Duke It Out: Does Sex Sell?

[It’s pretty obvious that the average CollegeCandy reader has some very strong opinions. Opinions that she likes to share with everyone on the site. We love a strong woman (unless she happens to be charging at us with her fists raised), so we thought we’d give her a real forum to discuss her thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Every Friday I’ll be featuring a hot topic (like whether men and women can be just friends!) and leaving it up to you, the readers, to duke it out. So, read it and get your debate on in the comments section below!]

According to the old adage, sex sells. Plenty of companies on the market seem to operate under that idea, even ones that it doesn’t really make any sense for (um, how is my fabric softener sexy?). However, with American Apparel – a company known mainly for multi-colored tees, metallic leggings and having porntastic ads – circling the drain, it makes me wonder if the whole “sex sells” thing is just hype.

On one side, the idea that sex sells makes sense. We all want to be attractive and sexy, be surrounded by sexy people, do sexy things and maybe even have sex, so that seems like a pretty solid strategy for trying to sell stuff – appeal to the appetite. Also, the whole basic point of advertising in the first place is to attract people’s attention to a product, and while companies like American Apparel and Abercrombie (anyone remember when their ads were a big deal?) may not be showcasing their clothes as much as how provocative they can be, the ads do attract attention. By that logic, even if people don’t directly but their products because of what they saw in the ads, at least it makes people aware of the brand, and in turn more likely to shop there.

At the same time though, I can’t think of anyone I know who’s ever bought something because they saw it in an American Apparel ad. In fact, I’ve never heard of anyone buying anything from them because they thought it would somehow make them sexier, which seems to defeat concept number one. Also, if the idea it just to be as scandalous as possible to attract attention why even bother with the models? Why not, say, just make shocking accusations about historical figures, or put up a big sign telling people to go screw themselves or – oh! brilliant marketing idea! – be honest and tell people that you have overpriced crap merchandise? (Besides those luxurious t-shirts…mmmmm.) Seems like that would get just as much attention as a porn star in socks. And since their numbers are going down the toilet, it seems that the sexed up ads haven’t done much for their sales.

What do you think? Is “sex sells” tried and true, or is it about as real as the lashes in mascara commercials? Do you buy things because of sexy ads, or do you just ignore them? Duke it out!

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