Sex is used in advertising to help draw attention an sell products. It was first used in 1871 by Pearl Tobacco who put a naked woman on the front package cover. However adverts which are too sexually explicit work the opposite way. They attract attention to the product but for the wrong reasons, often causing consumers to be put off from the product.
This advert was banned by the US Federal Communications Commission as being too sexually explicit.
This advert has tried to use sex to sell Microsoft Office XP in addition to humour.
Research from Blair, Stephenson, Hill, & Green (2006) show that adverts with an overtly sexual theme to them do not encourage purchasing behaviour.
In this research, two images being used as adverts for the same clothing brand were obtained. One was judged as being mildly sexually explicit and other as being strongly sexually explicit. Individuals were stopped in a shopping mall and given either the mild or strong sexual themed advert and then asked to fill out a questionnaire. Participants who viewed the mildly sexual advert had significantly higher purchasing intentions and said they felt the advert to be more ethical. Thus, showing that adverts which rely on sex too much and are too sexually explicit do not encourage purchasing in potential consumers.
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.