Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sexist or Sexy?


Previous analysis of this Dolce and Gabbana advert highlighted its potential to be perceived as controversial and sexist, given the provocative manner in which four scantily-clad men suggestively crowd one woman are depicted in this image. The ad is certainly provocative, but while it may have caused offence to some, perhaps it is simultaneously appealing to others and that is how the company intended to cement its persuasive message. The other techniques used with the intention to persuade, rather than offend, deserve exploration.

One technique employed is the use of undeniably attractive individuals to advertise their product. There is a vast body of research showing that showing that the use of physically attractive people in advertisements is more likely to have a positive impact on the product which they are associated with compared to unattractive people (Joseph, 1992). Furthermore, Chaiken (1979) found that attractive people are more persuasive in changing the opinions of others. This is likely due to the tendency for admiration of attractive individuals and the desire to identify with them.  Buying the product they advertise enables this. In essence, wear or smell like D&G and you are that bit closer to identifying with them, or in this case, being as successful in attracting other good-looking individuals and engaging in the same desirable activities.

The suggestive sexual nature of the scenario presented also increases the persuasiveness of the message.  It has been said many times before that ‘sex sells’ but according to Cerbrzynski (2000, in Blair et al., 2006) sex does not sell, sexiness does - and in this aspect the ad is certainly not lacking.  Research by Ferguson et al. (2010) showed that sexual content can increase memory for advertisement as well as for the product leading to an increase in sales, further indicating a research-founded technique used in this ad.  

In light of the above, this ad exploits the attractiveness of its models and depiction of sexual scenario in order to encourage investment in the brand and identification with the image it represents. While it is provocative and potentially offensive, there still remains the possibility that this ad is more sexy than sexist…


Blair, J. D., Stephenson, J. D., Hill, K. L., & Green, J. S. (2006). Ethics in advertising: Sex sells, but should it. Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, 9(2), 109-118.

Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1387-1397. 

Ferguson, C. J., Cruz, A. M., Martinez, D., Rueda, S.M., & Ferguson, D. E. (2010). Violence and sex as advertising strategies in television commercials. European Psychologist, 15 (4), 304-311.

Joseph, W. B. (1982). The credibility of physically attractive communicators: A review.Journal of Advertising, 11, 15-24.

Sophie Preece (Blog 2) 

1 comment:

  1. I like it, especially the way you pitch your analysis in the light of what came before.

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