Culture is forever changing but our brain is still quite same what it was when we we’re drawing to cave walls. Sex along with food and danger gets our attention on subconscious level. Advertising is trying to sell you something, whether it is a product or a service. A picture of a good looking couple making out in the hay barn could really draw the attention in the hardware store, but is it making people to actually buy that rake?

Consumers are smart and even the funniest and smartest sexual ad loses it interest if used over and over again or worse, it crosses the line of good taste and equality. The most recent study made at Illinois University has shown that sexual adverts tend to affect people more negatively than positively overall. Sexual imagery do tend to get the attention, but they don’t affect for the sells. So the myth “sex sells” doesn’t actually apply.

Sex sells but who’s buying?

Sex in advertising is not a new thing. First brands using sex were tobacco, tonics and saloon business. It can be used anywhere maybe even without you realizing it, just think about all those weirdly sensual cat food ads. Modern world is more open to show sex in adverts, but controversial ads get under the microscope pretty quickly. Sexism is – thank goodness – taken seriously and picture of a half naked woman bringing beer to his husband has might been usual a decade ago, but objectifying woman, or any gender is not acceptable anymore.

So what if I want to sell with sex? How much is too much? How classy I have to stay? Whether I’m selling a smokey eyeshadow palette or diapers for old people, the first thing to remember is the context. What am I trying to achieve? If the product is not sexual to begin with, you should think twice.

When you think about sexiness, the first things popping into your head might be muscles, cleavages, piercing gaze and a slightly open mouth with plump lips. Those images too are probably made their way to your head because of the media. But sexiness is defined subjectively. A good advert gives you just a slight hint that there might be something sexual going on, but you can’t name it instantly.

This can be achieved by shapes, colors, lightning, cropping or just by using words.

Less is more

Sex doesn’t have to mean nudity, nor do nudity means sex. Artistic, soft perspective is a good choice if you are planning to get down with this theme. Another popular way is to mix humor and sex. Yet again, making humor is not easy. A good advert maker knows how to put themselves into position of another person. If you are not sure about something, always ask the opinion of others. Something that is logical to you might be crossing someone else’s line.

Whether your view on the ad is art or humor, it is critical to think through every detail. People have their own morals and thoughts about sexual imagery in advertising. Back in the day showing a little bit of ankle was considered nudity and nowadays we are being more and more open to our sexuality. Sex, however is still a taboo more or less.

It is interesting to see how sex in ads evolves throughout the time and how it continues to shape our viewings to brands, consuming, moral and most importantly, ourselves as a sexual beings.

Photos by Unna Takalo