Controversial Advertising

I. Introduction

Children are to be considered as the hope of the tomorrow. They are the one who make our world beautiful and meaningful because of their innocence and simplicity. But are these facts still true nowadays? Or it will be just a “dream” for us now? Children’s characters, personalities and their totality as individual first develop and mold inside the home where parents are oblige and responsible to teach their children the good values and morals. But the irony for this issue is that, parents tend to forget their responsibilities as parents in supervising their kids, due to their hectic schedules and demands of their work, especially in watching television where children are expose to different kinds of indecent advertisements and commercials. Parents should allot time in spending quality moments and be on the side of their children in order for them to explain the advertisements and commercials which have an adult content.

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II. Discussion

            Television is a very powerful tool to the learning of the children and it can educate them in many ways whether it is profitable or destructive to their morals and values. It contributes much most especially when parents let their children watch indecent television shows anytime of the day without their supervision. There are also shows on TV that create fear to the hearts of these children because they are able to internalize what they have seen. In a researched entitled “Television” and conducted by the University of Michigan Health System stated that “in a usual American household, there are about 7 hours spend by children in watching television everyday and there are about tens of thousands of commercials observed by the kids on TV which  the  public relations mark. And not only that, every year the range of 1,000 to 2,000 children watched TV ads for alcohol and the fears attributed by the television can create sleep problems. A survey showed that there was about 37 percent of the kids stated that they were terrified by a TV story and the symptoms for this included anxious feelings, withdrawing from friends, nightmares…(see “Television” University of Michigan Health System).

       There are also commercials that speak about sex. It is called sex in advertising. The use of sexual attraction as a tool of persuasion by drawing attention, interest to a particular product for the purpose of promotion and increase in sales had been a part of marketing and advertising industry for quite some time. The method generally uses attractive models, usually in a suggestive or provocative scene. The past two decades have witnessed an increasing use of explicit sexual appeal in consumer-oriented print advertising and particularly of women as the object of sexual desire that it has reached to the point of being common.

       The use of sex in advertising can range from being highly overt to extremely subtle; from explicit displays of sexual acts or nudity, down to the use of basic cosmetic products to enhance attractiveness. The more subtle forms of this spectrum have seeped into other types of media. One such example is the criteria in the selection of DJs and announcers, which is based on the “sexiness” of their voice.

       The use of sexual imagery in advertising has received a barrage of criticisms on various grounds. Moral and religious groups oppose it for being obscene.  Feminist groups raise the issue of women’s rights, that it reduces women as mere ‘objects’. Others believe that it only reinforces sexism.

A. Regulations

       Way back in 1924, the American Association of Advertising Agencies published a code of ethics, stating that the following practices were unethical:

·         False or misleading claims about the product, whether visual or verbal

·         Testimonials which does not truly speak of the real choice of a witness

·         Price claims which is purposely done to mislead the public

·         Statements which unfairly disparage a competing product or service

·         Claims which are unproven/untested, or claims that puts statements out of context to distort the true meaning made by professional or scientific authorities

·         Statements, pictures, or suggestions which are offensive to public decency

       Each of these ethical codes is quite vague in nature which allows a wide range of interpretations. Consequently advertisers push the limits of what is actually acceptable to advertise about their services or wares. It is in the last code wherein sex is more or less addressed as being potentially offensive to the public. The next deliberation is on the issue of what is NOT offensive to one person, may be horrible to another. It is subjective. The responsibility now lies on the advertiser to maintain a delicate balance (see K. Stirtz. “For Most of Us, Sex Does Not Sell”).

       A prevailing advertising belief through the last two decades is the power of sexual imagery and suggestions on consumers. Neil E. Harrison, of the Canadian Business and Current Affairs wrote that “advertisers recognize that ‘sex sells’ because it attracts attention”. It is not sexual images or suggestion that sells the product per se, but the technique of attention-getting that has always been the cornerstone of advertising — whether consumers look with interest, or look in disgust. The point advertisers seek is for consumers to LOOK, and if the imagery pushes the borderline of what is shocking or offensive, the more it is retained in the consumer’s memory. However, an article “Playing the Game” wrote that sexual images are ineffective especially when it is ironically diametrically opposed to the product it tries to sell (T Ball, P Avers. “A Brief History of Sex in Advertising”).

