Sex Sells

Sex sells. There is no doubt about it. If you can make something look sexy, you are more likely to be able to sell it. The more damaging or needlessly expensive the product, the sexier the campaign has got to be. Cigarette companies have gone two ways—manly, rugged men and sexy women. I’m not sure how the image of a good looking woman blowing smoke in your face is a turn on, but then I’m not a guy.

But at what point does it become ridiculous? A sexy woman draped across the hood of a Ferrari makes sense. It’s selling an image. You want a perception of sexy to help bolster your confidence if you are going to shell out that kind of money for a vehicle that is going to spend most of its time in the garage. But would you use sex to sell a Camry? Eh, probably not. In fact, I’m willing to wager that people might be appalled at the vision of soccer mom bent over the hood licking her lips. It just doesn’t work.

Coke can be fun, urban and/or family related. But then Diet Coke also had Cindy Crawford. So, diet is sexy, and regular is fun.

Shoes have to have a sexy image. You aren’t going to sell stilettos if you point out that your back, knees and hips will enter arthritic hell by 25 if you wear them all the time. Instead, ads have to focus on calf muscles and the promise of appealing to the opposite sex. And in that vein, you never see ads with a woman kicking some dude with stilettos—the real advantage to wear weapons on your feet. But would sexy be a big selling aspect to orthopedic shoes? Eh.

Alcohol? Definitely. You are never going to show the image of the morning after the night before and sell alcohol. Not that it would universally impact sales of alcohol, but I’m betting there would be at least one or two people, who might be a little mortified to see themselves in an ad that reads “if you want to wake up with vomit in your hair, and wonder who that nasty, naked guy next to you is—try our vodka”.

No, alcohol companies go another direction. For instance, this direction has appeared many times in Los Angeles and New York (including Daily Variety) in recent months:

For men, this ad may say something enticing like, “Belvedere Vodka will entice a vapid model to consider giving you a blow job.” – if you find the approach of someone vacuous and drunk appealing, that is. If you don’t, well… To me, this says something along the lines of “Of course, I’m drunk. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be considering going down on a stranger in this day and age where 1 in 4 people in New York have Herpes.” Or “Belvedere Vodka makes the possibility of gonorrhea of the throat so much more entertaining”. Maybe I’m just cynical. Maybe they are in a long-term, loving relationship, and he’s kind enough to provide a mirror for touch-ups after responsibly imbibing. Yep, that’s definitely what the ad is saying.

It’s not that I’m against this. I’m just wondering how much we are going to push the envelope. Sexy ED medication ads make sense. Sexy incontinence medication ads do not.

Does it work mainly with male focused products rather than female focused products? Do women order more things through UPS because the ads made the drivers look hot and appealing? Maybe, but I doubt it. Can we use this to our advantage? Is there a way to make sexy and responsible synonymous? Because if there is, that’s what I’m buying.

P.S. And if we’re sticking with straight sex appeal—let’s get Duchovny, Hamm, O’Loughlin, Lea and Clooney out there selling some products. I need a good floor cleaner, and I’m willing to be swayed.


Happy 4th! I’m trapped in Malibu because the streets appear to be closed headed back toward my part of the world. So, I’ll be lounging, pondering, and plotting my attempts to take over the world.

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