The notion ‘Sex sells’ comes from a catchy marketing strategy that has been proliferated since the 1900’s in the aim of, not selling a product, but rather a ‘fantasy’ its use is implied to fulfil. As to the answer of why sex sells lays within the theory of Semiotics.
In short, Semiotics is the philosophy that connotes why symbols go beyond their commonsensical or ‘literal’ meanings. It discusses the relationship between what is represented (the signifier) and what it is connotative of as a result of our ideological and ‘personal’ associations of that sign (the signified).
For example, when looking at the Avon advertisement the viewer can claim there are a number of signifiers for e.g the woman and man, the perfume bottles and the text. Now although each signifier has stand-alone connotations, together they interact with one another to form complex relationships that give new meaning to the advertisement in its entirety, a ‘code’ per say, of the text. Some codes in fact are ‘intersubjective’ and shared mutually by members within cultures on account of their shared ideologies. This sometimes creates reactions to symbols that are so naturalised that what is signified ‘goes without saying’.
Upon first glance understanding the advertisement is selling perfume is a simple task. However by analysing the effects of each signifier surrounding the products, the agenda behind what it’s really trying to sell ,’sex’ (i.e a sexual fantasy), is even more blatant. Using the rule of thirds, the first image that catches our attention is Megan Fox as she stares directly back at the viewer. Her appearance – the signifier, fits directly into, what I think is a ‘naturalized’ code of sexual attractiveness and femininity- lightly tousled hair, blue eyes, natural makeup, sun-kissed skin. Using Megan Fox, a known ‘sex symbol’, Avon clearly employed this strategy in order to invoke a jealousy within viewers in hope of inciting their desire to look the same way as her; the way of achieving that beauty obviously being through their perfume.
The name ‘instinct’ itself and the subtext with the highlighted words “Wildest’, sensual, passionate , impulse, adventure‘ also promote the potential for a passionate affair which would ensue instinctively if a man came across the smell. This is as, through the portrayed relationship between the signifiers (the seductive woman and man), it is signified that the perfume incites pheromones in handsome males via spontaneously persuading them of the user’s beauty.
Thus from even the slightest analysis of this advertisement it is clear that society should made aware of the hidden agendas that can lay behind even the simplest of symbols. After all, sexual connotation is how ‘sex sells’.
You may also like to have a look at the opposing argument of semiotics. This argument focuses on the idea that the way humans react to advertisement is a matter of hormones, which, depending on their cycle, satisfies different needs and sexual fantasies that they concoct themselves and reflect onto advertisements what they want to see.
Mod Mullet Fragrance Campaigns : YSL Black Opium 2014 . 2016. Mod Mullet Fragrance Campaigns : YSL Black Opium 2014 . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/ysl-black-opium-2014. [Accessed 18 March 2016].