have also suggested that inappropriate and excessive use of sexual content can actually have a number of negative effects. Consistently, studies have demonstrated that sexual appeals attract attention to the ad, typically without a corresponding advantage for brand information processing.

Sexual content may be eye-catching and entertaining, but it may not be communicative and might distract the viewer from the message. When sexual stimulus is used in advertising, viewers’ perceptual and processing resources are directed toward the sexual information in the ad rather than toward the brand. The use of explicit sexual messages in advertisements may interfere with consumers’ processing of message arguments and brand information, which in turn may reduce message comprehension.

Furthermore, initial devices such a sexual stimuli overwhelm the message, and are negatively correlated to both recall and persuasion. Finally, there has been evidence to suggest that overt sexual appeals may have detrimental effects on attitudes toward the ad and brand, and therefore may reduce purchase intention . These findings led MacInnis, Moorman, and Jaworski to advance the proposition that hedonic appeals, such as sexual stimuli, increase motivation to process the ad execution, but largely at the expense of the brand. All of these threaten to act as potential hazards of using sex appeals.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) provides a framework to understand the role of sexual appeals in persuasion (Shimp 2003). According to ELM, persuasion can occur along a continuum of elaboration. Persuasion resulting from extensive issue-relevant thinking isreferred to as central route processing, whereby receivers engage in vigilant examination ofmessage information. As receivers’ motivation, opportunity, and ability decrease, receiversare less likely to engage in systematic elaboration and are consequently more likely to rely onperipheral cues to guide their decision-making.

Evidence suggests that this process occurs in response to sexual appeals in advertising (Severn, Belch & Belch 1990). It appears that numerous advertising utilizing sex appeal seems to get attention but do little for the advertised product. For instance, Judd and Alexander (1983) found that ads withdecorative female models increase memory for the image in the ad with no difference in actually reading the information of the ad. In particular, nudity and erotic content was found to increase attention to the ad, but not necessarily enhance recall or positive attitudes toward a brand.

As a result, sexual appeals stimulate less argument elaboration and connecting thoughts than will non-sexual appeal. Additional evidence also suggests that, as the level of nudity and erotism increase, the intended communication effects either become negative or dissipate. Therefore, despite the persuasiveness of sexual appeals when used in advertisements, it is likely to be the result of peripheral processes and as a result may be transient. In addition to the aforesaid negative effects of advertising, bad uses of sex symbols in advertising may lead to unacceptable perception by audience.

The widespread use of sex as an advertising technique has elicited significant consumer protest. On top of that, as clutter increases in advertising, consumers appear to be more able to physically avoid advertising and tune out . For this reason, every advertiser haspragmatic need to stand out. As marketers focus on developing messages that stand out, too many of them forget that their focus should not solely be on the executional devices, but on the core message.

In order to investigate the abovementioned discrepancy with regards to the effects of sexual stimuli in advertising, we conducted a short survey on 20 subjects on their perception of ads that exploit sex appeal. The subjects, who consisted of eleven females and nine males, wereasked to browse through five different ads for 20 seconds. Two out of the five ads presented,employ sexual appeal as their core messages. The subjects were then required to answer a series of questions about the attractiveness of the ads and were then asked to recall the brand names.

The survey questions, results, and advertisement stimuli are provided in Appendix 1. It was found that one of the ads utilizing sexual appeal (Ad 2) was rated as most appealing by the majority of subjects. Interestingly however, the other ad that displays explicit nudity (Ad) was rated as most unappealing and most subjects were unable to recall the brand name. We therefore concluded that sex appeal in advertising works well, but only if it is appropriate with the product context and within an appropriate level of explicitness.

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Sexual Appeals in Advertising and Their Effects on Consumers. (2017, Apr 03). Retrieved from

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