Men vs. Women – different perceptions and opinions about Sex Sells

It´s probably not a secret, that males and females have different perceptions and opinions about sex in advertising and PR. But who is the key audience, advertising agencies address with showing almost naked bodies? Most of the time sexual ads show women, so the answer seems to be simple: Males! Lets have a look on what a professional SexSells survey revealed when it recently explored how men and women look at sexually themed ads.

The MediaAnalyser poll did not only focus on how genders perceive sexual ads differently, it also figured out what effect, if any, that visual behaviour might have on the ads’ effectiveness.

The first part of the test solicited general opinions about sex in advertising:
While almost half of men (48 percent) said they like sexual ads, few women did (8 percent). Most men (63 percent) said sexual ads have a high stopping power for them; fewer women thought so (28 percent). Also, most women (58 percent) said there is too much sex in advertising; only 29 percent of men said so. Women were also much more likely than men to say that sexual ads promote a deterioration of moral and social values and that they are demeaning for the models used in them.

The second part, a visual test exposed a similar polarization:
Men tend to focus on an ad’s sexual imagery (breasts, legs, skin, etc.), which draws their attention away from other elements of the ad (logo, product shot, headline). This may be why men’s brand recall was worse for the sexual ads than for the nonsexual ones. An average of 19.8 percent recalled the correct brand/product for the nonsexual ads; for the sexual ads, 9.8 percent did. MediaAnalyzer calls this the “vampire effect,” with a toostrong visual sucking up a lot of the attention that would have otherwise been spent on an ad’s actual communication. For further information visit:

But what does these results mean for us as PR professionals?

Is sex an approved advertising and PR strategy, above all, if we want to promote a women´s product? Moreover, the question is if  ‘SexSells’ is effective as women don´t like sexual overflow and men can´t remember the brand name?

What do you think? Does sex in campaigns create brand equity or is it our challenge as PR specialists to  look for other ways to promote a brand? In my eyes, the survey revealed once more that messages and visuals have to be particularly designed for the main target audience…



Filed under Communications, Marketing, PR

3 responses to “Men vs. Women – different perceptions and opinions about Sex Sells

  1. Andy P.

    Simple and short: I´m a man and I can´t find anything bad about SexSells. The survey result really says everything so that´s probably the answer you expected?!
    According to the poll I would not recommend to use to much sex in women advertising. On the other hand, Ladies, who does not know the ‘Coca Cola-Light-Man’ ???:-) YouTube says: “Probably the hottest advertising spot ever. Coca Cola´s gift to the women´s world: A buff young man in a muscle shirt…”

    This ad is an evidence that Sex Sells does not mean to forget about the brand. In the Coca Cola Case it created brand awareness!

  2. Tina W.

    I`m a woman and my opinion agrees definitely with the female percentage of the survey.
    I mean, the aim of advertising is to make your product known and to get the brand to people`s mind…or at least it should be like that.
    So, of what avail is all the advertising, when nobody remembers the brand afterwards? Nevertheless, I have to agree with Andy in the Coca Cola man thing…every woman knows him:)…but women are able to look at the men AND to remember the product!
    Men definitely only have a look at the shown sexy female legs and arent`t interested in the brand any longer.That`s not the sense!
    I think man and women are completely different, so you also have to make a difference in advertising:
    less sex for men products…to make sure that they can concentrate on the important points, like brand etc.
    a bit sex for women products doesn`t harm…:-)because women remember the product…if only for telling their friends in which spot they`ve seen the sexy man:-)

  3. kellisa26

    Well I can’t remember the Coca-Cola ad…
    Those statistics are very interesting and as we know sex can’t sell everything, although some brands might like to think so.
    Sex can create brand equity but it is our role as PR specialist to be creative and evolve with the times. A brand cannot survive if they keep the exact same strategy no matter what their product is, after sometime we will get bored seeing the same thing over and over.

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