Sex in Advertising Term Paper

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sex in advertising. The writer takes the reader on an exploratory journey into the use of sex in advertising. There were 10 sources used to complete this paper.

The world is becoming an increasingly competitive place. While the globalization process moves forward, and teenagers grow up faster than ever before marketing departments are scrambling to discover the secret to targeting the markets for their clients. Marketing departments have a very demanding position in the world of advertising. They must study many aspects of society in order to come up with and present in the best possible light the products they have been charged with selling. It is something that requires a deep understanding of human nature, a grasp on different markets, ages and interests, and the understanding of where the lines are drawn between offensive and alluring. The use of sex in advertising is not a new concept but its strategy and openness are ever changing aspects of the hawking of wares. Many of the changes over the years have to do with a more open societal acceptance of its use and its boundaries.

Sex in advertising is not a new concept. It has been around as long as products have been available for market. The use of se in the advertising world is one that has been attacked by media watch groups for several decades. The advertisers answer if the public did not wants it, and then it would not work so blaming the advertisers is wrong. Sex has been used in many ways for many different products over the years. Whether it is a woman dressed provocatively, or a man giving a smoldering look to the camera, the fact remains that sex sells products, with almost little regard as to what the product is. There have been hundreds of studies conducted as to why sex sells products and the results vary depending on the research question and the audience, and market under observation, but the general consensus agrees that sex sells. What constitutes sex varies as the decades march forward. There was a time in television when two people of the opposite sex could not sit on a bed at the same time. There were also times when someone could not show more than one shoulder at a time in any scene. These were restrictions set by thee powers that be of the television world and they regulated the amount of sexual innuendo that could be used (Zanot, 1984). This applied to shows as well as advertisements. Since the beginning of the advertising industry the lines of these censors have been walked like a tight rope. The advertising moguls of the world have pushed the limits of these restrictions as much as they could in the effort to sell the products they were charged with selling. This often meant using sex in advertising in a way that tiptoed along the border of advertising decency. Print ads used the same route to sell their products. Print ads frequently used sex appeal, or attractiveness as a promise to the customer for buying the product. This did not have to be beauty products only. Sex appeal has been used in the marketing of almost everything under the sun (Stanaland, 1999). Cars and trucks have been sold because of the female in the biking washing it in the ad. Vacation get away are sold when the viewer or reader sees that this particular hotel will turn a harried housewife and mother back into the sexy young woman that she used to be. There are many angles for the advertising industry to tap into when it comes to using sex appeal and desirability to promote the desire to buy a product or a service.

In 1933 there was an advertisement in McCall's magazine about birth control products. In 1933 there were many more social as well as advertising taboos when it came to the use of sex in the market place, therefore it was a much less open sexual innuendo than today but it was still there (Tone, 1996).

The ad read "The most frequent eternal triangle: A HUSBAND... A WIFE... And her FEARS" (Tone, 1996). The ad went onto discuss the importance of a woman maintaining the allure of perfection and beauty at all times (Tone, 1996). This ad played on the fear that she would not appear sexy to her husband if he ever discovered that she had cycles (Tone, 1996). It was unrealistic to believe but at the time it was the basis for many advertisements and the technique worked. Women wanted to remain sexy, pure and perfect in the eyes of their spouses therefore they should buy this particular product to maintain that image (Tone, 1996).

The message was clear and simple (Tone, 1996).

Fewer marriages would flounder around in a maze of misunderstanding and unhappiness if more wives knew and practiced regular marriage hygiene (Tone, 1996). Without it, some minor physical irregularity plants in a woman's mind the fear of a major crisis. Let so devastating a fear recur again and again, and the most gracious wife turns into a nerve- ridden, irritable travesty of herself (Tone, 1996). Hope for the vexed woman was at hand, however. In fact, it was as close as the neighborhood store (Tone, 1996). Women who invested their faith and dollars in Lysol, the ad promised, would find in its use the perfect panacea for their marital woes. Feminine hygiene would contribute to "a woman's sense of fastidiousness" while freeing her from habitual fears of pregnancy. Used regularly, Lysol would ensure "health and harmony... throughout her married life (Tone, 1996)."

The use of sex in advertising is anything but new. The reason and the way it is used has changed many times over the years depending on the current societal norms for the time. In the 1930's sex in advertising was limited to the emotional appeal of females. Advertisers realized that the women's emotional state at the time of the ad would promote or not prompt her to make a purchase (Zanot, 1984). Because it was well-known at that time that females were the head shoppers of the family for many items females were targeted for the purpose of advertising to boost sales.

By the 1940's the marketing departments began to see a subtle shift. While it was still important for women to be stroked emotionally they were also emerging as separate entities with the desire to appear desirable for their own satisfaction (Tone, 1996). This caused a shift in the way ads were being developed and implemented in both print and film. In the 1950's the stage changed yet again and the female consumer began to gain some respect in her own right as a chief consumer of certain products (Tone, 1996). Sex was used in ads at this time to try and attract the female to make purchases (Tone, 1996). This worked in many products ads however, the truck sales, car sales, home sales and other markets remained largely untouched by sex in advertising. The 1060's saw the women's movement and there was an explosion of sexual innuendos in advertising that began and has not stopped yet. Women today are viewed as counterparts to men. Marketing departments around the world are constantly scrambling to appeal to the emotional and physical desires of the consumers. The use of sex in advertising has reached an all time high and the taboos and restrictions of yesterday are long gone. In their place is a freedom of unprecedented proportions, which have continued to increase in their use (Thompson, 1995). Sex in advertising sells. It is the one thing that everybody seems to agree with. How it is used, how far to go and why it works remain under constant investigation (Tone, 1996).

In the study of sex and advertising there are many factors and variables to be considered (Jones, 1998). One of the most important differences in the use of sex in advertising as well as the research studies conducted is the difference in genders. Gender targeting is an important element of sex in advertising because of the differences in the way the genders respond to and react to the ads in question. The use of sex is gender specific in many instances of advertising though there are some cases in which the gender specifications are not necessary (Jones, 1998).

Sex appeals in advertising now include eye-catching male models as well as cheesecake - sexy female models. Over the last 25 years, researchers investigating the effectiveness of sexy ads, most often cheesecake ads viewed by men, have reported mixed findings, in general concluding that such ads attract attention but do not improve either recall of or attitude toward the brand (Jones, 1998). The emergence of beefcake ads, ones with sexy male models, prompts the question of whether responses parallel those to cheesecake ads (Jones, 1998). Further, recent literature on differences between the sexes in responses to the same stimuli suggests that men and…[continue]

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