Sex In Advertising: How Little Has Changed

Normally for a Throwback Thursday article we’d be discussing just how much has changed from the past until now. And that was truly my intention when I looked to tackle the topic of sex in advertising. However, as I did my research, I found that very little had actually changed. It’s interesting to me because I had some preconceived notions that our advertising had become more sexual in nature over the years, and I think others share this viewpoint. Let’s take a look back, then.


I only know what I know based on the world I live in, so I can’t really speak to what innuendo existed back when this Pontiac ad was run. However, looking at it through today’s eyes, I see a huge implication that Pontiac was selling a back seat large enough to have comfortable intercourse in. The phrase “Spread Your Legs” plastered across the bottom of the add only reinforces the idea further. Maybe it’s me, but it looks like Pontiac was selling to young, single men looking for a good way to avoid the cost of a hotel. But how have things changed, if at all? Have a look at this BMW pre-owned vehicle ad, and you tell me.


BMW seems to be making a correlation between diving cars and having sex with women, suggesting that getting a pre-owned vehicle is like sleeping with a non-virgin. They make the distinction that you’ve got to stay protected. Maybe I’m reading too far in to this, but it seems that they’re relating their “Premium Selection” vehicles to women who’ve “been tested”, implying that they’re safer than the rest.

Clearly both of these advertisements are aimed at men, and both work their hardest at associating their vehicle with sex. I imagine each ad did a fine job, considering the former popularity of Pontiac and the current popularity if BMW. It’s also clear that the use of sex in advertising hasn’t changed at all in the past 40-60 years. But is it as effective as they’d like us to believe? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.