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Sex in Advertising

Part 4. Advertising and Integrated Communication

  1. Tom Reichert

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444316568.wiem04008

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

How to Cite

Reichert, T. 2010. Sex in Advertising. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing. 4.

Author Information

  1. University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Sex in advertising is a controversial topic in marketing. Types of sexual content typically consist of nudity or physically attractive models in revealing clothing, sexual poses, and other forms of sexual behavior, facilitating factors such as lighting, editing, and sound, and verbal information such as double entendre, suggestive language, or innuendo. Up to 10% of television commercials contain sexual content, compared to a higher proportion in magazine and Internet ads. Research shows that sex in advertising attracts attention, but if its use is not relevant to the product, it can distract viewers from attending to the advertised message and ad sponsor. However, most uses of sex in advertising assert sex-related outcomes as a result of buying and using the brand (e.g., “I'll be more sexually attractive if I use this fragrance.”). Archaeology discovered early forms of painted murals advertising brothels in ports along the Mediterranean coast. During the modern era, sex in advertising specifically targeted men or women in publications until the 1960s when television commercials reached mass audiences. Sex in advertising is not held in high regard within the advertising profession and its use prompts legitimate criticism regarding the ways in which sexual ads depict women.


  • sex in advertising;
  • nudity;
  • innuendo;
  • gender;
  • subliminal symbols