Arousing Advertising


It’s an old adage that sex sells, and we’ve been seeing examples of it for ages, some much more brazen than others. I’m sure you’ve all seen busty model Kate Upton advertising what appears to be another generic point-and-click phone game, and while it doesn’t make much sense, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t catch my attention.

That said, I’m still not buying the product. Some products are traditionally associated with sex, like alcohol, cigarettes, and underwear.

Mind you, alcohol is also associated with rape, which the beer companies normally tend to downplay, although there are exceptions.

Other products have a somewhat tangential connection that makes a certain amount of sense, like how body spray is supposed to make men irresistible to women presumably because it functions like pheromones, although I can’t say I’ve ever seen an actual female say she likes the smell. Sexy gum commercials have also been a thing as of late, mostly playing on the breath angle. It’s true you probably wouldn’t want to kiss someone with bad breath, but that doesn’t automatically mean good breath would lead to an intense make-out session. Big Red implied years ago that their gum would make you want to kiss for hours, and now Denytne is comparing their gum to condoms. Even bolder were the Dentyne Fire commercials where the gum automatically made people horny.


I did see this article about how chewing gum can sometimes be attractive despite the product itself being rather disgusting, and I think bubble gum in particular is part of the pin-up aesthetic, probably because it makes the girl look fun and approachable.

And Joan Jett made it cute and bad-ass at the same time.

Other sex-based advertising ties a product to a targeted group, like how women pose with cars because they’re both things straight men are supposed to enjoy.

The old video game ads with models in them had much the same appeal, and prove that even back then video gaming was often considered a boys’ club.

On the other hand, there are plenty of hunky men trying to sell things to straight women: John Stamos with his yogurt, Fabio and his margarine, the Gevalia coffee guy, etc.

Isaiah Mustafa for Old Spice is sort of a combination, as he’s an attractive man suggesting that straight men would want to be like him.

Then there’s shampoo that gives orgasms and Doritos and hamburgers being eaten suggestively, where the immediate connection to sex is much more tenuous.

What I have to wonder is if any of this actually works. Sure, the commercials might arouse people, but does this translate to their buying the products in them, or do they just remember the sexiness and forget what the ad was actually for? Is it a subconscious thing, where guys will reach for Doritos over other chips because they remember Ali Landry eating them?

According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, its effectiveness is generally “significantly above average,” but it’s quite short-term and depends on the product. There’s also the question of backlash, either from prudes or from people opposed to objectification. I can’t say I’m really opposed to the technique, but I’ve seen plenty of examples where it doesn’t make any sense. Still, no one REALLY thinks a particular product will make them instantly appeal to potential sexual partners, right? Well, maybe the beer, but that’s not a matter of becoming attractive so much as lowering the other person’s inhibitions.

Now THERE’S a product you probably never associated with sexy women before.

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