Sex sells – Does the sex used to sell products really reflect where we are today?
We supposedly live in more enlightened times and the people of today are a lot more tuned into what is acceptable and what is not acceptable compared to previous generations. This leads many people to think that there will have been a change in the mind-set of many marketers and those old-fashioned marketing principles will no longer apply.
There may have been subtle changes but there is no doubt that today, as it did back then, “sex sells”. Anyone that is in any doubt of that only needs to consider the success of the 50 Shades books and the wave of e-book friendly “higher-class” erotic literature that followed in the wake of it. No matter the era and no matter the genre, people are still fascinated by sex and marketing firms will always look to see if there is a sexual angle that they can take.
If there has been a change in the attitude of marketing firms, it is that the “sex sells” ethos is now equally focused on appealing to women, which is a marked difference from previous generations. Any company that explicitly uses traditional styles of sexual overtones in their marketing will find that they come under fire from many different groups.
An example of this can be found in the way that firms who drape a pretty looking scantily clad girl over products such as cars will be criticised and considered to be living in the past. This can be contrasted with the successful marketing campaigns for products such as Diet Coke where women practically drool at the sight of a well-chiselled man without a top on.
This comparison indicates that we are not exactly living in more advanced times with regards to sexual overtones in advertising but there is no doubt that the rules have changed. When it comes to adding a sexual edge to an advertising campaign, a firm will have more success and will face less of a backlash if the product is aimed at women and men are subject to objectification.
Some people will say that this is about time and will point to the fact that it is merely balancing up the wrongs from a great number of decades. Other people will point out though that we are no further forward in moving beyond the “sex sells” attitude in marketing, it is just the focus that has changed slightly.
My own point of view is that we may have come a fairly long way but we’re still a good 20 years behind where society really is. Until we see mainstream advertising reflecting same sex advertising or, horror of horrors, acknowledging that disabled people have sex then we really aren’t reflecting society as it really is at all.