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Sex Sells
Because bracelets make great beachwear.

Girls with nice hands help selling rings, bracelets, gloves, nail polish... Girls with nice legs help selling stockings, shoes, pantyhose... Girls with nice breasts help selling bras, swimsuits, shirts, TV sets, cars, washing machines, cookies, video games...
Folklore

Here's a question for you. Say you have a new product or an old product in new packaging. You want to sell a lot of it and you want to sell it quickly. How? Do you describe it exactly how it is on the tin? Do you try to compare to other products? No way. Just think about it: you want people to buy what you sell. People buy what they like. People like sex. So you should equate what you sell with sex! Easy as pie...served by bikini-clad models.

That is, you use a sexy image on an advertisement to sell the product. The thing is that the product has almost nothing to do with the image. It's simply an attention grabber, or something that causes a Pavlovian response that associates the product with sex.

Also note that, while it is generally acknowledged that sex sells, in most places it's illegal to actually sell it. Furthermore, some studies suggest that sex doesn't sell, inasmuch as while people remember the commercial quite vividly afterwards, they forget the product.

A Super Trope to Fanservice, Sexy Packaging, Sex for Product, Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game.

A Sister Trope to Rule of Sexy.

Compare Subliminal Advertising. Sexposition is this principle applied to exposition.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • The most famous stereotypical form of this is likely the beer commercials with girls in bikinis.
  • Former Trope Namer: the notorious UK "Hello Boys" poster campaign for Wonderbra featuring model Eva Herzigova.
  • Then there are hot models draped over cars.
    • Or if it's Up Marketing, women in fancy clothes, but still looking beautiful.
  • Frequently overlaps with Celebrity Endorsement when the celebrity is a current sex symbol.
  • An ad for a perfume called "Eden" featured a topless woman prancing about in a lush jungle environment. It can be seen on Youtube if you enter the keywords "eden" and "cacharel".
  • Adverts for Axe (or Lynx, depending on the country you live) products. All of them. Their entire marketing campaign revolves around this trope.
  • There's another ad for Levis' 501 jeans or something to that effect which features two "teenagers" stripping down and talking to each other about trust. Then they jump in the water. Cue gratuitous Panty Shot. Male Gaze no kidding.
  • A Carl's Jr. ad with Paris Hilton.
  • Herbal Essences ads. Or any shampoo/conditioner/soap or "body wash" really. It's all the same basic principle "THINK ABOUT SEX! THINK ABOUT SEX! Now that's got your attention - shampoo."
    • And by extension, any shaving device. Male ones, after cutting from the begoggled nerds in lab coats who supposedly invented the thing, always have a nice shot of a chiseled chin, along with a Shirtless Scene that involves various amounts abs. Female ones rarely never show anything besides the woman's long shapely legs.
    • Probably referenced in an early episode of The Simpsons where Bart is running for Class President. Homer has a good idea for an campaign poster: SEX! Now that I have your attention, vote for Bart!
    • Explicitly referenced in the one where Homer gets a job writing fortune cookie fortunes: one he pitches is "You will be aroused by a shampoo commercial" - the owner pauses, says that's not bad, then gives him the job.
    • And of course, the Old Spice ads, which simultaneously parody this phenomenon and play it straight with their buff male protagonist/announcer. "Anything is possible when your man uses Old Spice body wash. I'm on a horse."
  • There's an advert currently running for Aero in which a man wrapped in a towel explains suggestively what makes Aeros so nice. It's lampshaded at the end of the advert; two women in voiceover converse thus:
    Oh, so that's why Aeros are so bubbly and delicious.
    Hrm?
    You know, like he just said.
    • There's also a funny advert running for Air Max, where a beautiful women, with big breasts and booty, gets her clothes blown off by opening packages. She is left standing in front of the two men butt naked, and the last frame shown is her naked butt.
  • There is this Miller Lite commercial (and its sequel, complete with lampshade hanging)
  • There is an Italian commercial featuring beautiful women draped over...coffins. Cause you know, that's exactly what I'd be thinking about right before I die.
  • In Taiwan, selling betelnuts is done by pretty young women who attract customers by wearing very, very skimpy clothing. Just to make sure everyone gets a good view, they sit in transparent, brightly lit booths on the side of the roads.
