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Sex Sells. Truth or Marketing Myth?

There is a widely known opinion in the marketing world that sex sells. Just a few years ago, you couldn’t walk down a major street of any city or pick up any fashion magazine without meeting at least several exceptionally attractive semi-naked ladies, advertising anything from fashion to family recreation. 

It created a widely held perception among marketers that physical attractiveness and nakedness positively affect a business’s bottom line, and are good practices for pretty much any business. However, is that really the case? We understand that the answer to this question may depend on the demographics of the respondent. So we’d rather ask a tried and true source: science.

First of all, research shows that there is a large difference in attitudes towards sexual advertisement between genders. In general, men perceive positively sexualized female model ads comparing to neutral ads. Women, on the other hand, show less favorable attitudes. However, these ads had no effect on the purchasing intent. (Wirtz, 2018).

What about sexualized images of guys? Well, even less promising here. Wirtz reports its overall negative effect on attitudes and purchase intentions regardless of respondents' gender. (Unfortunately, the author of this post was not invited to participate in this research).

Further, there is a big difference among the types of products for which sexual advertisement could be a good strategy or cause nothing but havoc. Do not try to use it for selling high-risk, informational products. However, should your strategy be focusing on impulse purchasers, sexual images can work pretty well. After all, they do attract attention much faster than neutral imagery, and can help you to win some quick back thanks to that.

One thing to always keep in mind though - this type of advertisement is very risky. And as our society keeps moving in the direction of greater inclusivity and sensitivity, they become even risker. It is all too easy to miss a mark and instead of edgy and provocative be perceived as sexist and offensive. So use these ads at your own risk if you must! And share pics. There is nothing EDGEncy team loves more than creative advertisement!