"Sex Sells... No Really!"


Tonia Bennett & Alex Adams





























"Sex Sells.... No, Really!"

By Tonia Bennett & Alexander Adams

____At birth, we are all pure and innocent. We are sinless and neutral to everyone in the world. At birth, however, we all have the same innate functions. We are programmed to eat, to sleep, to cry when we are sad, to smile when we are happy, and above all else, to eventually reproduce. Globally, we are all united in this commonality, thus creating the largest demographic in the world. Everyone can relate to sex. Steven Heller, author of Sex appeal: the art of allure in graphic and advertising design, agrees we are all the product of sex. The future of mankind is dependant upon sex. Which is why it makes sense, both logically and economically to play to this demographic. Sex sells, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Undoubtedly, everyone has given into sexual advertising at one point or another. From perfumes to cars, sex sells very well, because everyone has the aforementioned need to breed (Heller 2000).

___According to Tom Reichert, author of Sex in advertising: perspectives on the erotic appeal, “whether or not a product is related to sex doesn’t matter, a good marketer can relate a product to sex for profit. In turn, the public will see the advertisement for this product and fail to realize the irreverent correlation between the two.” The public is imperceptive, and to make money, advertisers have realized how to herd their demographic sheep (Reichert 2003). Selling sex is no longer taboo, but using sex to sell products in the past has had spectacular results. Take Kellogg Corn Flakes™ for example. When first advertised in the 1930’s, they yielded very poor sales, mainly because they tasted awful. But, when Kellogg realized they had a huge back stock of Corn Flakes, they silently spread the word that Corn Flakes were an aphrodisiac and could increase one’s sexual appeal. The word spread quickly furiously and Corn Flakes soon garnered high sales and have now become a staple of American life. Times have yet to catch up though, as the sale of Corn Flakes on Sundays is still technically illegal in Ohio because they were considered to promote sexual activities on the Sabbath day (Gunter 2002). Take that Viagra.

____Although most companies use sex as their largest promoter of products, it has its possibilities of having negative campaign results. Not all consumers find sex an acceptable marketing tool. A study conducted by Susan Cummings with American Demographics Magazine, quoted that of those surveyed, “75 percent of women and 53 percent of men aged 35 to 54 said that sex in advertising can be offensive” (Cummings 1994). Women in particular seem to take offense to sexually explicit portrayals in advertising. “Twenty percent of ‘occasionally’ and 29 percent of ‘frequently’ offended women avoided the offending product because the advertisement had explicit sexual content” (Cummings 1994). Even though these statistics sound like appealing arguments against sexual images in ads, companies know that the profits of incorporating sex into their product will far out way the losses from those who are insulted by it.

____Hypothetically speaking, the more promise of sex appeal a product has, the better it will sell. This is fact, as the numbers prove that products that utilize sexual imagery sell substantially better than comparable products. Let’s face it: sex is a binding quality between all of us, so of course it makes sense to sell a video game with a heroine with DD breasts to gawking teenage boys. The average sexual peak of a male is age 18, so most products aimed at this male “tweener” (not quite adult, not quite a kid) demographic are going to have tawdry women and promises of sexual pleasures (Brown 2002). Simply stated, sex sells, because it works, and it works because people like sex, as they should since sex is a part of all of us.



Heller, Steven. “Sex appeal: the art of allure in graphic and advertising design” pp. 281. New York, NY: Allworth Press, c2000.

Gunter, Barrie. “Media sex: what are the issues?” pp. 79. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, c2002.

Brown, Jane D. “Sexual teens, sexual media: investigating media's influence on adolescent sexuality” pp. 102. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, c2002.

Reichert, Tom. “Sex in advertising: perspectives on the erotic appeal” pp. 157. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, c2003.

Cummings, Susan. American Demographics magazine, “Please Adjust our Sets: Canadian Women Watching Television”, Mediawatch, v.4, c1994.