  • The advertisements and box art for X3: Reunion featured a woman in a somewhat revealing costume. The kicker is X3 is a space trading and combat sim notorious for its 'cockpits-eye view' even when docked at a station. Excluding a couple of cutscenes, the player literally never interacts face-to-face with any other characters, including the box-art woman.
  • This French commercial goes over the top, using computer animated furries in a very suggestive and well choreographed song and dance. Includes sensual dancing, bouncy breasts, Scenery Censor, and lots of splashing fluids and climactic imagery. What is it all about? Orangina Juice! Later commercials however have become milder compared to that one though.
  • Ads running on this very site for an Age of Empires/Civilization rip-off freeware game called Evony frequently spend most of their ad space up with a picture of a scantily-clad woman (or rather just her torso) and the comment, "Your queen awaits, my Lord." Of course, going to the site and playing the game will make you realize that there is no queen in the game.
    • "Come play now, my lord".
    • And that's one of their earlier ads. Their later adverts? There are no words.
    • As far as ads for similar games on this wiki are concerned, see also Flyff, Perfect World, Shaiya, Last Chaos, Legend of Mir3, Mabinogi, The Seventh Dragon, Kingdom Heroes, Rappelz, League of Angels, and no doubt a few that have dropped off the map. (Remember that one with the blissful elf chick in the leather underwear? What was that called?) However, Evony has left them all way behind at this point.
    • The Civony/Evony ads are cheaply parodied (how else could you parody it?) by an Alteil ad where the skinsuit elf girl has a caption that says "She is actually in our game, my lord".
    • AdventureQuest isn't exactly innocent of this tactic, although their ads look perfectly tasteful compared to the competition, but they have also parodied Evony's "play discreetly" campaign. "Pants, m'lord?"
    • An Aika Online advertisement had a woman with a very Stripperiffic set of armor, where the breast cups were upside down, a ring at the bottom of the cups (blank skin only showed preventing any naughty bits), and straps going downwards. The images were quickly altered by moving the guy next to her so his sword and shield now hides the Fail.
    • The Evony ads are parodied in this Plants vs. Zombies ad.
    • There are also similar "here's a scantily-clad babe who TOTALLY is in our game!" ads floating around for a "Wartune" RPG that proclaim "MALE GAMERS ONLY" and "ADULT CONTENT". They're not even trying to hide the egregious Double Standard here.
  • In the same vein as Evony, there's an animated ad on this wiki for a game apparently called Pristontale2, consisting of your standard blue-skinned Amazon in a backwards corset breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out...
  • Ads where ladies wear fur coats and swimsuits, although they are not as popular now for obvious reasons.
  • A few years back there was a commercial where they had a couple making out while going down in an elevator while a security guard watches giving them looks when they get out of the elevator. In the end, what's the ad for? Dasani Bottled Water
  • The exploitative undertones of PETA's anti-fur campaigns. Yes, naked models are so beneficial to animal liberation.
  • Every Grand Theft Auto game (since the third) features a beautiful woman on the cover of the box art, despite the fact that they don't actually appear in the game. The one exception is the hooker in III (Misty), whose role is extremely minor. Considering that each game always has a few significant female characters, you'd think they'd use one of them.
    • In China Town Wars, the sexy Ling appears on both the cover and a poster included with the game. She survives for barely one mission.
    • The woman on the cover of The Ballad of Gay Tony (Joni) appears in-game.
      • And you can have sex with her.
  • The Green M&M, straight-up. Cree Summer's sultry voice only makes you want to bite into her all the more.
    • Although the bit of American teen girl folklore that "eating green M&Ms makes you horny" precedes the commercials by at least five years, so once the company started producing commercials with anthropomorphized M&Ms this became a sort of Ascended Fanon.
  • Reebok sells sneakers, right? Right. Then they created the EasyTone and decided to sell sex instead.
  • The Sun is quite (in)famous for its use of its topless Page Three Stunna to sell propaganda.
  • Aksys' marketing of Record Of Agarest War played up the Fanservice to absurd levels, including a fake "censored" ad, and a pillowcase and "boob" ergonomic mousepad packaged with the special edition. It's actually a Dating Sim/Strategy RPG with levels of Fanservice reaching the high end of normal for a Dating Sim — it can get pretty thick at times, but you're not going to be tripping over suggestive scenes every five seconds like they make it seem.
