Sex… And how it sells

Throughout our lives we are bombarded by media messages, and almost just as many subliminal messages are embedded throughout these messages.  Have you ever been watching TV when a stunningly beautiful woman appears on the screen half naked and posing for you sexually?  I’m sure your answer is yes; this is a very common and persuasive technique used by advertisers to get you to purchase their product.  The simple concept: sex sells.  And advertisers know it, and are ready to exploit it in any way possible.

So why are sexual images and concepts used so often in today’s media?  Simply, because it works.  It is among our strongest psychological and biological urges. Behind the need to stay alive and continue our existence, I cannot think of a greater drive for the human race.  It is quite simple, find a suitable mate, and reproduce.  In addition to simply physical instinct, there are a few other reasons that attractive women are used constantly in ads.  When an attractive woman is on the screen, people (especially males) will generally take a longer time viewing and considering this ad than others, and therefore, have an easier time recalling this ad as they are walking around the store.  This allows the viewer to develop a closer identity with that brand.

If your still not sure that selling sex in ads is not only all over the place, but it works, then here are a few statistics for you.  After Heineken released its “It’s all about the beer” campaign, and more specifically, this commercial, sales increased by 13% in years to come.  Axe Body Spray is another brand that utilizes sexual images and content to sell their products.  The theme is simple: a man uses the Axe product and then magically beautiful women are attracted to him.  This campaign was also a huge success, increasing their sales by 27% its introductory year.  Ad campaigns are not the only ones to utilize this technique.  The television show, Gossip Girl , used its already sexual content and flaunted it all over billboards and television ads to increase their viewer base.  These media showed images of the characters lying in bed together, kissing, or displaying an orgasmic facial expression.  These images would be paired with captions of “mind-blowingly inappropriate” or “every parent’s worst nightmare.”  This racy campaign resulted in 3.4 million viewers the following years, a slight increase from the previous year.  The overarching consensus of these real life examples: selling sex in this industry does work.

A model for the brand, Guess, poses suggestively

So is this ethical?  Is it just to sell a product by seductive sexual ads, especially when so many of them are targeted for young adults and teenagers?  I do not have a definite answer to this, but I tend to think it is not morally just.  Although these ads are not technically hurting anyone, they use women as “eye candy” which has a few lasting effects.  One, men tend to view women more as sexual objects, or solely good for their aesthetic beauty.  In addition, we have to look at the targeted audiences of these advertisements.  Many of them are for teenagers and young adults; because they may still be confused or curious about their sexuality, it makes them even more susceptible to these ads.  The fact is sex sells.  What this means for America, I am not sure, but I do not agree that it is an entirely ethic business.

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