Behaviour Change

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sex Sells

Sex In Advertising: The use of sexually provocative or erotic imagery (or sounds, suggestions and subliminal messages) that are specifically designed to arouse interest in a particular product, service or brand, (Suggett, 2016)

Since the 1800’s, advertising companies have made effective use of human pre-disposition to respond to sexual imagery. Take a look at a few notable advertisements:

Figure 1
This Burger King Ad, see figure 1, running in Singapore in 2009, uses the suggestion of an attractive woman performing oral sex to feed male adolescent humor. The ad, preying on male adolescent humor, ‘it’ll blow your mind’, through imagery and text aims to create ideas whereby all males need do is buy a burger to increase their sexual chances.

Figure 2

Perfume advertisements are perhaps the most notable for using this sexual referencing in advertisements, this ‘Tom Ford For Men’ poster being just one example, see figure 2. The use of female hands hugging a male body sends the message of ‘wear this and you’ll get girls’. An effective way of using male instinct to increase sales. Male sexual references are also instilled into advertisement, as shown in figure 3; with the same sort of message – ‘wear this and you’ll be desired by men.'

Figure 3

How does this work? This can be described in terms of evolution. As humans, we pay attention to 3 things: food, danger and reproduction. Whenever we are exposed to a sexual message, our instincts kick in, it is very difficult to ignore sexual messages (even those that only imply sex, as shown in figure 4).
Figure 4

Advertisements incorporating sexual aspects are engaging, entertaining and interesting to watch or look at. We seem to remember them much more freely than those dreary advertisements not taking use of this technique. 

So what's the moral of the story? Sex sells.  

Suggett, P. (2016, May 5). Can sexual imagery really drive sales? Retrieved November 8, 2016, from The Balance,

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