Some advertising isn't directly lying to you, but it misrepresents the truth. Is that still considered a lie? Take the following example into consideration.
Robbie is so clumsy. He is always banging his toe on table and chair legs around the house. But when clumsy Robbie buys our super slippers, they protect his toes! A piano falls through the ceiling and lands on Robbie's foot, and he just grins at the camera and gives a thumbs up.
No one directly said that the super slippers would protect Robbie from falling pianos, so is it wrong for the consumer to take that away from the ad? Is this, perhaps, such a hyperbole that it is foolish to believe a slipper could protect a foot from a falling piano? This may be the case in this example, but where does one draw the line?
In my opinion, if the ad is obviously making you do a double-take, it's fine to stretch the truth a little to get your point across. A slipper protecting a foot from a piano is almost comedic, and no one actually believes that could be true, so airing that ad would not be unethical. To elude that the slipper protects the toes from all chair and table leg injuries if it had no such quality, however, would definitely be unethical.
Sex Sells, But Who's Buying?
Meet ugly Toby and hot Lauren. Ugly Toby doesn't use our brand of body spray, but as soon as hot Lauren sprays him with our signature scent, he becomes the stud Tobias, and hot Lauren is all over him.
We've all seen this ad before right? The cookie-cutter formula proves that indeed, sex sells, whether we're aware of it or not.
The trick is, seeing an attractive person talking up a product, or an attractive person using a product triggers a reaction in our brains, whether we realize it or not. It begins an association between the product and being an attractive person. As shown in the example, an unattractive person becoming attractive after using a product helps make that same association. Rather than directly changing our perspective on the product, the advertising works subtly.
The truth of the matter is sex sells. Many celebrities have been fighting this for a long time, but so many still oblige because it's what their managers and producers expect them to do. In this article by Huffington Post, it talks about why this is such an unfortunate truth in our society today.
Is this ethical? Technically, the advertisers aren't lying about anything. In my opinion, selling a product without a strong point beyond sex is unethical, but to avoid sex appeal entirely might be a missed opportunity. If one is able to sell a product on merit alone, I see nothing wrong with an attractive individual being strategically placed to help coerce the buyer. It's just smart advertising, right?
What do you think about the ethics of advertising using sex appeal? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.