B. Its Effectiveness

       Sex in marketing through the years has become raunchier and raunchier, with each advertisement trying to outdo the last. Since it has become a powerful force in the marketing industry, we see the market being saturated with signs of glamorous blond women and muscle-rippling playboys. However, recent studies indicate that such a tool is no longer the sure-way answer to every marketing officer’s prayer.

       Although most companies utilize sex as their largest promoter of their product(s), negative results may never be far behind. Sexual ads do not always appeal to all consumers and accept sex as an acceptable marketing tool. A study done by Susan Cummings for the American Demographics Magazine, quoted that “75 percent of women and 53 percent of men aged 35 to 54 said that sex in advertising can be offensive” (Cited in “Sex Sells…No, Really!”).

       Other concerns being raised is how the youth react to this and how they perceive sex in advertising. There are many different opinions on how sexual appeal in advertising is defined. A slight difference had been found between young men and women. Sexual appeal for young women did not depend on how people looked in the advertisement. Focus is more on movement. It does not even have to include nudity, and models need not be exceptionally good looking for the ad to be even considered sexual. Young men also believe that the movement and the appearance of the models are of great importance. Both genders perceive an ad as sexual through words and images, even without images of nudity among the characters. Therefore, this study came to the following conclusions: that advertisement do not have to contain nudity to be perceived by young men and women as sexual in character; even movement and appearance of the models in the advertisement can make it sexual in nature; young men differ from their women counterparts in the sense that they believe that exceptional good looks among models require an ad campaign to be so. They also believe that there is too much sex in advertising, even observing that there are companies who make use of sexual appeal even if their product is discordant with the sexual image. These young men also see advertisements as discriminating to both men and women. This research also came to the same conclusion that buying behavior does not change, since nudity in advertisement has become so common.

            Young female respondents also believe that there is too much sex in advertising and these failed to elicit responses. Reaction of tension came only if the image is tasteless. However, for young women, attitude and buying behavior might change if an advertisement based on sexual appeal is too sexual. A favorable response comes only if the sexual appeal is done tastefully and the appeal has any connection towards the brand. Their self-image and confidence is affected when it showed attractive models. Corporations are then urged to make considerations in aiming advertising towards youth in using sexual appeals in their advertisement campaigns.

This means that children are prone to adapt thwarted values and morals which will affect sooner to their development as individuals and contribute in the later part of their lives. Being TV addicts is more treacherous and hazardous than taking a drug because it disseminates violence, spoils people’s intellects, and ruins not only the individual but as well as our nation and culture.

III. Conclusions

A. Effects on children

            We cannot deny the fact that children are great imitators and that is one of their natures. They really follow and imitate what they have seen and observed from other people especially when they realize that these people involve manifests excitement in doing such acts. Present television’s advertisements, commercials, shows and movies already content indecent acts such as violence, sensual actions or sex, drinking and taking drugs which have great impact to the minds of the younger generations. These kinds of entertainments will create curiosity and puzzlements to their young minds that will push them to try it by themselves. The advertisers really put an effort to convey their audiences-whether young or old-whom the actions perform on TV, those actions are worth emulating for and because of this, children are motivated to imitate it. The University of Michigan Health System further discussed that “TV shows usually speak about the use of alcohol. The existence of alcohol on TV resorts the gamut from prime-time programs…In addition, the researched informed us that those who are TV addicts are more similarly to smoke cigarettes and marijuana. However, parents are not open in discussing issues such as birth control, sexually transmitted disease and sex and even schools are lacking to give information about sex education programs and due to such reasons, children are able to acquire sex information through watching TV. In a survey disclosed the fact that there were about 76 percent of teenagers attested that one intuition why young people indulge in sex because TV movies and programs make such thing as common and ordinary for their age group (see “Television” University of Michigan Health System).


“Television” University of Michigan Health System. Http://
2.   T Ball, P Avers. “A Brief History of Sex in Advertising”.

      3. Cited in “Sex Sells…No, Really!”

   4.   K. Stirtz. “For Most of Us, Sex Does Not Sell”. 


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Controversial Advertising. (2016, Aug 19). Retrieved from