  • Go Daddy.com ads are this, with a level of unapologetic blatancy that is hard to describe.
  • One really weirdass commercial for Overstock.com had the spokeswoman listing things you could buy on the site in the form of "it's all about the [product or value of the product]" or something along these lines. It's perfectly normal until the very last shot before the logo screen, where the spokeswoman appears to be wearing nothing but a gold necklace for some reason, and saying "But sometimes, it's all about the gold." The only reason I can think for her to be naked is to emphasize that it really is all about the gold.
    • That may have been a transitional commercial. When Overstock.com started, they called themselves the big O, and made commercials with the obvious entendre. People thought they were a sex site.
  • A Head & Shoulders advert aimed at men turns a simple shower into pure Fetish Fuel when six nurses burst into the shower to aid his shampoo efforts. You might wonder what attractive uniformed ladies with sexy curves have to do with washing your hair. That is if you even remember what the ad was selling once it started.
  • An ad several years ago in South Africa featured women in Victoria's Secret-esque lingerie and underwear, frequently draping themselves over mounds of...chocolate.
  • A Honda commercial has a rather subtle example: Animated mascot Mr. Opportunity has a live action girlfriend on his arm as he talks about the car company's annual clearance. When he says "It's the only thing from Honda that won't last," his girlfriend giggles.
    • In an for their newly redesigned minivan, Honda has a couple walking out (presumably from a dinner or function as they're dressed in evening clothes) and seeing a red minivan (theirs?) with rose petals spilling out the door, champagne on ice between the seats, the super-high-tech entertainment system playing Luther Vandross, and the rear cargo space filled with oysters on the half-shell. The couple smile suggestively at each other and walk towards the car (ignoring that having purchased a minivan in the first place is tacit admission that your sex life is over.)
  • Ads for Rappelz show a woman wearing Stripperiffic armor and the slogan "Discover the luscious hills and valleys of Rappelz.
  • There's a commercial for POM, a pomegranate juice, which has a naked woman lying somewhat on her side but managing to avoid showing anything with a python lying on her.
  • Oddly enough, Japanese musician and bishonen Gackt was used to promote Metal Gear Solid 2. He appeared in the Japanese commercials and there is also a dogtag in the game with his name on it. This is despite the fact that Gackt himself had nothing to do with the game and didn't even sing a theme song for it.
  • A UK advertisement used models seductively posing in their underwear to sell sofas. That's right, sofas.
  • Political rather than product sale, but Yuliya Tymoshenko intentionally and openly flaunts her sex appeal to bank more voters. She's one of the country's most powerful politicians, so it works.
  • An internet game called Soccer Star (advertised on this very site). If having a buxom blonde in a soccer ball bikini top weren't enough, the "balls" shimmer and even briefly enlarge, meant to draw your eyes toward them.
  • The Man Your Man Could Smell Like is technically Sex for Product, since the message of the ad is that if your man uses Old Spice, he'll be like the Old Spice Man. Then again, it's the Old Spice Man.
  • Lampshaded in an old joke about an Eskimo who wrote to Sears and Roebuck to complain that the product he ordered hadn't come with the beautiful model that was sitting on it. Variations of that joke are probably in diverse places.
    • During the Winter War Finnish propaganda leaflets promising large sums of money to defectors had come with pictures of models. One historian invokes that jokes by claiming that the few Russians to accept were rather disappointed.
  • Too many webcomics to count just advertise with a drawing of a hot chick while saying little or nothing about the actual comic.
  • Anybody who's cracked open a radio control car magazine at some point has probably come across a full page ad for Acer Racing consisting of a woman in lingerie, possibly with the product (ball bearings) positioned inconspicuously about her person.
  • As far as movie trailers go, chances are that if it's a comedy or action movie, or just a film that's there to make quick money, the T&A will be heavily marketed. If a male character has a shirtless scene, it's going in the trailer. Ditto for female underwear scenes or even skimpy clothing. Examples:
    • Constantine gave clear focus to Keanu Reeves appearing shirtless. He is shirtless for about a minute onscreen.
