Sex Sells But Why?

October 23rd, 2012 Filed under: Advertising Tips — Advertising Author

Back when GoDaddy Inc., founded by Bob Parsons, began advertising during the Super Bowl, everyone watching was in shock by the company’s advertisements. At the time, most people didn’t even know what GoDaddy was. The reaction to the company’s “sex sells” marketing has since been undeniably successful, but with the recent shift away from such advertising, it brings question to whether having Danica Patrick step, soaking wet, out of a shower is most optimal, and if so, why is it?

Why Sex Sells

The question of why sex sells is more complex than just visual appeal; it is more a psychological, even subconscious attraction. To better illustrate, here are a few things you may not know about how and why sex sells:

  • As seen on, sex appeal in advertising works for both genders. While selling sex in a marketing campaign may work more often with males, the opposite gender is certainly not impervious to advertising sex appeal. For instance, a health club featuring a muscular, sweaty and shirtless man is sure to sell a few women on memberships, just as an attractive female in a car commercial will entice guys to head down to the dealership.
  • While selling sex in an advertisement may seem to appeal only to physical attraction, in actuality, it can resonate much deeper with the target market. What’s more, a sexually appealing advertisement has the potential to register with a viewer’s subconscious thoughts, past experiences and moral beliefs.
  • More is not always better when it comes to selling sex in an advertisement. Generally speaking, and depending on the target audience, tasteful sex appeal can be more influential in a marketing campaign than raunchiness. This may have something to do with GoDaddy’s shift away from its sexiest ads.

Examples of Selling Sex

While there are certainly other companies to use the sex sells mentality, like Hooters and WWE; GoDaddy is likely the most predominant, simply because they do so on such a large stage. They are the most notable company to feature such sexually appealing ads during the Super Bowl. The opinion of GoDaddy’s marketing is somewhat mixed, with some people feeling like it is trashy and others that it is less promiscuous than most depictions in modern media. For instance, after one of GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ads aired, The New York Times commented, call it “raunchy” and done in a style similar to Girls Gone Wild. Even some experts in the advertising industry failed to condone such marketing, as one columnist from Adweek called the use of sex appeal “just sad.”

However, Bob Parsons has defended his brand calling it “edgy, and a bit inappropriate.” Parsons’ GoDaddy is not the only widely popular brand to defend itself with such explanation. Hooters restaurants’ slogan explains it all by calling the brand “delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.” It is safe to say that Hooters promotes itself in a style that is very much “GoDaddy-esque.”

The aforementioned examination has aimed at shedding a bit of light on why sex sells in advertising, and how people react to such marketing. It is fair to say, and perhaps the most fascinating aspect of why sex sells, is that it resonates with much more than a person’s physical attraction, it entices the subconscious. Which is likely why some companies, like GoDaddy have adopted marketing campaigns that sell sex even when their product/service is anything but sexy. Now that Bob Parsons and GoDaddy have begun to shift away from the “sex sells” mentality, it suggests that sex may sell, but perhaps not for everyone.

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