The Ethical Dilemma of Sexual Appeal in Advertising Essay

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Justin D. Clegg
Comms 300 Media Law
M. Driessen

The Ethical Dilemma of Sexual Appeal in Advertising

The old adage “sex-sells” is an assumption that has caused an ethical dilemma in a fast moving world filled with media consumers and advertising. The use of sexual appeal in advertising has increased dramatically in the United States within the last decade. Its misuse and pervasiveness surround us every day and elicit powerful emotions by individuals of all ages, both male and female. Sex in advertising has been around for years and continues to drive media messages in society simply because it works. Ads with sexual appeal are more attention getting, arousing and memorable. A single male college student is far more likely to
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A company’s future earnings are dramatically impacted by teenagers who like my dad, formed brand opinions at an early age and later “grow up in the brand.” In a book written by James McNeal, he said “if you can buy a 24 year old, you can get all his friends absolutely free.” Advertising is a profession that reflects and molds cultural values and standards in more ways than we may think. Because of advertising’s ability to affect the way people view themselves in the world that surrounds them, it is one of the business functions that receives the most ethical scrutiny. Advertising messages create a lot of debatable ethical issues because the public believes that advertisements affect the way people see themselves and can crucially affect their actions. In 2011, the Journal of Business Ethics summarized reasons why people complain about advertising. The reasons included teaching the idea that happiness comes from possessing valuable things, creating false values in society, causing individuals to be more easily persuaded by distracting them through entertainment and by the use of puffery or exaggerations to make their products appear better than they are. Another reason people complained about advertising was the fact that it is too preoccupied with exploiting sexuality and the human body to persuade people. The question to be asked is
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