Sex Appeal And Advertising Essays Examples
The adverts chosen in this analysis draw on the cultural values, hidden or overt desires and yearnings for actual or imagined sexual satisfaction (femininity and masculinity) and sense of affiliation linked to the purchase of certain products. Effectively, they exploit the consumers’ sexual inadequacies by attaching real or imagined sense of adequacy to the products. As perhaps best evidenced in the Abercrombie & Fitch’s adverts and the company’s advertising practices, these advertisements are dependent on the consumers’ irrational and subconscious emotional motivation to purchase a product, which serves to substitute other important considerations such as price, quality and need. Emotional appeal seeks to give form to the consumers’ deep-lying desires and “picturing states of being that individuals privately yearn for”, by which advertisers are best capable of arresting attention and communicating their message. It is equally clear that the appeal to sex is done in a subtle and delicate manner, in order to ensure that the consumers remain unaware of the manipulation, especially since blatant references to sex are culturally risky.
Attractive & Fat
Figure 1: This is a protest ad against Abercrombie & Fitch to challenge the line's branding efforts and the fact that the company does not carry products for fat women.
This a spoof advert that mimics the advertising practices that are commonly employed by Abercrombie & Fitch, depicting women who are not fat as objects of sexual desire and by implication showing that fat women are not sexually desirable. It includes a topless man hugging a fat woman from behind, suggestive of an intimacy. The advert replaces the Abercrombie & Fitch brand with “Attractive & Fat” in the same font size and type and uses similar black and white images, except that the female model is fat. The models appear happy and content with themselves as a sexual couple. This advert is targeted at people that have been exposed to A&F adverts before, but seeks to challenge the company’s depiction of sexual desirability of women and the entrenched cultural preference for lean women as the epitome of sexual desire.
Abercrombie & Fitch Fleece
Figure 2: Abercrombie & Fitch captivates the audience by depicting its products as sensual. Retrieved from https://selinascommblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/amber8
The first thing that the audience notices is the beautiful young couple locked in an erotic embrace. It is also notable that the advert conforms to the cultural values of male and female body image and sexual desirability. The female model is tall and slender with trim hips, while the male model has a well-built body, with large muscular arms and abs. The male model is topless but has a jumper slung over his left shoulder. The girl appears to be wearing a tight-fitting hoodie with nothing under it, and it is completely unzipped. The image shows the male and female models’ bodies perfectly locked together and the attention is most likely to be drawn towards the girl’s bare belly are. The models are standing in front of the words Abercrombie & Fitch are written in large font that covers half of the advert, with the same words written in a smaller font just before the word “Fleece” which is in a larger font. The font choices is supposed to emphasize the Abercrombie & Fitch brand and the fleece as a product that is part of the company’s rich repertoire of products. Overall intention is to tap into the consumers’ desire for romance, love, intimacy and all the wonderful feelings involve, and by subconsciously associating these emotions with the Abercrombie & Fitch Fleece, people are likely to buy them (Rogers and Groth 2; CR Editors 553).
Abercrombie & Fitch
Figure 3: Even without the inclusion of the words and brand, Abercrombie & Fitch succeeds in associating itself with masculinity and sexual appeal. The advert is retrieved from http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4f2c488069beddf21700001f/image.jpg
This advert depicts a sexy, smiling man without a top, embraced by two beautiful women in lingerie. The women are kissing either side of the man’s cheeks. This advert is targeted at male consumers, and its striking aspect is the evocative bare body contact between the man and the girls, which is guaranteed to make every man envy the model in the picture. There are no words or any other indications of the advertising brand, but this advert is support to appeal to the male audience’s curiosity to find the associated brand, especially since this advert is part of multiple similar adverts with explicit references to A&F. By leaving out explicit references to Abercrombie & Fitch, the advert is trying to render the brand into a complete substitute for the emotions that are depicted in this image, so that consumers would automatically associate the brand with sexual desirability and satisfaction. Inevitably, there are millions of potential customers struggling with relationships. Working out in gyms for the perfect body and working hard to become desirable, but Abercrombie wants to replace all that with its products.
