Sex Appeal as a Promotion Strategy

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There is one element that arouses the immediate interest of both men and women. Sex, perhaps not surprisingly, has the greatest universal acceptance of all stratagems ever used in advertising. Probably even more important are the hidden, unconscious feelings that sex arouses in people. Sex can make the beholder feel young again. Sex may also reassure men of their masculinity and women of their femininity. This reassurance may be an important consideration in today’s confused relationship between men and women. Additionally, sex is one of the most basic of all human emotions. Lastly, sex is a status symbol. One of the simplest ways for an advertiser to give his models an air of importance is to bestow then with sex appeal.


In general, the function of marketing is to either increase the number of customers or increase the rate of use among current customers. The number of customers can be increased by: converting customers from competing brands, developing loyalty to the brand among current customers, or expanding the total market for the product class.

If sex appeal is used for advertising a product, the effect of sex appeal on a consumer who is highly involved with this product may not be as great as the effect of that on a consumer who is not highly involved.

Sex in advertising is becoming bolder, diverse, and more far reaching. It has been shown that the use of sex appeal, sexy illustrations, and sex in general, in advertising can have widespread and penetrating effects on several elements of an advertising and buyer behaviour model. The effects may be positive in an additive or multiplicative way; on the other hand if its use is “improper” it may have a negative effect. Sex in advertising can be utilised advantageously in several ways: as an attention-getting device, in promoting sex appeal associated with products and services, in a complimentary manner, and as a subliminal technique.

In my opinion sex appeal impacts few core areas:

  1. Impact on the product: the communicative effectiveness of sexual appeals at the gender, impulse, and inhibition level depends on the degree of congruency the appeal has with the product. When there is congruency, sexual appeals produce a higher intention to purchase the product. However, it is possible to push the boundaries too far.
  2. Impact on consumer attitudes: While advertising messages using controversial sexual content are perceived as more interesting than advertising messages without sexual content. In essence, consumers form inferences about products based on the positive or negative interpretation of the environment surrounding the audience.
  3. Impact on mood: The environment plays an important role in attention and comprehension of a message by altering consumer mood.

Some of the types of sexual content identified in advertising today

  • Nudity/Dress: Amount and style of clothing worn by models. Examples include revealing displays of the body, ranging from tight-fitting clothing, to underwear and lingerie, to nudity.
  • Sexual Behavior: Individual and interpersonal sexual behavior. Includes flirting, eye contact, posturing, and movement (body language, nonverbal and verbal communication). Sexual interaction between two or more people typically includes hugging, kissing, voyeurism, and more intimate forms of sexual behavior.
  • Physical Attractiveness: General level of model’s physical beauty. Often incorporates facial beauty, complexion, hair, and physique.
  • Sexual Referents: Allusions and references to objects and events that have sexual meaning by means of double entendre and innuendo. Also includes facilitating factors that enhance or contribute to sexual meaning, such as setting, music, lighting, design elements, camera techniques, and editing.
  • Sexual Embeds: Content interpreted as sexual at the subconscious level. Includes words like sex, nonsexual perceptible objects that can connote sexual body parts and sexual actions, and small images of body parts and people.

There is little doubt that nude models and other forms of sexual advertising content are here to stay. Sexual appeals that feature a range of sexual information (nudity, behavior, referents, and physical attractiveness) are commonplace and used to promote an increasingly wider range of mainstream products and services. Advertisers not only use sexual appeals to attract attention to their ads, but to position their brands as sexual, and to suggest that sex-related benefits can accrue to the brand purchasers.

Much like comedy or dress styles, advertisements age rapidly.A successful marketing campaign may indeed earn its company an initial competitive advantage, but that advantage fades quickly unless it is translated into brand loyalty.


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