Does Sex Sell?

Before I delve into this charged and heavily argued subject, let me just start by asking you to think back. Try to remember the brand behind the commercial that I am going to try and describe to you now. It begins with a rock guitar solo and a scene of guys playing football. It then cuts to different scenes of guys roughhousing, quarterbacks getting tackled and other masculine imagery. All the while there is a voice in the background narrating and describing the different scenes that are depicted. For example, “I love… playing two hand touch, eating way too much… watching my team win… with the twins!” After he says “twins,” two scantily clad beautiful blondes jump up with pom-poms in their hands. This ad was continued in a series for…were you able to remember?

Coors Light. coors-light-twins2

If you were able to remember then congratulations. If you weren’t, this begs the question, were you more interested in the girls, or the beer? How about the commercial with Paris Hilton washing the car? Or, the commercial with the two voluptuous women fighting and tearing their clothes off over the taste of the beer? Maybe you remembered the brands, maybe you didn’t. After I polled a few guys, I soon realized that a lot of these commercials left a lasting effect on them because of the models in the commercials. When asked what the brand was behind the commercial many times they were not able to remember. This shows us that although many brands are using sex as a tool, the effect of this has been blunted by a disconnect that the advertisers may not be aware of or even ever considered. It’s that sex can overwhelm the message and easily dilute the essence of a brand if not used carefully.

How about the ads with the three frogs hanging out by the bar near the lagoon? Yeah, you’ve got it, it’s Budweiser! This commercial had no models and did not objectify women in any way. Yet, it accomplished its goal by holding the audience’s attention and has been regarded as one of the most memorable ads in history.

Does this mean then that we can write off sex as a way to garner a select demographics attention? No, not at all. When a brand has been built around this theme then it can only reinforce the message. For example, Hooters, Playboy, etc… Well, you might say that these don’t count as they are obviously linked and might be a no-brainer. But, it has been shown that sex also reinforces brands that ultimately have to do with attraction; like colognes, perfumes, clothing, etc. An example of this would be the Acqua Di Gio model who became the face and body of the brand for years and successfully reinforced the core essence of the brand; sex and attraction. Also, Fcuk, a clever way to utilize French connection’s U.K. brand by deliberately confusing the audience into thinking the brand is a more commonly used four-letter word. The campaign that was launched behind this idea was a huge success and Fcuk went on to generate a huge leap in revenue sales. And, what about the Axe Effect commercials? There is another example of how sex reinforces a brand that is ultimately built around the idea of attraction.

What can we take from this? In the digital age that we live, we are bombarded with thousands of advertisements on a daily basis and advertising agencies are struggling to fight for our attention. This means that some believe the easiest way to do this, even if for just a few seconds, is to appeal to our base desires. What many agencies don’t realize is that this could lead to the deconstruction of a brand by confusing the viewer or not reaching them at all. It is important to remember the core of the brand and to never forget that the easiest way out is not always the best.

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