The fourth advert in figure 4 (appendix 1) is similar to the second and third adverts discussed above. It shows Abercrombie & Fitch’s tendency towards male and female’s sexual appeal and desirability. The black and white advert depicts a topless and well-built male model intimately embracing a tall and voluptuous female model. The sensual nature of this advert is captured through both the models’ closed eyes, which points to the intimate and satisfying nature of the products. Once more, the advert does not include words or other indications to the brand, but it is hoped that the audience will develop a curiosity and in the context of the broader advertising campaign, come to associate the emotions depicted in this image. The advert is targeted at both male and female consumers because it is meant to elicit emotions of sexual desire and the need for desirability in both genders.
The fifth advert included in appendix 2 is an Abercrombie & Fitch-owned brand, Hollister, which positions itself as a Southern Californian clothing line that’s completely accessible, cool and effortless. This advert is meant for both male and female youths and middle-aged consumers. The advert shows a handsome man, with rugged hair and a well chiselled body without a top, meant to portray his sexual appeal. The man is holding a puppy, which is sniffing at a beautiful and sexy woman standing right behind the man. The tall, slender and trim woman is equally topless except for a sling bra. The overarching emotion in this ad is sexual satisfaction. It meant to depict a couple that is beautiful and content with one another, which many consumers desire and will subconsciously want to have this feeling by buying into the Hollister Co. brand. The couple is standing against a plain and darkened background, and the words “© hollisterco.com” are written at the bottom left corner in small font, in order to redirect the emotions and curiosity created by the advert towards Hollister Co. The font and positioning of the words relative to the picture is meant to force the audience to look for the words and possibly find out more about the brand.
Figure 6 in appendix 3 shows yet another black and white advert by Abercrombie & Fitch, which is closely identical to all the previous adverts by the company. The advert depicts a young couple lying out in the grass, with the masculine and topless man lying on top of the girl. The two are just about to kiss (or are kissing), with the girl’s closed eyes showing sexual pleasure, desire, and satisfaction. While there are no words in the advert, the girl appears to be wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch top. This advert is equally targeted at both male and female consumers and it is geared at tapping into the desire and need for sexual desirability and romance as a hook to get the customers’ wallets and purse strings. The overt message is the advert is that beautiful girls and men that are deeply in love wear A&F products and to be like them, the audience needs to wear A&F products too.
Figure 7 (in appendix 4) is a spoof advert that flows from similar adverts in which a pop music star (Justin Bieber), who has a sexy body and considered by many a highly desirable (and eligible) sexual partner, is depicted wearing Calvin Klein underwear. In this spoof advert, a man is who is clearly considered to be culturally undesirable as a sexual partner, because of his under-built muscles, a beer-belly and loose-hanging flesh over the belt (love handles) has a highly desirable girlfriend. The sexy girl is lying topless under the man, whose tattooed is only just covering the girl’s breasts. Both are topless, and the girls is relaxed, with closed eyes and slightly open mouth to show deeply sensual feeling. The clear mismatch in the beauty of the male and female model shows that wearing Calvin Klein underwear can make up for one’s physical inadequacies.
Lastly, figure 8 shows the full bodies of four nude and masculine men looking away over what appears to be rails of a horse barn or country fence. Between them (two men on either side), is a sexy girl with flowing hair, sexy lingerie, and a beaming smile is looking onwards. Her hands are resting on the bare buttocks of two men standing nearest to her. The advert is targeted at hip girls and appears to insinuate that the advertised product can get a girls choice men to use as toys. This advert taps into every girl’s fantasy of having a choice of the best male partners available, and since there are no words in the picture, curious customers are expected to make their own connections to A&F.
It is evident that both Abercrombie & Fitch and Calvin Klein adverts’ strategy is to appeal to the consumers subconscious animal instinct for sexual satisfaction and desire. They appeal to the male and female sexual power and dominance to manipulate consumers into a false sense of affiliation to the depicted images through the consumption of the products. The adverts draw on cultural stereotypes of sexual desirability including the choice of models, erotic poses and depictions of sexual fantasies (Figure 7 and 8). The use of distilled embodiments of sexual power (masculinity and femininity) through the perfect bodies and seeming sexual perfection is meant at encouraging the audience to escape their daily, possibly boring sexual lives to a fantasy lives. The fact that most of the audience is likely to be without the perfect bodies, satisfying sexual relationships or partners, etc., means that they would readily buy into the sense of affiliation bottled and marketed by the advertisers. They create a sense of want or inadequacy, which they arbitrarily make the audience believe that they can overcome through the consumption of their products. This is perhaps best emphasized in the spoof Calvin Klein advert, in which a sexually undesirable man in matched with a breathtakingly beautiful man to show that even with physical inadequacies, it is possible to overcome them with a $40 underwear.
