Does sex still sell in 2018? Yes, of course, it does. But that doesn’t mean you should automatically – and carelessly – turn to sex to sell more or hope to go “viral.”
Ah, the murky waters of sex in advertising… As both marketers and consumers, we’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Sex sells.’ Brought to life by the legacy of Madison Avenue’s ‘Golden Era of Advertising’ and provoked by pop-culture for decades, sexualised imagery, sounds, suggestions, subliminal messages, and more, continue to make their way onto our devices.
From beautiful women to the increasingly popular handsome men – despite the social condemnation of objectification courtesy of the #MeToo movement, we still fall prey to provocative advertising on social media and beyond…
Why? Psychology. We are programmed to.
As mentioned above, pop culture incites the theme of ‘sex’ consistently as well. So much so, that a 2012 study indicated that 92% of the 174 songs that made it onto Billboard’s Top 10 had sexual or reproductive references. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the books (cue 50 Shades of Gray), TV, movies, video games, etc that also fuel sex appropriation. All of this leads to an even bigger issue, both for advertisers and social media users to consider.
Social Media’s Influence On Sexualised Content
Social media may be what enables us to stay connected with one another, chat, and follow our favourite brands, hobbies, or sports teams, but is it helping feed our sexual predispositions? There is no question about it: sex on social media captivates us as well.
But what is it that continues to drive the success sexually-infused content? The platforms, the advertisers, and even the users themselves can be blamed for the proliferation of the wealth, beauty, sex appeal, and celebrity that sexuality thrives on. So, whether it’s by data and manipulation, or the regular social media interactions that help to inform it, we are the source.
So with the above in mind…
What Should Brands And Advertisers Consider Regarding ‘Sex On Social?’
Sex doesn’t sell EVERYTHING. And how we use it (responsibly) is the key to success.
#1 Consider What It Is You Are Selling
Consider what you are selling, and use common sense. If your product warrants it i.e. lingerie, perfume, beauty etc. you’re in the clear. That said, you still should proceed with caution in how you portray said products. Household goods, furniture, finance, insurance – for obvious reasons it just doesn’t make sense.
Sexualising something for the sake of it doesn’t automatically chalk you up in the ‘sexual advertising’ hall of fame with the cool kids. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. While sexual advertising can be viewed as largely subjective, the inappropriate use of ‘sex appeal’ in your advertising could lead to nightmare PR, a backlash from consumers, or an overall tarnished reputation.
Just look at the #MeToo movement and other corresponding movements on sexual assault LGBT and more. Activism regarding objectification, sexuality and more are very real, and their causes justified. So just be mindful of how you are positioning your brand and products in light of these conversations.
#2 Consider Your Audience
“Consider your audience” is the unspoken ‘Golden Rule’ of advertising. Rule of thumb: If you are having hesitations, they are valid, and odds are someone else will have them too. In fact, even if you are without hesitations, racy content is always best served after all the right research, focus groups, and testing, have been run.
A common missed opportunity is engaging the opposite sex and asking for their opinion on your proposed content. For example, if you are looking to target men, host a focus group of women enabling them to provide feedback on your content (or vice versa) – to prevent offensive results. But this should go without saying… It is always best to stay on the side of caution.
And we haven’t even talked about the effects of sexualised content on children… but that is a topic for another day. So, stick around, as I’ll be covering more on sexualised content on social – as it pertains to influencers, children, etc. with some good and BAD examples to follow.
But for now, the key takeaway should be: Sex should ALWAYS be used appropriately.