A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 09, 2012
“Sex sells” (advertising adage)

"Sex sells (products)” is an old advertising adage. Attractive actors might help sell a movie or a play to the public. Attractive people in advertisements catch the eye, sometimes luring the viewer into thinking that using the product will result in greater attractiveness to the opposite sex.

The term “sex appeal” and the slang initials “S.A.” were often used in the 1930s, especially in the movies. “Sex sells” has been cited in print since at least 1926.


Wikipedia: Sex in advertising
Sex in advertising or sex sells is the use of sexual or erotic imagery (also called “sex appeal") in advertising to draw interest to a particular product, for purpose of sale. A feature of sex in advertising is that the imagery used, such as that of a pretty woman, typically has no connection to the product being advertised. The purpose of the imagery is to attract the attention of the potential customer or user. The type of imagery that may be used is very broad, and would include nudity, cheesecake, and beefcake, even if it is often only suggestively sexual.

Google Books
Journal of Social Hygiene
Volume 12
1926
Pg. 550:
To the opportunist publisher and news dealer the main point is embodied in the slogan “Sex Sells.”

1 May 1937, Rockford (IL) Register-Republic, “Putting on Appeal” by Frances Morrin, Screen & Radio Weekly, pg. 5, col. 3:
Some shoes have sex appeal. (...) They may not be exactly philanthropic since they know darn well that sex sells, but even so they do their sympathetic best by us.

Google Books
Printers’ Ink
Volume 178
1937
Pg. 16:
“Most of all,” says a recent newspaper interview wit ha man whose business is supplying models to advertisers, “is sex appeal. Remember this: Sex sells goods. Sex sells cigarettes and clothing and cars and coughdrops.”
Pg. 17:
PERHAPS the brisk sale of publications preoccupied with sex appeal proves the essential verity of the current dogma that sex sells goods — or perhaps it merely indicates a public willingness to respond to whatever chord of its character ...

Google Books
Lucid Interval:
Confessions of a custodian of the convictions of others

By Frank Irving Fletcher
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
1938
Pg. 168:
The fact remains, sex sells goods.

Google Books
Upper Room on Main Street
By Harold Blake Walker
New York, NY: Harper
1954
Pg. 145:
Judging by modern advertising copy sex sells anything — soap, automobiles, tobacco or Mack Trucks — indiscriminately.

Google Books
Since You Ask Me
By Ann Landers
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
1961
Pg. 39:
In an unhealthy way the subject of sex has been overworked on the screen, on the stage and on TV and radio. The glamour of “sex appeal” screams at us from the billboards. Sex sells soap, perfume, coffee, automobiles, mattresses, beer, mouth wash. hair tonic, deodorants and cigarettes. The big idea is to be “desirable” so someone will “love” you.

Google Books
Sin, Sex, and Self-Control
By Norman Vincent Peale
Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications
1965
Pg. 58:
Day and night the merchants of sex work on an almost defenseless public. Their cynical conviction that “sex sells” leers from every movie marquee, every newsstand, every bookstall.

Google News Archive
11 October 1965, The Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), “George Is Popped,” pg. 16, col. 6:
Jensen (Robert Jensen, a sculptor—ed.) said “no intention to offend was involved when I made it. It was just sort of a satire of what they tell you when you study advertising—‘sex sells’.”

Google News Archive
31 March 1966, Florence (AL) Times, pg. 10, col. 4:
Art Museum
Learns Fact:
Sex Sells

By JAMES BACON
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles County Museum of Art now knows a hard fact of show business—nothing sells tickets like sex.

Google Books
Challenging Ideas in Education
By Howard Ozmon
Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Pub. Co.
1967
Pg. 108: 
Manufacturers and sponsors realized a long time ago, even before Vance Packard, that sex sells products.

OCLC WorldCat record
Sex Sells… But Is It Science?
Author: JACOBS MADELEINE
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: Chemical & Engineering News, v74 n20 (19960513): 3
Database: CrossRef

OCLC WorldCat record
Sex(ism) in Advertising - Sex sells, but what are we buying?
Author: Anne Telford
Publisher: [Palo Alto, Calif., Coyne & Blanchard] 1969-
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: Communication arts. 39, no. 5, (1997): 84
Database: ArticleFirst
Other Databases: British Library Serials

OCLC WorldCat record
Sex sells! : the media’s journey from repression to obsession
Author: Rodger Streitmatter
Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Westview Press, 2004.
Edition/Format:  Book : English
Summary: “Sex Sells! illuminates the arc from repression to obsession, showing how sexual mores have changed during the last five decades. Not only does the author examine the broad range of media genres that have reflected this libidinous journey, but he also shows how the media have played a leading role in propelling the Sexual Revolution. Streitmatter argues that much of the media’s sexual content is actually beneficial, because it gives parents and educators a way to broach difficult subjects like AIDS, sexual identity, and appropriate sexual behavior."--Jacket.

Time magazine
Sex Sells. Here’s Why We Buy
By M.J. Stephey Thursday, May 21, 2009
Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior
Geoffrey Miller
Viking, 483 pages

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • (2) Comments • Monday, April 09, 2012 • Permalink


Sex is everywhere now. Specially on TV (ads and movies), on the internet, magazines, etc. It is the real proof that sex sells.

Posted by roy  on  04/10  at  01:19 PM

Don’t you feel like as time keeps passing that the media pushes the whole sex appeal thing further and further? I mean even when I was growing up in the 90s there wasn’t as much skin on tv as I see now. Sex is everywhere. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a clever ad that has nothing to do with sex appeal and everything to do with wit.

Posted by tina@123inkjets  on  06/14  at  03:50 PM

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