Everyone knows that “sex sells”. Advertisers are probably most aware of this fact. Beginning with World War II, pin-up girls introduced sex into mainstream advertising. The advent of Playboy also played a significant role on the future of marketing. Now it is almost impossible to find a company that does not use sex to market their product in some way. However, although sex can be a very effective method of marketing, it is so powerful a method it can overwhelm the product you are trying to sell. Another consideration is the morality of the audience you are targeting since sexuality hits at the very heart of a culture’s morals and beliefs. Despite these drawbacks, sex in advertising has a proven track record of increasing sales and brand recognition.
Every advertisement necessarily carries with it an unstated message, called “the concept”. Oftentimes in ads where sex is used, the concept is that sex comes about as a direct result of using the product. For example, recently Ryan Seacrest was used in a Scope commercial where women flocked to him in droves after he used Scope mouthwash. “Fresh, minty, handsome” was the stated message, but the concept declared “use Scope and women will be attracted to you.” “[A]n ad for Coors Light beer begins with a model in a bikini walking toward the camera while the narrator says, “Because if you don’t watch your figure . . .who will?” This is a clear indication that the woman’s concern is attracting the attention of men from which to choose, and that using the product will aid her in her quest.”
Overwhelming the product you are trying to sell is obviously not what marketers are trying to do and yet so many times this is what happens when sex is part of an advertisement. Burger King’s “Blow your mind away” campaign is a perfect example of this. Renova toilet paper also had a problem with the sex in their ad overshadowing their product. And really, how sexy is toilet paper?
“Thus, the use of sex in advertising is a two-edged sword. Although it is extremely powerful and effective when aimed at one gender, it often does so at the social expense of the other. Since humans live in a social world, consideration must be given to the feelings of the people in that world. If advertising uses the sex appeal, it must be carefully aimed and tastefully done. There is no sense in appealing to one sex by offending the other.”
According to Wikipedia, “Gallup & Robinson, an advertising and marketing research firm, has reported that in more than 50 years of testing advertising effectiveness, it has found the use of the erotic to be a significantly above-average technique in communicating with the marketplace, “…although one of the more dangerous for the advertiser. Weighted down with taboos and volatile attitudes, sex is a Code Red advertising technique … handle with care … seller beware; all of which makes it even more intriguing.”