Most people who happen to watch television, read periodicals or to get outside their home have indubitably encounter advertising. They may also have confronted what may be called “sexual advertising”, where images of human bodies are, more or less explicitly, depicted. My intentions, writing this paper, are to know if this kind of advertising really works at persuading itsaudience and if so, how does it operate. To do this, I will use a strictly technical perspective, i.e. academic researches and statistics. It will also be an occasion to expose interesting and revealing research on the matter. My hypothesis, and thesis, is that the use of sexual imagery in advertising is effective at persuading but only under certain conditions.
In the following research, I willfirst define what constitute a sexual advertisement and then, enquire on the role of some variables in the process (sex and age). Lastly, I will try to understand the psychological process of an exposure to that kind of advertising and then, as I will conclude, interpret all of the evidences.
Overview of variables
1.1 Content of a sexual advertisement
When hearing “sexualadvertisement”, most people will associate the term with the image of an aggressive advertisement that expose sexual, suggestive and provocative situations. While they would not necessarily be wrong, researchers have identified other and more precise types of content that constitute a sexual advertisement: nudity sexual behavior, physical attractiveness, sexual referent and sexual embeds. (Reichert, 14)a) Nudity: The most common type of content is nudity. In a research done in 2000, participants were asked to think of a sexual ad and to identify its characteristics. Physical aspects of models and revealing clothing were, without exception, mentioned the most often. Common examples include muscular characteristics of male model (arms and abdominal) and minimal clothing of woman (bikinis,lingerie, etc.).
b) Sexual behavior: While most laws prohibit the display of sexuals acts in mainstream advertising, they do not generally forbid the display of sexual behavior where models are photographed of filmed in tempting poses or positions. The way models talk, the way they look at the viewer, to way they interact with their environment is also related to sexual behavior.
c) Physicalattractiveness: Few could deny that physical attractiveness is not linked to sexual attraction. While a line should drawn between sexy models and models who are pleasing in appearance, both are part of a sexual advertisement.
d) Sexual referent: Any reference or allusion to sexuality that may rely on audience’s interpretation is part of sexual referent. They are not explicit information, butrather information that has to stimulate cognitive functions before being understood (e.g.: a subtle adult joke or wordplay).
e) Sexual embeds: They are subliminal information (words or image that are subtly hidden or integrated into other images, etc.). Subliminal information is controversial in the advertising industry, because they are not scientifically proven to be effective. For thatreason, that was put at the bottom of the list, but is still part of a sexual ad.
1.2 Types of products promoted
Past experiences and observations have shown us that marketers use sexuality to promote a wide variety of products that are, at different degrees, connected to sexuality (e.g. Fashion : people buy designer's clothes to attain a greater degree of physical
attractiveness, thusthey may want to be more sexually desirable. Alcohol: it is linked to socializing event which may lead to physical encounters. )
On the other hand, it is uncommon to witness sexuality in advertisements of financial services, medicine (for medical purposes but not for superficial or aesthetic purposes) and other serious products, like newspapers.
The appropriateness of the link...
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