Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sex Sells

The cliche "sex sells" is often dismissed as little more than a clever alliteration. However, a closer examination of the advertising industry indicates that the exploitation of sex is one of the more common marketing techniques and that it truly does sell. Heteronormativity tells us that heterosexuals constantly have sex or fantasize about it, providing insight as to the reason why sex is such a successful marketing strategy.

Taking note of the advertisement around which the collage is centered, it is easy to see why the targeted market, most likely male teenagers and young adults, would want to buy an Axe product. The marketers suggest that Axe serves not only as a deodorant and body wash but also as a female aphrodisiac. The most appropriate way to promote a product is to link it with another desirable field, and advertisers assume that in the minds of the Axe demographic, little is desired over a good bj. Jackson Katz states that "men...are engaged in an ongoing process of creating and maintaining their own masculine identities" (Katz 351), and ads for Axe items propose that their products facilitate this process.

Not only does this advertisement and ones containing similar sexual undertones successfully promote the product, but it also promotes heteronormativity. The male is fulfilling his role as a straight, well groomed, sexually active man while the female's subliminal presence supports Freeman's claim "that being a sex object for male voyeurs is her greatest asset" (Freeman 84). Surrounding advertisements promote similar ideals, namely the diamond ad in which a heterosexual couple, engaged to be married, are kissing. Engagement is considered a heteronormative fantasy, and its link to diamonds is another example of appealing to a demographic's desires.

Though society continues to label sex as taboo, it is a prevalent message in marketing, and as long as advertisements excite consumers, sex and marketing will continue to go hand in hand.

Katz, Jackson. "Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity: From Eminem to Clinique for Men." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 349-358.
Freeman, Jo and Henley, Nancy. "The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior." Women: A Feminist Perspective. 1995. 84-92.
Images from Google Images

Self Portrait in Consumer Capitalism