A Brief History of Sexuality in Advertisements

Oftentimes, when people think of how advertisements began to be risqué and sexual they commonly believe that it began in the only a short period ago for instance in the 1960s or so when the sexual revolution began. Surprisingly using this idea of “sex sells” began than as early as even 1871.  With an advertisement for Pearl Tobacco this advertisement included a naked woman on the print ad. Then in 1885 W. Duke & Sons took notice of the increase in revenue of their competitors’ product that they grew into the same strategy with including sexually provocative trading cards in their cigarette packs. Due to this they grew into the leading cigarette brand at the time.

Then during the 1910’s Ivory soap used a rather took a gamble and decided to add a little spice to their boring ol’ soap brand. This advertisement featured group naked men sailors taking a bath together while in the background a friend is hosing them off nearby. What is even more outrageous is the print:“We all had a bath…about 25 being under the hose at one time…It certainly seemed like home to rub in the mild Ivory lather from head to foot and then feel the delightful exhilaration following a brisk rub down.”

All through the 1930s and 40s this idea of sexual advertising was still going strong. This time advertising marketers would put sexual references everywhere in in the most outrageous of products. For example in this advertisement for Rockford Varnish Company, this ad features a full on naked woman on top of this cube-like box that supposedly is presenting how “great” the varnish is. What does a naked woman have anything to do with varnish?

Then by the 1950s & 60s & 70s, a semi subtle approach for sexual references in advertising began to surface. For instance this ad for an “in-sink-erator” (garbage disposal), the advertisement claimed that their product was an “everlasting gift” and the advertisements characters are a husband and a wife and the wife is looking at her husband while the ad shows, “Shell want to thank you …THREE TIMES A DAY!”

By the 1980s and 90s this idea of sexual advertising was used frequently and less subtly.  This was due to advertising agencies noticing the drastic change in profit due to these ads. For instance this advertisement for Big Mouth the ad is supposed to be selling beer when it obviously just shows a women’s body holding beer that reads: “The first thing I noticed was her Big Mouth” in this ad the women’s face is clearly cut out if the shot.

Another example is seen in an advertisement for Candies (a fashion beauty and accessory line), in this ad Mark McGrath is getting ready to shower while mysteriously out of nowhere appears a woman and they just take a hot and steamy shower together randomly.

Finally by the millennium sex in advertising is in full effect. It has progressed from being subtle to flat out obvious. With that said it has little to no relation to what the advertisement is actually selling. Most of the advertisements below are pretty self explanatory and outrageous. To conclude this just may be a catalyst to a new lucrative advertising movement.







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