Does sex sell in advertising?

Written by kgornia on . Posted in Advertising 1 Comment


Psychology of Women is hands down my favorite class of college. I can’t say enough good things about this class and if you go to Roosevelt University in Chicago, you should seriously consider taking this class with Jill Coleman. She makes it really interesting. But that’s beside the point. What I wanted to talk about is something I touched on in my final paper for the class. I wrote about an organization, About-Face, which teaches young girls and women the dangers of media’s sexualization of women on young women’s mental and physical health. Media is one of the sources of stereotypes as it exaggerates the differences between genders. Women are portrayed much differently in media, there is no doubt about that, although there has been a slight movement toward creating more nonsexist and nonracist ads – still, the movement is still rather slight.

During my research for the paper I came across a very interesting blog post written by a creative director about the use of sex in advertising. It’s needless to say that as an advertising major, I absolutely love looking at ad executions – learning from each one; trying to understand the creative’s thinking process and how each ad has different things incorporated in it- stopping power, simplification, shock factor, incongruity of words and images, etc. The ads featured in the blog post were both amazing and shocking; however, many could also be seen as very sexist. What else is new though, right? Sexism has been used as a way to confirm stereotypes, and it is still often used today in form of sexualizing and objectifying women. I’m not going to lie and say these ads aren’t clever – a lot of them are! They are great ads; they make me stop and think, stop and stare. But once I stop and think some more, as a woman (and a student in a class focused on sexism) it really makes me wonder whether we will ever be able to create advertisements that are sexy, but not sexist? I feel like ANY type of sexy could bring someone out there to become upset – a die-hard feminist will find her way to find something wrong with an ad that’s trying to be sexy, even if the objectification factor isn’t obvious. Being obsessed about something leads you to do just that – you find exactly what you are looking for, even if it is not always exactly obvious right away. Although I do think we should try to minimize the amount of blatant sexism and racism we see in some advertisements, I absolutely do not think we should eliminate the use of sex in ads completely. Please, don’t think I am supporting sexism by saying this- I am not. I do, however, think we need to lighten up and take these media images more lightly for what they are – entertainment and ADS!

On a side note, I do think we need to stop using extremely thin, white models in media. Not only is using sickly thin white models acting in extremely suggestive manner considered as offensive by vast majority of women, it does not reinforce a good standard for women. There is no avoiding the fact that we have a thin ideal in United States which creates adverse health effects on women, especially young girls – by eating disorders, depression, lower self-esteem, and poor body-image. Instead, we should use more REAL looking models in advertising. REAL women can be sexy too. I actually find REAL women much sexier than skeletal looking models that many ads portray. I’d like to see more emotion in the models, rather than the defeated submissive and suggestive looks that many models portray now.

Anyways, here are some particularly INTERESTING ads I found from the blog post I featured earlier :) Can’t say some of them aren’t extremely clever:

And here are some that make me go WTF?

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