The Ad Industry Is Addicted to Sex


In her recently released book, Danika:Crossing the Line, IRL racer Danika Patrick offers up this truism about her work in advertising, writing, "Here's the upshot. Sponsors such as Honda, Peak Antifreeze, and Secret deodorant have stepped up and are using a sexy woman racecar driver as a unique marketing tool. Let's face it, guys don't sell antifreeze quite the same way I do."

Danika approaches the whole notion of sex symbol with a refreshing nonchalance, saying, " Why not use whatever assets I have? I'm confident in myself as a driver. It's obvious I'm a girl, so why not use it as a tool?" Her statement does, though, open up the age old debate about whether one should use their sexual assets to get ahead in life. But is being a hot looking girl or guy really any different than being the best major league pitcher or the most famous Hollywood actor in terms of using those qualities to further one's life? All of us have various assets in our arsenal and we all use them to achieve our goals in life. Why should the asset of physical beauty be looked upon with less favor as if being beautiful automatically makes one dumb, desperate and lacking in higher intelligence?

Sexual attraction is an innately human desire. Everyone knows this. Marketers know this. Marketers use this because it works. Those who think a sexually laced ad campaign cheapens the product being sold are both right and wrong. Just as there is with any other endeavor, there is a sliding scale of effectiveness that hinges upon how properly the sex card is played. Going too far towards the trashy end of the scale may lead to short term gain but, perhaps, to long term harm for a brand. Going too far towards the clean end of the scale can lead to innocuous ineffectiveness. To say that all sexually charged advertising - whether it features a man or a woman - degrades people is short sighted and ill informed. We wouldn't be here without sex. It's one of the most natural things we have on the planet. Why should we scorn the celebration of it so?

Noting there are far more ads that feature scantily clad women then scantily clad men, one might argue there's a tremendous unfairness going on. True, perhaps, but all one has to do is take a quick look at that industry that knows more about human nature than any marketer ever will, the porn industry. It's focused almost entirely towards men. Why? Because men want it. Men like it. Men need it. Men are attracted to it. The exact same way men are attracted to sexually laced advertising. The approach doesn't always make a great ad but, all other strategies aside, it is most certainly a powerful motivator.

Did Paris Hilton slathering herself all over a Bentley sell more burgers for Carl's Jr.? They say so. Does the almost entirely sex-laden Axe campiagn sell more deoderant? Yes. It's now the number on men's deoderant. Did that Xtra Pine Cleaning Hunk sell more floor polish? Who knows. Did French fashion brand Shia sell more product by placing two women on a rotating table top while filming them having full on sex? We have no idea but it was fun to watch. And how about that Agent Provocateur Tied Up At The Office film? Like anything, sometimes it works. Other times, it doesn't.

Recent studies have shown the use of sexual imagery in advertising doesn't really work. Will that stop the ad industry from using the approach? That question can be answered by asking another - will the human race suddenly stop having sex? Just do a search for the word "sex" here on Adrants and see how much our industr loves sex.

by Steve Hall    Aug- 8-06   Click to Comment   
Topic: Celebrity, Opinion, Trends and Culture   

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I like sex.
Sexy, sex, sex.

Posted by: snake on August 8, 2006 10:07 AM

Average people like me know it works on us, but at the same time look upon these sex symbols with a combination of disdain and envy. When we stop to think that these models may also be as smart or smarter than we are, in addition to much better looking, envy triples.

Posted by: Bob Bly on August 8, 2006 1:58 PM

We have brought it up in the past. The book Ogilvy On Advertising, page 109 "Testimonials by celebrities. These are below average in their ability to change brand preference...." That said, Danica is the darling of the race world and the race fans are the most brand loyal on the earth. She is very good looking, smart and she will sell products. Very few of the other celebrities are worth the money.

Posted by: roy on August 8, 2006 3:02 PM

Makes sense to me. You have to play the hand you're dealt, even if it's a really good one.

Posted by: Pam Gitta on August 8, 2006 6:44 PM

lol guys

you're almost feeling what it is like to be an observer

: )

Posted by: herbiefrog on August 8, 2006 10:41 PM

So I guess Bernie Ecclestone wasn't too far off when he called her an appliance.

Posted by: Umais on August 10, 2006 5:42 AM