Sex will always be a part of advertising because advertisers know that sex sells. It may not sell to everyone, but market researchers know that sexual content in advertising grabs attention. As long as they have your attention, they can market their product. Even if the product has nothing to do with sex.
Advertisers do not market products to offend moral conscious. They advertise to sell their product. But, even individuals who find themselves offended by sexually explicit advertising still talk about them, and marketing executives still believe the old axiom, “there is no such thing as bad advertising”. Even when an advertising campaign generates controversy, it is still considered effective.
In a perfect world, advertisers reach their target customers, those customers purchase the manufacturers products, the manufacturers profit from their relationship with the advertising agency. At that point, everybody is happy.
But what happens when such intangibles as advertising reach, competitive market share, and an ineffective ad campaign effects the manufacturer’s advertising investment? Then, advertisers broaden their demographic scope in hopes of reaching a greater population. In such situations, men may have to sit through ads for feminine products, or women may end up viewing scantily clad beauties bouncing on the beach. The target demographic is still being reached, but non-target consumers may become uncomfortable by the ads.
Selling sex to men vs. women
Most people understand that women in bikinis have nothing to do with selling beer. But advertisers target beer commercials to their core demographic, who just happen to be beer drinking males between the ages of 21 and 36 years old. That isn’t to say that women do not drink beer, but research indicates that while a woman may have a beer or two, young men drink considerably more, usually consuming four to six beers in a sitting.
Advertisers also know when to sell sex to both men and women. Condom ads were once found only in male oriented magazines. But with the heightened awareness in safe sex and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), condom manufacturers now advertise their products to both sexes, targeting those demographics who research has found to be most sexually active. Consequently, condoms are now just as likely to be purchased by women as they are by men.
Selling sex to an older generation
Sexual performance and enhancement products are another example of how sex related content is now targeting an older generation. Such products are marketed towards “baby boomers” who may be beyond their sexual peak, but still enjoy the satisfaction of a healthy sexual relationship with their partners. Few men in the 21 to 36 demographic would admit to needing such products, but through the broad reach of advertising, they are aware of them. Such unfiltered advertising increases a manufacturers reach, but also guarantees future customers.
Advertising sexual content and First Amendment rights
But advertisers have another weapon at their disposal. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
To advertisers, this means that they have every right to market a product in any manner they see fit, as long as it does not present a “clear and present danger” to the people of the United States. Church groups have complained, but they are also covered under the same amendment.
Advertisers will continue to use sex
The main objective of advertising is to sell products, and sex sells. As long as consumers respond to ads with sexual content, then advertisers will continue to produce such ads. There are fewer inhibitions about sex than there were 40 years ago, and much of the sexual content used in ads today would have been censored then.
There will also continue to be individuals who oppose sex in advertising. But, until advertisers find a way to market certain products by depicting images of nuns or the elderly enjoying them, sexual images will continue to bombard our senses.
Let’s just hope that beer companies don’t start showing scantily clad grandmothers bouncing on the beach. But, then again, that could very well sell a product to someone.