Brett Denita Baskin
World lit 122 - A
December 2, 1996
The use of sex in advertising has become a major selling method in the society we live in today. It began sixty years ago when a beautiful young woman introduced the first windproof lighter and a new wave of advertising emerged - The Pinup Girl. She advertised everything from lighters to laundry soap. She even recruited for the U.S. armed forces (Parade Magazine; pg 6). Sexuality in advertising is now a major area of ethical concern, though surprisingly little is known about its effects or the norms for it's use (Baltimore Sun; pg. 1G). Advertisers use of sex appeals has grown and become widely present throughout the U.S. and really most of the world, but it has never really been clear the line between offensive and effective advertising. Over the last couple of years, commercial content, like programming, has gone through a significannot maturing
process. Sex has become a driving force. NBC's vice president for advertising standards, Rick Gitter, acknowledged that the 1990's reality can't be denied (Baltimore Sun; pg. 1G).
Ann Klein's company's ads are some of the most striking ads that are carried in the main stream media. They have received only a few negative letters, but they've drawn a huge amount of attention (Baltimore Sun; pg. 2G). "We wanted the women to say, 'Hey,' and we have gotten a fantastic response," there's a fine line between doing something new, different and interesting, and angering your customer with offensive commercials that spoil their commercial intent. An Ann Klein spot that showed a man kissing a woman and beginning to unbutton her shirt, was not allowed to air by wary network censors, recalled company vice president Nancy Lueck (Baltimore Sun; pg 2G). Calvin Klein, an American clothing manufacturer that courts the glamorous young, drew great disgrace and shame earlier this year for some particutlarly gamine youth who lolled about wearing their underpants in a recent campaign, which the network censors also withdrew (The Economist pg. 53). "Sexiness, as a component of the good life, is a staple for advertisers ; Coca Cola decorated its drug store posters at the turn of the century with beautiful young women whom male drinkers might hope to date and female drinkers might emulate (The Economist pg. 54)." One has only to pick up any issue of a fashion magazine and page after page is filled with advertisements attempting to correlate sex and beauty with the purchase of their products.
The current flood of sex in advertising is often promoted in terms of fulfilling erotic fantasies and appetites (D'Emilio and Freeman, 1989). Consumers want to see more, however the use of such appeals is constantly contested in terms of ethics and morality, much as sexual norms and morals in general have been contested throughout both American and world history (The Journal of Advertising, pg 73). Commercials have become a risque as standards loosen. Networks, in an effort to compete with cable television, have relaxed thier censorship standards. Advertising standards have always been defined by the public's tolerance and the shifting moods of courts and government agencies. Even though there are concerns about sex and advertising on the air, on billboards, and in print, it is more accepted now than ever before. However, ads dealing with the environment or nutrition are coming under much stricter contraints. The public has become less sensitive to sexy ads, but increasingly irate about claims involving food and Mother Earth. "While we will tolerate an expansion in areas that may offend our prurient interest, we are not prepared to do that with products that effect our quality of life" said Stuart Lee Friedel, an attorney with the New York based law firm of Davis & Gilbert, who specializes in advertising (Baltimore Sun, pg 2G).
Advertisers are helping to fuel an unhealthy...