    • Good Luck Chuck heavily marketed it as being a Jessica Alba film despite her being a secondary character.
    • The Almost Famous poster with Kate Hudson showing off her long legs. (Interestingly, she shows off more than that in the actual film.)
    • You'd be lucky to find a shot of the actors (including the aforementioned Miss Alba) wearing clothes in the trailer for Into The Blue. Not that they wear much clothes in the movie either...
    • The King Arthur poster not only had Guinevere in her battle costume front and center (she's about third in terms of character importance), they photoshopped Keira Knightley's breasts to look bigger. They also did the same thing to Emma Watson on one of the posters for Order of the Phoenix and Kate Hudson on the poster for Fool's Gold.
    • S1mone had the titular character nude on the poster when she doesn't even appear nude in the film.
  • This is the main reason many visual novels have shoehorned-in sex scenes despite well-done and engaging plots. Updated rereleases with the sex scenes removed coming out once the creators have "paid their dues", so to speak, are not uncommon.
  • Many gaming/comic/other conventions and expos are heavily populated with "booth babes"—young women hired entirely for their ability to stand around and almost violate the dress code, theoretically attracting lustful customers.
  • A commercial for a dry skin lotion shows a woman making flirtatious expressions and dancing in her underwear while the camera zooms in on her stomach, back, bare shoulders, legs, and feet to a jaunty rendition of "Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes". It's been described as the most upbeat striptease on television.
  • Wendy's for decades was all about the wholesome ads featuring the founder, Dave Thomas, occasionally mentioning his daughter Wendy (the namesake of the restaurant chain), who appeared much later on. As of April 2012, the ads feature a very attractive young 20-something redhead that looks more like what people are more likely to think (or in some cases, hope) an adult version of the cute perky redheaded child on the logo looks like. Oddly enough, this hot and sexy "Wendy" looks nothing like the real Wendy, but as the trope says, sex sells.
    • Oddly, the real Wendy Thomas—who goes by her married name Morse—is in her 50s, is built like her father was, and otherwise looks like a pretty typical suburban momnote —started appearing in commercials in 2010-11, and these ads have continued to air alongside the "perky young Wendy" spots. These tend to focus on the freshness of the ingredients, rather than the "young Wendy" commercials, which flog specific meals. Sometimes these commercials air back-to-back, particularly when the real Wendy commercial is pitching the chain's promotions involving the adoption charity her father started.
  • A series of ads for potato chips displays a trail of them across the floor of a darkened house, accompanied by a trail of removed clothing, until finally disappearing into the bedroom or leading up to the bed. The implication, obviously, is that "these chips will give you sex". (For best results, imagine that phrase spoken in the voice of a Latin Lover.)
  • Done actually quite well in one advert featuring Rachel Stevens, writhing around half naked on a bed and inviting watching men to put their hand down their trousers and play with their balls... to check for the first tell-tale signs of testicular cancer.
  • A rather bizarre example from a Swedish car commercial features two ladybugs engage quite wildly inside a car, rocking the entire thing and drawing gazes from people on the street.
  • Like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian above, Kate Upton takes this trope and runs with it for Carl's Jr.
  • An Israeli campaign from 2003 for breast cancer awareness invoked this by showing a close-up photo of a cleavage:
    • This campaign was harshly criticised for using this Trope, and was parodised in a contemporary comedy show:
    ‘Some commercials use this with no reason We have an excellent reason: we’re horny!
  • One of PETA's anti-animal cruelty campaigns had fetish model and PETA member Ancilla Tilia doing a burlesque show, suddenly interrupted by her getting blasted out of the frame by a gunshot. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • This ad from late 1990s Russia. Woman's buttocks covered with something white (hopefully flour, dough or hoarfrost) and a slogan "Your favourite pelmeshki" (meat dumplings sold frozen). Makes perfect sense, since said dumplings are the stereotypic food of unmarried men who don't like to cook. By the way, the ad agency charged the client extra to cover possible fines for public indecency, but that proved unnecessary. Also worth mentioning that the frozen food company was then owned by a man, who maintains a public image of The Wonka.

