Thursday, October 23, 2008

Psych of Ads and Thoughts of Sex

Garrett Hopkins

TA: Kate Brant

The Psychology of Advertisement

Anyone who has ever taken a psychology class has studied Sigmund Freud. One of his most notable contributions to the study of the mind is his declaration that all actions and thoughts can be linked to our sex drive. Knowing this information, and knowing psychology and advertisement are hand-in-hand, there is no wonder as to why so many commercials use sex as a way to promote their product. I almost feel lazy using a sexual ad for this paper noting its’ obviousness, but nonetheless it has proven to be a great example. I chose an ad from Axe Body Spray. It’s their original ad if I’m not mistaken. Axe is a strongly scented body spray, and this ad depicts people having just completed an unknown sexual act in an odd place, at an odd time. I believe that this ad is tapping into the Freudian theory of “constant sexual thought” by showing that people who use the product have a chance to engage sexually at any time quite sporadically, and causes a subliminal urge to partake in activities like this.

The ad begins with music I can only describe as “risky”. We see a few young women emerging from miscellaneous places, such as a dressing room, a tennis court and an airplane bathroom. They all are looking around nervously and they all have imprints of random signs on their backs. One girl has a car wheel…another has a no-smoking sign… We are left with the impression that they were just engaged in a sexual act with their backs pressed up against that object/sign.

The last scene is the girl exiting the airplane bathroom. After she nervously walks out, fixes her hair and walks past the camera (revealing a no-smoking sign imprinted on her back), a guy walks out after her, looking like he just had the time of his life. His face is red, his hair is messy and he has a slight grin. It’s clear he just got some. As he too turns and walks off camera, the words appear. “It can happen anywhere.” That phrase pretty much sums up the entire message of the commercial. The next shot is a guy in the bathroom spraying on Axe, and as a confident male voice says “The Axe Effect”, those words appear front and center along side an actual bottle of the product.

This is a very effective add. It cleanly connects with our sex drives, both for men and women, whether we like it or not. Along with having sexual images, such as women in bikinis, the ultimate message is extremely sexual as well. “It can happen anywhere”. “It” is our ultimate desire and purpose in life, if you want to go there. We think about “it” all the time, whether we know it or not, so the prospect that it could happen at anytime is a very intelligent way to promote a product. My secondary ad backs up this point.

The ad is for Trojan Condoms. A man in a tuxedo knocks on a door and is greeted by a very attractive woman in a red dress. After we learn this is his wedding day and the woman is the bride’s sister, the woman pulls him inside and shuts the door. She tells him she wants him once for herself before he marries her sister. The woman says it’ll be their secret and walks toward the steps, undressing as she walks. It is obvious the guy thinks it is a good idea and is down for the adventure. He runs out to his car to grab a condom from his glove box, but as he reaches for them, we hear clapping and cheering. The promiscuous groom looks around, only to find the entire family of the bride looking very happy. Her father walks up and says, “I just had to know what kind of man you are. You passed the test. I’m proud to call you son.”

This ad too highlights the hopefulness most men have toward spontaneous, risky sex. Not just for men, but women too, because to me the sister looks a little disappointed at the end. Though it is not necessarily saying the product will bring this spontaneous sex upon the consumer, like the Axe ad is, this one still deals with the same psychological quirk all humans share. Both ads are painting a picture of one of our deepest desires and making them seem available AND common. Both really make random sexual encounters seem easily obtainable. In both, the male “victim” is an ordinary looking fellow, giving off a familiar day-to-day vibe. Every single woman is extremely good looking. This connects with that familiar “day-to-day” guy. It finds the part of their mind that is constantly seeking sexual pleasure, and reminds it that deep down, it truly wouldn’t mind hooking up with a very attractive woman. After connecting and grabbing hold of attention, the ad then explains how their product can help them achieve this.

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