Un-Sexy Products That Are Sold With Sexy Ads

September 20th 2015

For a good time, don’t skip the commercial breaks. Companies have used sex to entice consumers to buy everything from fast food to liquid plumber for over a century, but commercials today are more bizarre than ever.

Why does sex work so well?

Christopher Holmes Smith, Ph.D., is the Co-Director of Media, Economics & Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. Smith is an expert on marketing and consumer society, and says that short attention spans and somatic markers are the motivators for sexually-fueled advertisements.

"There’s so much media saturation out there, so many messages we’re bombarded with, obviously a major technique of advertisers and marketers is to use something like somatic markers," Smith tells ATTN:. "Something that sticks out as, 'Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that.'"

To sell a product, marketers first have to make sure you remember it. Sex is a time-honored somatic marker, Smith says, and well-placed markers trigger recall.

And, there’s no sign of companies slowing down. The University of Georgia (UGA) published a study in 2012 suggesting that sex in advertising is actually on the rise.

“Advertisers use sex because it can be very effective,” researcher Tom Reichert said, according to Science Daily. "Sex sells because it attracts attention. People are hard-wired to notice sexually relevant information, so ads with sexual content get noticed."

It’s relevant to note that products themselves don’t have to be sexy—just their advertisements. Here are some of the most ridiculous ads used to sell un-sexy products from the last few years.


In 2008, Widex used a conventionally attractive young white woman to sell their product. The commercial implies that using Widex hearing aids will make you feel like you’re sauntering through a glistening pool of water instead of gliding down an escalator:


In 2012, Eva Longoria taught us that you can bring a striptease to your living room with Sheba’s “Follow Your Passion” cat food:


Folger’s coffee released a 2009 Christmas ad with what some people called incestuous undertones. The ad inspired tweets and Tumblr posts that gained enough traction that the Daily Dot actually published an entire article on the topic called "How to talk to your family about that Folgers incest commercial."


Lotrimin uses masturbation to sell their foot fungal cream in this 2015 commercial:


This year, the Rug Doctor is encouraging Americans to do more to bring pleasure to their carpets. “Clean deeper, feel better”:


Carl’s Jr. is well-known for its commercials that feature scantily-clad celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kate Upton to sell their burgers. Here is a montage of Carl’s Jr. commercials, all of which utilize sex and skin to market their product:

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