Further, it is clear that these adverts do not make any attempt to engage with the audience sense of rationality. They avoid things such as price, availability, quality and supply chain ethics. Instead, they target the irrational emotions and beliefs. According to Behrens and Rosen (2013), “advertisements are more than just appeals to buy; they are windows into our psyches and our culture. They reveal our values, our (not-so-hidden) desires, our yearnings for a different lifestyle (549)”. These adverts seek to capture the consumers’ desires and motives, by speaking to the deeply lying states of being that people privately yearn for, the adverts are able gain absolute control of their thoughts and manipulate them to their advantage.
It is also notable that care is taken in all of the adverts not to cross the line of sexual appropriateness because sex in the United States as in much of the world, remains a risqué subject. In all the eight adverts, care is taken not to indecently expose the models i.e. show the bust/breasts for women. The lack of explicit exposure is meant at both averting potential backlash from the audience, but perhaps most importantly, concealing the ruthless manipulation perpetrated in the adverts. People get sexually satisfaction from the adverts for as long as they are not explicit, but if they become explicit, then many people are likely to find them offensive and thus the purpose of the advert would not be attained.
It is evident that human beings’ decision-making is heavily driven by sexual desire and need. They get jobs, buy the latest cars, spot the best hairstyles and wear the trendiest fashion to satisfy a subconscious sense of sexual need. Ultimately, they are all animals and are driven by the most basic animal motivations. However, since most people do not have the resources and other people to achieve their sexual satisfaction, many of their sexual fantasies are remain frustrated, possibly because they do not have culturally desirable bodies, boy/girlfriends and money (Rogers and Groth 1; Fowles 1). Advertisers exploit these frustrations and inadequacies, by creating false expectations and meeting any such needs using products. Customers simply buy into the sense of identity with their desired images, feelings, and needs, as against the real products that pushed by the adverts.
Behrens, Laurence and Leonard, J. Rosen. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum, Twelfth Edition. London: Longman, 2013. ebook.
Fowles, Jib. "Advertising's Fifteen Basic Appeals." Petracca, Michael and Madeleine Sorapure. Common Culture: Reading and Writing About American Popular Culture. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1998.
Hollister Co. So Cal inspired clothing for Guys and Girls. 24 Jan 2015. http://www.hollisterco.com/shop/wd?DM_PersistentCookieCreated=true. 31 March 2015.
KCCI News. Attractive & Fat ad spoofs Abercrombie & Fitch. 23 May 2013. http://www.kcci.com/20276686. 31 Mar 2015.
Reichert, Tom and Jacqueline Lambiase. Sex in Advertising: Perspectives on the Erotic Appeal. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.
Rogers, Abby and Aimee Groth. 13 Brands That Use Sex To Sell Their Products . 4 Feb 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com.au/13-brands-that-use-sex-to-sell-their-products-2012-2#american-apparel-has-been-pushing-boundaries-since-the-late-1990s-1. 31 March 2015.
Figure 4: Brand linked to the sexual desirability and satisfaction. Retrieved from http://racapstone.weebly.com/uploads/4/2/8/9/42890841/8184832_orig.jpeg
Figure 5: This advert depicts a quintessential modern couple, beautiful and in love, completely with an exotic puppy. Retrieved from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/05/20/article-2327492-19E50F44000005DC-109_634x474.jpg
Figure 6: Abercrombie & Fitch's topless man and beautiful woman theme continues. Retrieved from http://images.teamsugar.com/files/upl0/0/3362/01_2008/Picture%201_1.png
Figure 7: The sexy CK product makes up for female model. Retrieved from http://ll-media.tmz.com/2015/01/13/0113-jeff-beacher-justin-bieber-calvin-klein-underwear-sub-2.jpg
Figure 8: A&F is every girl's fantasy. Retrieved from http://static1.businessinsider.com/image/4fe1fd74ecad047324000005-1200/jeffries-figured-out-sex-sells.jpg