The Ethical Issues of Using Sex in Advertising
Today we live in a world where sex sells. Sex is used to sell everything. Advertisers use sex or sexual innuendoes in their ads to make a memorable impression on consumers. Unfortunately, many of those impressions are made on America’s children. Advertisers and marketers do not just create ads to promote their products; they also set a standard of what is attractive to the society. The public perceives sexuality as attractive and gives the attributions of an attractive person to advertisements with sexual images (Vega). Using sexuality to sell products has many ramifications to the companies and to the consumers themselves. Many advertisers use sexuality in a subconscious manner which does not allow consumers to actively think about the effect of an ad on their thought process. There are many instances where advertisements use sex to sell and because of this the question of ethics arises and must be debated. The marketing technique of using sex to sell products ranges from alcohol, to perfume, to clothing and portrays the increasing controversy that is arising over this issue in society. Advertisements today are saturated with sexual images that affect every sex, race, and age group. Sex in advertisements affects the young because these ads teach them how to look and act sexy, which in the theory of the producer, will create positive reactions for the young people. The sexuality in advertisements may not exactly sell the product but it definitely grabs attention and forces the consumer to stop and look at the product closer. Much of the public has some sort of insecurity in their life. Advertisers play off of this in that they attempt to fill the consumer’s insecurities by their product and a fake sense of love and security. Dr. Moog, in her book Are They Selling Her Lips?, points out that when advertiser link products with sexuality, they lock in with people’s deepest fears of being unlovable; they offer their products and images as tickets to love, when what they’re really providing are more masks for people to hid behind (Moog, 160). Many advertisers will go to whatever lengths it takes to have attention drawn to their ads. This creates in a sense a ‘sexual showdown’ between advertisers that doesn’t see to have an end in sight. So now that it seems that sexuality is inevitable in advertising, the question of ‘is it ethical’ arises. It seems that people today are in desperate need of validation from others and are caught in a media avalanche of narcissistic images of people who essentially feel empty and unlovable beneath their grandiose postures (Moog, 160). The ethic question is whether it is ethical to play off of people’s insecurities to sell a product. It is as if marketers seem to assume that anything that results in raising the gross national product is automatically good for America (Packard 221). This could be true from the producer standpoint that if the product revenue gees up then the economy will go up also. But, the question lies in the fact that since the consumer is giving in to these ads, does that make them good for America? Management’s ability to contact millions of consumers simultaneously through newspapers, gives them the power as one producer put it, to do good or evil on a scale never before thought of (Packard, 222). The standpoint of many people and consumers is that it is unethical for companies to use these underlying sexual images because they give a false sense of fulfillment to the consumer. These sexual ads make the consumers feel inadequate to the models and thus lower their self-esteem. The ads also portray a false sense of reality which sometimes the consumer does not realize. Producers on the other hand, hold a different perspective. They tend to agree with people like Clyde Miller who said that when we learn to recognize the devices of the persuaders, we build up a ‘recognition reflex’ and...
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