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How women, youth, and social media are affecting sex appeal in advertising

Credit buying power and misdirected marketing.

We are inundated with over 5000 gleaming advertisements daily, according to marketing services firm data SJ Insights. And the introduction of social media has increased that scope as individuals have begun treating themselves as brands. People are consciously curating content for their audience that will increase their visibility as they battle to monetize their influence. While racing to "secure the bag," big businesses have on their high beams and are blinding oncoming traffic from the lasting effects that these images will leave on society and its growing youth culture.

According to Forbes, women are dominant global spenders with 18 trillion dollars in hand. In this new age of advertising and marketing, buyers demand content that speaks to the individual. As we move away from stereotypes, one question still remains: "Does sex sell?"

At this point we've seen these images repeated so frequently it's easy to agree. But a recent study by John Wirtz, University of Illinois' Advertising Professor, claims sex doesn't sell because women aren't buying it. Considering today's political climate, it is women that are unmasking the faces of misogyny that perpetuate the ideas of what women "should be." This placid fact will change the face of the advertising as we know it. But we wonder, who will it impact most?

Rihanna x Rogue

There is no denying the power of seduction. We've seen countless people use their looks to draw attention to themselves and their work. Public figures from Chris Brown to Kim Kardashian (below) use their sex appeal to market and sell a product. And back in 2014, Rihanna's Rogue perfume ad (above) was banned in the U.K. for being too sexy. This formula has trickled down into social media where the pervasive use of nudity impacts millions of timelines daily. 'Likes' and comments are an affirmation of how effective sex appeal is. However, according to Wirtz's study, this does not always equal e-commerce conversion.

The use of sex is disproportionate between genders. Fashion, beauty, and the entertainment industry plaster arousing images of women everywhere, yet they are the target consumer. A 2011 study by two undergrad psychology students at Ohio State University claims, on average, men think about sex 1 to 388 times daily, while women think about it 1 to 140 times daily. Wirtz's study proves that ads with sex appeal are more memorable; however, for women, it has a negative effect that does not secure a purchase. One would argue that since women have the buying power, advertisers should take head of this information to increase business.

Paper Magazine

Looking toward the growing youth, we must understand the impact of these images. This very impressionable audience can be swayed but not fooled. Advertisers must be more clever in their approach to targeting specific demographics through using resources to identify what is important to that target consumer. If there is no change, advertisers will work harder to retain new customers who are already conditioned to swipe left after 15 seconds.

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