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Sex in Advertisments

Updated on August 20, 2015

May, 2009

In an article that was written by Jib Fowles in 1982 titled Advertising’s Fifteen Basic Appeals, Fowles listed 15 different needs that advertisers can appeal to in order to make the products sell. These needs ranged from physiological needs, like food, drink and sleep to the need for affiliation, to feel safe, attention, satisfy curiosity and so on. The first need he listed was the need for sex. (P660) Fowles stated that “The fascinating thing is not how much sex there is in advertising, but how little. Contrary to impressions, unambiguous sex is rare in these messages.”(P661). Sex in advertisements has been going on for a long time and often caused some controversy. Advertisers have gone from subtle sex appeals in the past, to being much more obvious today.

There are many different ways that advertisers can use sex in ads. Some of them may not be as obvious as others but there are a lot that take full advantage of the subject. In a recent ad for the shoe company Sketchers, two guys and a female are talking about what girls notice about a guy first. The female stated his shoes. Hollister takes advantage of sex appeal by using male models with no shirts on. These are pretty good examples of a subtle ad and most likely the most common.

The ads that take more advantage of the appeal to sex seem to be very popular lately. has become the largest internet domain company in the country due to its ad they ran during a Super Bowl. It features a sexy dressed model in a courtroom that appeared to have issues with her shirt staying buttoned.

Some of them have been so controversial that they have not even made it to television and have had a huge advertising impact. Go Daddys other ad was canceled that night due to viewer complaints. Although it didn’t air a second time it was still effective due to the media exposure it gained. This was also the case for a recently banned ad for PETA which featured models simulating sexual acts with fruits and vegetables to help promote for people to become vegetarians. Paris Hilton has even starred in a commercial that took full advantage of the needs for sex. She strolled around in her bathing suit, washing a car while she ate a burger from Carl Jr’s in provocative ways. "This commercial is basically soft-core porn," said Melissa Caldwell, research director for the Parents Television Council. "It's inappropriate for television." Victoria Secrets also uses its Angels, super models in very little clothing, to advertise their clothing and lingerie line.

Although Fowles statement was most likely true for the time he wrote the article, it is obvious that advertisers rely on sex to appeal to us more now. I feel this may be due to the advances in media outlets like cable TV which have allowed more sexual content on air which has softened out senses to the issue than that of the 1980s.


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