Eroticism and sex is a tool that is routinely used by today's media and advertisers. If advertising is the engine of commerce, then covert or overt sexual messages are the engine of advertising.
Sexual instinct is one of the most powerful biological stimulants. Remarkable results can be achieved by connecting with it and deliberately sexualising neutral objects. Sexual connotations in adverting are known to evoke positive emotions; emotions which are then subconsciously transferred to well-known brands. This process is known as the 'halo'.
After seeing the same ad over a relatively short period of time, the audience will subconsciously form a conditioned reflex. When the person encounters the brand in a purchase situation, positive emotions that they have previously associated with the brand (not the sexual context in which they originally saw the ad) will significantly increase the possibility that the person will buy the product.
It is apparent that advertisers have studied and are actively taking advantaged of our conditioned reflexes. In addition to conditioned reflexes, advertisers also utilises projective identification.
Whatever form sexual ads take, they are all founded on advertisers understanding of the human psyche. Ads are created with the intension of triggering innate human needs e.g. self esteem, self confidence and the desire to be accepted and loved.
Projective identification (Freud) is essentially an emotional connection with an object/product as a substitute for the the real libidinal (sexual) connection. The object/product thus becomes the means by which an innate need can be satisfied. E.g. The Linx deodorants ads always depict women falling at the feet of men wearing it; the implication being that a man can have the woman/women that he desires.
In modern societies, individuals are bombarded on a daily basis by hundreds of advertisements and commercials. To be remembered you need to stand out from the rest. Sexual ads both covert and overt are often used to serve this purpose. e.g. a United Colour of Benetton advert pictured a num kissing a priest. The greater the shock...even outrage, the more memorable (arguably) and successful the add is believed to be.
In contrast to shock tactics advertisers my choose to use subtle sexual hints. These advertisements may be comical or intriguing in addition to being sexual. When utilising hints, advertiser will only give potential buyers half the story and leave it up to their to use their imaginations a to complete it. Thus, the buyers acquire the role of active participants in the advertising process. Active participants are more likely to change their views to mirror the views depicted in the advert
- Tell me and I will forget.
- Show me and I may remember.
- Involve me and I will empathize.
Psychologists have established that men and women approach sex differently. This is largely due to biological and psychological differences between the sexes; differences that are much deeper than those attributed to cultural and sociological influences.
Advertisers assume that men are naturally polygamous. As a result, young attractive woman are utilised to attract their attention and create a strong association i.e. purchasing the product will enable you to attract a desirable female. This approach is so prevalent in the modern advertising, that men now associate certain brands of deodorants, cars and alcoholic beverages as the means by which they can become successful with women.
The marketing approach to female targeted advertising is different. Although physically attractiveness is viewed as an important attribute, women tend to select men in the accordance with their social and biological potential. e.g. self-confidence, sensitivity, career success and financial stability. The message is that by purchasing the product she will be able to acquire 'Mr Right'.
The sexualisation of adverts in the media is a very successful marketing ploy. Why? Simply because it is not merely an art form, but is in fact a well researched, understood and implemented social science.