George Gladwin Matsheke
Round Table: The female body in advertising
06H28 TUESDAY, 18 MAY 2010


Advertising plays an important role in our lives to the consumer and supplier. For years the concept sex sells (using erotic imagery to sell products) has been used a lot in advertising. These erotic imageries are most of the time naked women. In a lot of cases the concept “sex sells” has been claimed as the reason for increase consumer interest. The concept is: when sexuality is used in advertising, certain values and attitudes towards sex are necessarily 'sold' along with a product.



The concept “sex sells” is used to sell almost everything, it is being used so much that we lose the value of the product. Images of undressed women often appear in ads even without connection to the product being sold.

The question is: Is placing a naked woman next to the product adding value to the brand promise?

Writer: Selina Masego Morulane.

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  1. +
    Writer chick

    look the saddest thing about it is that it has been proven that sex does indeed sell
    but i personally think that it only works if it's relevant
    the men's mag ad would make sense cos the market wants to see that
    but then it could be argued that when they have a half naked woman in a jeans ad, women would still find it somewhat appealing wanting to relate (mostly not relating cos all these ads are airbrushed)

    basically i don't think it ads value if the ad doesn't call for it (the boxer campaign above)
    but it certainly does ad value to the brand promise if it's a naked woman ad about a men's magazine

  2. Elo, I've just finished reading a book on Neuromarketing.

    And certain studies carried out by the author showed that sex rarely sells, in fact, in many cases in distracts the reader's (or viewer) attention from what is really being advertised.

    I personally, think sex is only good at getting attention (and maybe getting people talking), but the biggest problem for advertiser relying on erotic imagery is that — almost everybody is doing it, so soon, having a set of nipples in an ad won't be ass (oops, "as") noteworthy as it is.

    Like Writer Chick is saying, it was proven that skinny (or well shaped women) are effective in ads selling to women (species of their same sex).

    The finding is that, a not so well-shaped woman pictures herself (subconsciously) with the good body of the woman in the ad.

    This is reason why skin products all use women with the "perfect" skin. Those with an "unperfected" skin can't help but picture themselves with such "radiant" skin.

    And then BOOM! Some lady is a few hundreds poorer.

  3. +
    All-The- Way-To

    I think that there are many people that use the 'sex sell' statement in an uninformed manner. Sex gets your attention, but it doesnt promise to sustain the consumers attention on the product long enough to buy the product.

    But also I think the statement is relevent and viable enough for certain products, not everything that you are trying to sell.

  4. +

    and some ads i never seem to remember what they were selling in the first place. it also goes beyond adverts, you see it on music videos... i even watched that Ciara ride video on mute, all she did was grab my attention unfortunately she couldn't get me to listen.

  5. that Ciara video is something else ... the track is wack! but the video is nice. I think that sex gets people talking becoz its kinda taboo ish, so when you see it in public domain ie. TV, Billboard, etc you give you attention. I think it works in terms of grabbing ones attention - coz remember every product has about 2 seconds to grab your eye [or attention] - and im sure someone has done a study about how sexy model on coffee tin would grab more of your attention than grandma Oma's Rusks at Pick n Pay.

    my say is "if it looks good then its easier for me to buy" eg Audi vs Subaru [actually make that any car make vs Subaru]

  6. +
    Writer chick

    @GG: hahaha at your last statement

    i think this is why i love my job
    cos in radio, you can't sell a product using sex
    you have to have an idea otherwise it shows through the ad you end up recording

  7. @GG: that's not entirely true.

    e.g: Omo, Surf ads use no sex (well the last time I had a tv); but they do say (I stand corrected) that nobody forgets them — in fact by the act of switching channels as soon the ads come up: Unilever's mission accomplished.

    On if sex sells (I've been avoiding to answer this topic), my take is in this post itself:

    1. title (the female body in advertising);
    2. the use of imagery with naked women.

    I think from the choice of the topic and the use of imagery already a point is proven: sex buys attention, but does not sell — we have already reacted, but how many of us actually remember exactly what was being sold (without scrolling up as you read this?) in the above images/ads?


  8. Yes, Omo and Surf dont use sex to sell - but use in your face advertising. And when i spoke about grabbing attention - it could be colour, or design - at the end of the day you get about 2 seconds to grab attention still

  9. Shem, you missed my point.


  10. yah neh ...

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