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Sexual appeals in Ads

Updated on May 1, 2013

Why are advertisers selling us sex?

As I have already mentioned in my previous article on “Unethical advertisement and children’s well-being", one of advertisers’ main tool to promote certain products is the use of sexual images. For many years advertisers have been selling us sex and the biggest issue here is that they are also targeting children with their ads.

But why do they do this and who is actually behind this? Well behind this matter are the corporations, of course, and there is a distinctive reason for doing so. The reason is to make individuals their consumers for LIFE. Yes, for life!

The corporations’ goal is to make people, subliminally, believe that they need all products being advertised for several reasons such as in order to have the perfect skin or the perfect body. They are selling people sex to make them want to look like the models that are featured in their ads. As stated by Shimp (2010) “…sexual material in advertising acts to attract and hold attention for a longer period, often by featuring attractive models in provocative poses.”

Jim Beam advertisement

A commercial for Jim Beam Whisky shows a beautiful and attractive female model, dressed rather seductively, representing someone’s girlfriend. In the ad she states “I like guys who watch a lot of football and go out with the boys”, “I don’t need flowers, that’s silly” and “He can do what ever he wants, I don’t care”. Immediately after she finishes talking the ad shows Jim Beams logo with the phrase “The girlfriend” followed by an image of the bottle which is being advertised.

It can be clearly seen that this ad is directed to the male consumer and appears to imply two messages. One is that by drinking Jim Beam you can have this type of girlfriend, who allows you to do what ever you want. The second message is that Jim Beam is actually the girlfriend. For instance it’s like the ad is saying “Drink Jim Beam, and watch football or go out with your friends, it doesn't want flowers and there are no limits on what you want to do”, its like the ad is encouraging replacement of the girlfriend figure with an alcoholic drink.

Jim Beam ad: The girlfriend!

Nudity is mostly used to represent sexual appeals however it is rare for ads to show fully naked individuals, they usually show parts of the body covering their most private areas. Thus, all models presented in these types of ads appear to have similar characteristics, with female models being slim, young, beautiful and attractive, while male models usually appear to be good looking, attractive with a build up figure.

In addition, these images seem to have affected not only young girls but also young boys as not having similar body figures to those of the models may make them feel insecurity while causing distress, and lack of confidence. Moreover, a very important issue is also that these type of ads are displayed almost everywhere and it is more likely that children will be exposed to them. This, according to Courtney and Whipple (1983), could encourage a child to copy and adapt a particular behavioral pattern displayed in an advertisement because young children are more likely to observe and learn, so exposure to such ads makes them observe and learn from them.

Towel ad


By the use of sexual content in ads, advertisers aim to awaken certain emotional responses including feelings of arousal or lust. They believe that by doing so their ad’s persuasive impact will increase. Consequentially sexual appeals are used in order to sell more products and also to increase the attractiveness of media products including TV programs, films, music, magazines and internet sites (Bohbot, 2008).

However, critics such as that of Bem (1993; cited in Gunter, 2009) have supported that presenting models as sex objects in ads creates stereotypes and the viewer more likely may symbolize the models as something to be owned, or desired rather than seeing them as human beings.

Advertisers, unfortunately, will always try to reach and attract people by using sex in their ads. Their goal is to make people buy more and more products, including products which may not really be necessary for one but seem to be needed due to the exaggerations and subliminal messages in ads. Therefore, advertisements will always include some sort of content which will try to influence people.


Bohbot, M.,(2008). Sex in Advertising: Perspectives on Erotic Appeal, Taylor and Francis.

Courtney, A. E. & Whipple, T. W. (1983), Sex stereotyping in advertising,Lexington, Toronto

Gunter, B., (2009). Media Sex: What are the issues?, Taylor and Francis.

Shimp, T., A.,(2010). Advertising, Promotion, and other aspects of Integrated Marketing Communications (8th edition), South-Western, Cengage Learning


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    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Hi Chef,

      Yes, you are absolutely right. There are sexual appeals even in ads which do not require such images.

      Thanks for reading!

      Have a nice day,


    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 

      6 years ago from New Delhi India

      Chris, Yes they are selling sex and showing girls who are not requiered in the ad. Like a shaving blade ad, there is a girl in scanty clothes. Now what a girl in scanty clothes has to do with Razor for men?

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Hi Paul,

      I am very glad you have found this topic interesting. To be honest when I was researching this subject I did find a lot of ads with cars and beautiful young women.

      Thank you very much for your comments and for sharing. I hope you find the rest of my hubs on this subject as interesting.

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by Mhatter99.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is a very interesting hub and undoubtedly a lot of products are associated with sex in their advertising. This is especially the case in marketing new automobiles. If you go to any auto show, you will undoubtedly see many beautiful young models all around the cars. My friends and I used to have the joke that cars were just like women: some were built for comfort and others were built for speed. Voted up as interesting and shared with followers.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I use to write about this on a different site. Shocking and funny and a lot of readers.


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