     Anime and Manga 

    Comedy 
  • Comedian Bill Hicks believed the eventual evolution of this trope would be this:
    "Here's the woman's body. Beautiful. Camera pulls back. Naked breasts. Camera pulls back. She's totally naked, legs apart, two fingers right here...and it just says, 'Drink Coke.' Now I don't know the connection here, but Coke is on my shopping list this week."
  • The Russian show "Yesterday Live" has an ad parody where a girl is shown, and a voice says "First you tried to get a tan in a one piece swimsuit, and there were tan lines (shown). Then a bikini, and there were still tan lines (shown). And then, you tried to go topless-", at which point the girl starts complaining "Why should I go topless for a toothpaste ad?"

    Fan Fic 
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, with regards to the fall of the Equinus Republic, the Lemony Narrator's reasoning behind why Celestia had to keep such an event quiet was that if ponies realized that democracy led to sexy orgies, that would totally support it, or at least pay bits for it.

    Film 
  • In Big Trouble, Eliot Arnold (Tim Allen) has a small advertising firm and the Client From Hell who wants to advertise his beer. The client insists that the beer display be "You have a guy in a boat with a girl, she's in a bikini, she has big tits, they're on a boat, and they're getting hammered! With Hammerhead! The feeling of this ad is, somebody's gonna get laid! In the background swimming around is a shark! The girl has REALLY big tits!".

    Literature 
  • Naked Came the Stranger is a notorious hoax novel that was written by a team of journalists led by Mike McGrady in 1969. McGrady believed that American culture had sunken so low that anything sex-filled would be seen as desirable, so he plotted to write a disgusting sex-filled romance novel that was deliberately poorly-written to prove his theory. His theory was proven correct; once the word was out that the novel was a hoax, it quickly became popular.
  • In "The Republic of SHKID", two students attempt to create a toy cinema (or, rather, a slide show) for entertainment. At first, it's quite popular among other students, but once they decide to charge money, the amount of visits drops dramatically. So they decide to make an adult movie. People do come, a lot of them... but the next day, they are reported to the headmaster.
  • Common in works of Stanislaw Lem, especially humorous and satirical ones. For example in The Washing Machine Tragedy (from Memoirs of a Space Traveler) washing machine makers start with giving their machines sexy voices and rudimentary AI, but the competition quickly leads to sexy robotic maids who start, ahem, to provide other services (as well as seduce children and rob banks).

