Term Paper: Sex in Advertising

Pages: 17 (4609 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Advertising  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] " recent study used two premises from which to develop its and hypothesis. The first premise that advertisers do need to know about responses to what is often referred to as a cheesecake ad. The reason this needs to be understood is the changing times (Jones, 1998). Men and women both are constantly evolving and their belief as to what is appropriate and what is not appropriate (Jones, 1998). This indicates that findings in previous studies may no longer be valid or apply to the current market. There are many factors to be studied in the research of sex in advertising. One of the factors is the way the participants are dressed. The use of provocative dress in the advertisements regardless of the product is a common theme among marketing gurus. Studies are conducted on how the respondents react to the ads with more suggestively dressed actors, and those with less provocative clothing. The studies also had to separate male and female respondents because of the obvious gender bias each viewer or reader would have to the genders in the advertisements.

The pattern of relationships expected was based on four overlapping streams of research. The first important stream consists of studies of sexy models in advertising. The second pertains to the interpretation of, and reaction to, the pictorial components of an ad. The third stream is represented by the deconstruction literature, and has been applied to understanding how consumers read ads. That perspective, which sees individual reaction to a communication as dependent on situation and context, has contributed to the position that communication is inherently gendered; that is, it contains cues that readers recognize as representing statements about gender (Jones, 1998). The fourth research stream pertains to the general formulations of advertising response (Jones, 1998). Of specific interest was the dual mediation hypothesis that reaction to an advertised brand is influenced by cognitive processing of advertised messages and the attitudes that such processing may in turn influence, but also that reaction is influenced directly by emotional response to the advertising (Jones, 1998)."

Sexy models in advertising have been an accepted practice for more than 50 years (Jones, 1998). Beginning half a century ago advertisers would often place a scantily clad model in an ad and the study the results of that ad. Research indicated that the sex in advertising strategy did in fact boost sales. The marketers would then try it again and the boom began.

Once researchers began testing the efficacy of including such a model as an attention-getter, they simply followed advertising practice: they conducted their research using a sexy female model and an audience of men. They measured the effects on not only attention, but also other variables, such as brand name and copy point recall (Jones, 1998). "

As time moved forward the researchers began to study the response of females to the same ads. They began to discover that women would also respond positively to the sex in ads if it appealed to their sense of who they wanted to be. A woman who sees an ad for a certain food, for example, will be more open to buying that food if the person in the ad is a beautiful and sexy female. It appeals to her desire to become that sexy once again, long before the days of children, husbands, jobs and homes to be taken care of (Wise, 1994). For the young woman not yet fettered by such obligations it appealed to her sense of desire to stay that way and not become bogged down in middle-aged concerns. The men of course, enjoyed the ad for the aesthetic vantage point and would purchase the product based on the fond memory they had of the advertisement they saw.

Understandably, differences in responses have been found between men and women. When Mick and Politi (1989) asked student subjects to relate their thoughts and feelings about a suggestive ad with a dominant visual content, the subjects reported a great variety of interpretations. Gender differences in interpretation were found and could be traced back to differences in sensitivity to symbolic meanings within the pictures (Jones, 1998). In contrast, Elliott et al. (1995) expected to find such differences but did not. They noted that many sexual images are ambiguous, giving rise to interpretations that vary between sexes, although their study results did not support their expectations of interpretive differences (Jones, 1998). Plausibly, then, if interpretations yield beliefs that influence memory of the ad and attitudes toward it, those variables will be influenced by the sex of the respondent interacting with the degree of sexiness in the ad and the gender of the model (Jones, 1998). "

The research has indicated several interesting things. One of the most interesting points that the research has teased out is the difference between men and women when responding. Research has shown that men respond well to a female sexual image but do not respond well to a male sexual image. Women on the other hand respond positively to females and males who are used in the ads with sexual connotations. Because of this discovery marketers have been willing to use a sexual female in ads for products in which they want to appeal to both genders (Gelb, 2000). They also stick with females only in ads for products that are meant to appeal to men only because females can respond to females or males on an almost equal basis the marketers realize they are safest using a female in the ads. The females respond positively and purchased the product or service, as do the males. Research has indicated if the advertisers were to use a sexual male the men observing the advertisers might not be inclined to be attracted to the product itself.

Research has not been limited to the proof of attraction and the fact that it works in the advertising field. Research has also been conducted to determine why it works. This goes back to the marketing need to understand human nature so that it can tap the desires of the human in order to sell the products or services in question (Reichert, 2001). "Increasingly, social marketers are using sexual information in public service announcements and collateral material for a wide range of causes. This study builds on previous research to explain how sexual appeals can affect cognitive processing and persuasion for "help-self social marketing topics. It also goes beyond traditional single-message research designs by testing matched pairs of appeals (sexual/nonsexual) for 13 social marketing topics. The major finding was that sexual appeals were more persuasive overall than matched nonsexual appeals for social marketing topics. Sexual appeals also stimulated more favorable ad execution-- related thoughts but had a negative effect on cognitive elaboration (e.g., support and counterarguments). Respondents also reported that sexual appeals were more attention getting, likeable, dynamic, and somewhat more apt to increase their interest in the topic than were nonsexual appeals. These findings suggest that persuasion is largely the result of peripheral processing and distraction from somewhat unpleasant messages when receivers are expected to counter argue the message or be resistant to change (Reichert, 2001). "

The results were predicable based on the reactions that advertising has thus far received in the use of sex. Research indicates that sexual information evokes certain desirable emotions in the viewer. This held true, according to studies, whether the sexual images were used in pictures, stories, or sounds in advertising. It doesn't seem to matter how sexual images are transmitted, as long as they are received.

Advertising research reveals that sexual appeals are attention getting, arousing, affect inducing, and memorable (Reichert, 2001). These attributes may be one reason social marketers and nonprofit organizations use sexual appeals for a variety of topics ranging from skin and breast cancer to sexually transmitted diseases to attempts to increase attendance at opera performances and university sporting events (Reichert, 2001). These instances and others suggest that sexual appeals may be effective for social marketing, despite the lack of empirical evidence that indicates the efficacy of these appeals beyond the consumer product context. Verification of these effects (or lack thereof) will prove valuable to social cause organizations that use- or are considering using-sexual appeals (Reichert, 2001). "

The use of sex appeal in advertising has been studied for half a century (Bhat, 1998). However, the use of sexuality in advertising has been studied in the strict sense of heterosexual consumers until recently. At the end of the 1990's studies began to emerge that measured the affects of sexuality in the ads targeting homosexuals. In addition the studies looked at the way gays responded to sexuality in straight ads as well (Bhat, 1998).

The response to homosexual imagery in advertisements from heterosexuals was also examined (Bhat, 1998).

The studies provide evidence that responses to ads vary with group membership, they stress relatively broad demographic characteristics of ethnicity and gender roles. Further empirical work on… [END OF PREVIEW]

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