Even the most conservative of companies rely on sex to sell their products. It plays into one of our deepest human desires.”Sexual information does grab attention,” says University of Georgia’s Tom Reichert.
“As long as people desire to be attractive to others, and as long as people desire romance, intimacy, and love, and all the wonderful feelings they involve,” he says, “advertisers can show how their products help meet those needs and desires. Whether we like it or not, products play a role in society’s intimacy equation.”
But since it saturates the market, this means of selling a product doesn’t always work. Just look at American Apparel and Abercrombie & Fitch, which have long relied on sex as a key selling point — now they’re struggling to differentiate their brands.
American Apparel is constantly pushing the boundaries with its sex-infused ads.
When the clothing company ran a billboard on Houston Street showing a woman wearing leggings and nothing else while bending over, people got angry.
But American Apparel has been struggling for years and is trying to turn around its operations.
Clothing maker Abercrombie & Fitch has always pushed the envelope when it comes to advertisements.
But the A&F Quarterly takes the cake. The quarterly, which made its initial run in the late 1990s, is infused with nudity and sexuality. In 2003, thousands of Americans threatened to boycott the store, causing it to stop selling the cataloge for a time.
The quarterly came back on the scene in 2008, but was only launched in European markets. Tom Lennox, the brand's vice president of corporate communications, said he thought the quarterly would appeal to the 'British open-minded approach to culture and creativity.'
Like American Apparel, the brand has been performing below expectations, as it's facing increased competition from other clothing brands targeting young consumers.
PETA is known for its provocative ads, but it went a step further by rolling out a softcore porn site
AXE began its quest to help men score women in 2003. But not everyone appreciated this initiative.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood claimed Axe 'epitomizes the sexist and degrading marketing that can undermine girls' healthy development.' The company's racy ads show woman tackling, licking, and chasing men once they douse themselves with AXE.
The Atlantic even questions the strategy -- but for a different reason. 'The problem was, the ads had worked too well in persuading the Insecure Novices and Enthusiastic Novices to buy the product,' The Atlantic writes. 'Geeks and dorks everywhere were now buying Axe by the caseload, and it was hurting the brand's image.'
The company recently announced it was rolling out products targeting a new demographic: women.
Kim Kardashian famously helped Skechers sell Shapeups. Her 2011 Super Bowl commercial got tons of publicity. 'The moral of the spot? Apparently, Skechers ShapeUps will make you ditch your (smoking hot) trainer, because as Kim put it, it'll be 'bye-bye trainer, hello Shape-Ups,' says Celebuzz.
But now that her contract with the company is over, don't expect to see her in this year's Super Bowl ad.
Carl's Junior has a habit of using scantily-dressed spokesmodels to promote its alternative to McDonald's
AdWeek calls the campaign a 'ridiculous new David & Goliath spot.' The advertising site also ridicules Hamblor's 'concubine of tasting goddesses doing their best food-porny Padma Lakshmi impressions.'
The gum manufacturers launched their 'Practice Safe Breath' campaign with a series of racy commercials featuring everyone from couples to sexy nurses.
Some believe the ad campaign is a play off contraceptive commercials promoting safe sex, saying the company deals with 'highly taboo and a tad raunchy connotations,' and isn't 'afraid to step outside the normal boundaries of ad campaigns.'
Fellow gum manufacturers have hopped on board the sexy train, with Orbit's blond spokeswoman calling customers dirty and the Doublemint twins telling people to 'double your pleasure, double your fun.'
Dita Von Teese douses herself in Perrier in this popular ad. 'Just when we thought the burlesque beauty could out-sex herself no further, Dita manages to turn up the raunchy even more in a sexy new viral advertising campaign for Perrier,' the Daily Mail said of the ad.
Brandchannel.com called the ad 'a tad risque,' and cautioned potential viewers the scenes aren't suitable for work.
Designer Tom Ford's ads for his mens' line ooze sex. One ad, which Fourninetyone.com says exudes 'hypersexuality,' shows a naked woman holding a bottle of cologne between her thighs. Another shows a naked woman combing a stylish man's hair.
Jungle 8, a self-proclaimed socially-conscious branding site, says 'sexist ads such as this one do as much harm to men as they do to women.' The blog went on to say, 'Men who are put off or intimidated by the overt displays of impersonal sexuality glaring out at them from magazines are made to feel like they aren't real men -- and spend years constructing personas that mask their deep fear that their masculinity just isn't masculine enough.'
Ford's ads caused a splash in 2008 as well, showing a naked man holding a blindfolded naked woman while a nicely suited man stares on.
Nissan made headlines in early 2011 when commercials showed a side-by-side comparison of a Nissan Juke and a model in a bikini. The model, 'Amber,' was shown performing comparison tests against the car, all while in her swimsuit. Some viewers weren't amused, saying the ad 'cuts a fine line between sexy and sexist, Ok, and disappointing.'
In addition to being shirtless and swan diving, the Old Spice man encouraged men to smell like men. While one of the tamest commercials on this list, Isaiah Mustafa still travels the world, hawking his sexy product alongside a Komodo dragon, atop snowy mountains, and on an exotic beach.
The new Old Spice ad pokes fun at P&G's history of sexist advertising.
Did Dolce & Gabbana mean to simulate gang rape in one of their recent ads? Probably not, but that's the way many are viewing it. The ad shows half-naked men standing around the lone woman, who's lying on the ground in a fairly suggestive position.
Feminist blog Jezebel reports the ad was eventually canceled, but the design house justified it by saying they 'were looking to recreate a game of seduction in the campaign.'
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