    Live Action TV 
  • In an episode of Friends, where Chandler is interviewing for a job with an advertising agency, one of the interviewees has an idea for a shoe commercial that ends with: "...and then the girls get out of the hot tub, and start making out!" The interviewer replies, "Very interesting, except for one problem. You forgot to mention the shoes."
  • In Mad Men, Don Draper describes this expression as over-simplifying things. Basically, he argues, people want to be the product. So, people buying perfume want to be Gwyneth Paltrow.
    • More specifically, in a scene when he tells Peggy to use less sexual imagery in an ad for an airline, she quotes the trope name at him (essentially parroting back what he said at a meeting earlier that day), and he responds sharply: "Says who? Just so you know, the people who talk that way think that monkeys can do this."
  • An in story example can be seen in Queer as Folk with Brian Kinney being the supposedly great commercial producer, though he's really a one-trick pony. Selling booze? use the sex angle. Selling Viagra? The sex angle. A charity carnival? Make it sexy. A Republican campaign? Use the sex angle!
    • Well it's not his only approach; it's just the one that works best. He does do campaigns that aren't sold by sex. Notably, the first time we see him working he tells the two men presenting their idea to him that the man is TOO attractive for the (ugly as hell) shoe they're trying to sell, and that they should make the campaign less flashy. Also, he mentions having to create an ad for baby wipes, and Brian may be plenty of things, especially sexually but he is not that kind of pervert.
  • After Michael left The Office, James Spader played one of the applicants interviewed to replace him. When asked how he would sell paper, he explained that "There is no such thing as a product. Don't ever think there is. There is only sex. Everything is sex." After he left the room, Jim commented that "He creeps me out... but I think he might be a genius."
  • On Boy Meets World, Shawn gets a job as the assistant to an advertising executive and is asked to come up with ideas from a toothpaste campaign. Shawn think of a "sexy fresh breath" campaign but Cory recommends he choose a bacteria-based campaign because "sex does not sell". Shawn of course chooses the sexy breath one which the boss ends up liking.
  • Who's the Boss?: Tony takes an advertising class and makes a commercial for women's shampoo using a sexy lady coming out of the shower in just a small towel. Then Angela, who actually works in advertising, points out that his commercial won't actually sell the product because it's marketing to men but the product is for women.
  • Lampshaded when an episode of Top Gear has Clarkson and May make commercials for a VW Scirocco Diesel. Setting up a scene, Clarkson tells an attractive actress she should be wearing a bikini. Then, he remembers they're supposed to be filming a funeral scene; he immediately changes it to "a black bikini."

    Music 
  • The Switchfoot song "Easier Than Love" discusses this trope.

    Pinball 
  • Bally's Playboy pinball is an unabashed excuse to put lots of scantily-clad women on a pinball machine. And it worked, becoming the fourth-best-selling table of all time.
    • Data East tried the same thing with their Playboy 35th Anniversary pinball, but it didn't work for them — fewer than 2,400 tables were sold.
    • Played painfully straight with Stern Pinball's Playboy; not only does it support fully-nude Playmates in the game itself, but advertisements depict several scantily-clad Playmates hiding behind the table.
  • Viper is memorable for two things: its rotating pinball-shooter turret, and the sexy chrome Fembot on the backglass.
    • Similarly, Iron Maiden (by the same artist) is most noted for the attractive cyborg woman on the backglass.
  • Black Rose is a milder case, with Captain Rose herself depicted on the backglass illogically wearing a red corset into battle. A fully topless "X-rated" version of the illustration was also proposed for European markets, but it was never produced.
  • One of the premium versions of AC/DC is the "Luci" edition, with the backglass and cabinet decorated with the Horny Devil girl Luci and her friends. Near as anyone can tell, the only reason for this edition is to invoke this trope.
  • Zaccaria's Farfalla is famous for the sexy, near-nude butterfly fairy on its backglass.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Also mocked in the Dilbert episode The Infomercial, where the eponymous infomercial for the Gruntmaster 6000 features a beautiful blond model in a pink bathing suit, and the Pointy-Haired Boss trying to talk about the actual product, but he kept fainting and conking his head against the ground due to the sight of her.
    Loud Howard: (about the commercial) I'VE ONLY SEEN IT ONE TIME, AND ALREADY I WANT TO DATE THAT MODEL AND SUFFER HEAD TRAUMA!
  • The Simpsons: When Bart runs for class president, he puts up a poster that reads "SEX! Now that I have your attention, vote Bart.
  • In the second-season premiere of The Legend of Korra, Verrick uses the newly-invented movie camera to film Ginger the showgirl striking different poses, and says that movies should have "romance."


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alternative title(s): Sexy Bait; Hello Boys
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