Using sex in advertising – this strategy is as old as the world. But is it true? Does putting a picture of scantily clad female on a packet of cigarettes really makes the sales go through the rooftops? Companies and brands use sex to sell pretty much anything, from alcohol and clothes to insurance or a cheeseburger. Whether this strategy is successful is still debatable. It all depends on what you are trying to sell, to whom and what visuals you use. Check out below examples dating from the 19th century till modern days & see if it convinces you:
19th centaury sex in advertising examples
Pearl Tobacco (1871)
One of the first known ads, which was considered quite risky at the time, was this Pearl Tobacco poster. It had nothing to do with tobacco, but it surely turned some heads!
Naked female on the packet of cigarettes, who wouldn’t want that? Well…it was 1871.
W. Duek & Sons (1885)
Another tobacco company noticed the trend. They’ve decided to create a pack of collectors cards featuring different females. They’ve added a card to the cigarette package and smashed their sales by doing just that.
Sex in advertising – 50s
In 1950s sexual ads were pretty much the norm. It was all about men going to work and earning money, while women stayed at home taking care of the family. Women were shown as incapable, stupid and uneducated.
Van Heusen – “Show her it’s a man’s world.” (1951)
Schlitz, 1952: “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!”
Alcoa Aluminum’s bottle caps – this great new invention was possible to open “without a knife blade, a bottle opener. or even a husband.”
‘You mean a woman can open it?’…
Here comes the 60s – even more sexist ads!
Surely, this is exactly what you want when buying a coffee. If it doesn’t please your husband then what’s the point!
Procter & Gamble, (1968)
‘Women of the future will make the moon a cleaner place to live.’
Thank god for the women! Without them, the moon would not shine so bright,
“It’s nice to have a girl around the house.”
Those trousers will put your women in her place…
Modern days advertising
If you thought such sexist ads where the thing of the past brace yourself! Current versions are even more steamy. The saying ‘sex sells’ takes on a new level in the 2000s. And no, you are not watching porn. Those are just regular ads displayed all over town for you and your family to enjoy…
Dolce & Gabbana (2007)
Just take a look at this ad – simulated gang rape…really?!?
Calvin Klein (2016)
“I flash in #myCalvins,” – On the right female flashing her knickers in case, you were wondering… Does it make you wanna buy those panties?
This brand is more known for its controversial advertising than for the products they sell. The company CEO Dov Charney saw this sexually charged, provocative advertising as the heritage of the brand. Using pornographic actors and glamour models in mostly sexualized context was their trademark.
Last but not least (probably the most cringy ad I’ve seen) is Durex:
Sex sells – apparently marketers believe there is still plenty of truth in this statement. Sexually charged ads catch the eye and attract attention. We are animals, wired to respond to such content. We notice more what’s controversial, different or charged with emotions. Sex is full of emotions. You can say you don’t like it, but you cannot say you didn’t notice. And that’s the whole point. Controversial, sexual ads are remembered better. Does it make you want to buy advertised products? – that’s a whole other discussion for a whole new article. Stay tuned!
Related article:How to take gender discrimination out of the job ads? Find out which tools can help.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pearl,_tobacco_label,_1871.jpg https://www.esquire.com/style/mens-fashion/g2442/american-apparel-ads/ https://www.highsnobiety.com/2015/10/07/american-apparel-ads/