Sexual advertising appeals lend themselves well to sell a variety of products or services. Discover when sexual appeals will help sell your product or service, and how to create an effective and tasteful sexual ad appeal in the latest installment of our series on neuroscience based advertising appeals.

What are sexual advertising appeals?

As the name suggests, these ad appeals utilize the suggestion of romance, sexual attraction, or sex to sell products. Some sexual ad appeals actively evoke the promise of sexual fulfillment by suggesting that if you wear a certain perfume or use a certain shampoo, you will receive more attention from the opposite sex. This Gucci cologne as is a classic example of a sexual ad creative.

These ads typically feature suggestive attire and partial nudity to draw attention. Ads for products that are sexual in nature (like condoms) may feature greater amounts of nudity and be more explicit than suggestive in their messaging. Likewise, medical advertisements for products like Cialis or Viagra must appeal to sex since they sell the promise of sex, literally.

Other sexual ad appeals are less direct, aiming to appeal to the subconscious. By suggesting that certain types of clothing, cars, or luxury products make the user desirable or attractive, these ad creatives hope to cultivate a longing within the consumer. These ads can be more teasing or playful, evoking a lighter side of desire. A consumer might think, “If I buy that car or wear those shoes, I will be the object of desire.”

Even though consumers may not be able to articulate the connection, they nonetheless have an urge that’s rooted in sexual desires. They think that using certain makeup will make them as sexy as the provocative woman in the ad, or using one body spray will make them as charismatic as the buff male model in the ad.

When to use sexual advertising appeals?

While sexual ad appeals work well to sell consumer goods like clothing, shoes, makeup and perfume, they do not work as well for things that inherently lack a sex appeal. Imagine using partial nudity to sell cleaning products or towels. It would be a much harder sell; odds are, there is a better type of neuroscience advertising appeal for those products.

Still; some companies have leveraged sexuality to sell products or services even if the fit seems poor. The “GoDaddy Girl” commercial series showcases hot women who represent GoDaddy’s web hosting brand. Users are split on whether the “GoDaddy Girl” works to promote GoDaddy or detracts from their brand by trying to make something sexy that isn’t. Either way, the ad creatives got people talking and increased brand awareness for GoDaddy.

Trying to use sex-based neuroscience advertising appeals when your products or services aren’t inherently sexy is a risky proposition. It could pay off with increased brand awareness and market saturation or it could backfire.

Additionally, sexual advertising appeals must walk a fine line between suggesting sex, romance, or love, and being explicit about the promise of sex. Ads that consumers feel are “too slutty” — like those from controversial clothing company American Apparel — can create a negative brand perception and ultimately harm the company more than benefit it.

Chances are, you have a good idea of whether your products or services pair well with this type of neuroscience advertising. Before using sexual-based ad creatives, consider the taste level of the material to ensure that you will connect with your target audience – not turn them off your brand instead.