Sex in advertising or sex sells is the use of sexual or erotic imagery (also called "sex appeal") in advertising to draw interest to a particular product, for purpose of sale. A feature of sex in advertising is that the imagery used, such as that of a pretty woman, typically has no connection to the product being advertised. The purpose of the imagery is to attract the attention of the potential customer or user. The type of imagery that may be used is very broad, and would include nudity, cheesecake (pin- up girl), and beefcake, even if it is often only suggestively sexual. Sex has been utilized in advertising since its beginning. The earliest forms are wood carvings and illustrations of attractive women (often unclothed from the waist up) adorned posters, signs, and ads for saloons, tonics, and tobacco. In several notable cases, sex in advertising has been claimed as the reason for increased consumer interest and sales. The earliest known use of sex in advertising is by the Pearl Tobacco brand in 1871, which featured a naked maiden on the package cover. Sex is the second strongest of the psychological appeals, right behind self-preservation. Its strength is biological and instinctive, the genetic imperative of reproduction. However, its effectiveness and application are gender linked. The differences in male and female gender make up cause different approaches to and perceptions of sex, both the act and its outcome. For many products it is possible to find (or invent) a sexual connection. However, the sexual connection is much easier to set up for men than for women. Remember that men have minimal criteria for sexual desire; basically, they are concerned with a woman's anatomy -- as long as a woman looks young enough and healthy, she is desirable. Men also consider her beautiful, since to a male beautiful and sexually attractive are nearly the same. Thus, in advertising it is easy to get a man's attention by using women's bodies and associate getting the woman if he buys the product. It is playing on his instinctive rather than intellectual view of the world. The ad spends no time discussing her qualifications for sexual desire -- her mere existence is enough.
According to Wikipedia, Sex in advertising builds on the premise that people are curious about sexuality and that experience in marketing has been that sexuality sells products. From a marketing point of view, sexuality can have biological, emotional/physical or spiritual aspects. The biological aspect of sexuality refers to the reproductive mechanism as well as the basic biological drive that exists in all species, which is hormonally controlled. The emotional or physical aspect of sexuality refers to the bond that exists between individuals, and is expressed through profound feelings or physical manifestations of emotions of love, trust, and caring. There is also a spiritual aspect of sexuality of an individual or as a connection with others. Advertisers may and do use the various aspects of sexuality in advertisements.
When sexuality is used in advertising, certain values and attitudes towards sex are necessarily 'sold' along with a product. In advertising terms, this is called "the concept". The message may be that "innocence is sexy" (as used by Calvin Klein when it uses young people in provocative poses), or that link pain and violence with sexiness and glamour (as used by Versace), or that women enjoy being dominated, or that women come with a product (e.g. in the advertisement for Budweiser Beer), or that the use of a certain product is naughty but legal, or that use of a certain product will make the user more attractive to the opposite sex, and many other messages. Historically, advertising has used women in erotic roles and poses more often than men. However, in recent years young men have increasingly been used in a similar manner, though women continue to be depicted in sexualized roles disproportionately. The use of female models in such...
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