how do different age groups feel about ads when they see them? What is the likehood that each age group will be influenced by the sex images?
Yes, as someone mentioned, sex does sell. However, I find many commercials ridiculous, and while they are difficult to avoid, I love the Mute button. Maybe it's because I'm no longer so impressionable, but I find it annoying (or sometimes extremely funny) to see how advertisers try to get the public to buy.
As in life, if you can make me laugh, you have my attention: I will watch the ad. I love to be entertained. Sometimes the situations are so contrived that when sex is used to sell something, unless the ad agency is really subtle and creative, I dismiss the commercial's message and won't even bother leaving it turned up. For example, I don't have State Farm insurance, but love the commercials...the personification of "mayhem" is great. However, when Cialis commercials come on, they seem too contrived, and it's ironic when spontaneity is supposed to be a plus for that drug.
As another person noted, commercials are louder than the show I am watching. Once again, I go for the Mute button. With some commercials if I like the music, I'll listen. If someone is NOT selling something with antibiotics or hormones (like Perdue), I'll listen. But when the car ads come on with carnival music or a "hawker," it's silenced.
My daughter (9th grade) and I recently did a project that her English teacher presented on definition kinds of commercials. I have tried to do a mini-unit for years on this, tied into a communication aspect: commercials do what writers try to do—get us to think about something in a certain way. The teacher presented a great unit, and it opened a wonderful dialogue with my daughter. It is no secret that kids in middle and high school represent a huge portion of the spending market. Walk into an Abercrombie store and get a load of the posters with near-naked college-age kids (? we hope they are that old) or naked butts, or scrambled pictures to cover up only the "naughty" bits. Advertisers are not appealing to the kids' intelligence, but that need to belong among their peers, as always, and it gets more disturbing all the time. In this case, I hate that a clothing store, selling things to cover bodies, brings in the sex (and the idea of youthful perfection, which is also a lie) to sell [expensive] cool (?), clothing to kids.
Maturity and the ability to view commercials objectively will make it easier for kids at some point, and many adults are already there, but these ads must be working somewhere, or they would be gone, right?
I think that different age groups group up with different amounts of media, so the influence is partly based on that. For example, today's children are inundated with media images that get more and more colorful and loud. The law of diminishing returns states that each of these will be less effective. Older people were not soaked in media, and in their impressionable years media was a big deal. They are more likely to trust the source, making them more easily influenced.
Appealing to the libido in people creates an urge that is not rational, and so the person will not so easily reject the appeal to purchase that an advertisement gives. It works much like showing food causes a feeling of hunger.
Advertisements are very targeted, and certainly often biased. Older (let's say ages 50 plus) people are commonly not targeted unless the product is specifically for older groups only, such as ads about aging, bone health, insurance, wrinkles, retirement etc. There's certainly not too many ways to incorporate sex into those topics.
With ages 30 to late 40's, they are certainly targeted more and for a variety of topics--many relating to family, marriage, romance etc. I think that age group will respond about as equally to sexually related ads as the younger 20 somethings. Sex is still extremely important for ages 30 to late 40's and though there might not be as many general ads focusing on that age group in comparison to 20 somethings, I think that age group is still as equally enticed, affected by, and attentive to sexual ads.
Think of the target audience during certain times of the day, and watch the commercials...during the day, it's women and kids. You're going to see detergent and cleaning commercials which target being a "good mom" killing "germs" that are harmful to "baby" and "family". You'll also see tons of toy commercials with color, energy, and some annoyingly catchy song to get kids' attention and turn on the "I want" gene within them. Later in the day, when older kids are home from school and parents home from work, the sexual innuendos and older humor, etc. used to gain the attention of the target audience just as all the posts above suggest.
I agree that the 20 somethings are probably more influenced by the sexual images in advertising. I would think that the older viewers may tend to be turned off by the use of these images. I also think that advertisers know this, if you take note of the times many of these ads are shown and the channels they are shown on, it is when there are going to be younger audiences watching.
Not only are they gender biased, but some of them stereotype the genders as well. Consider the Enzyte ads with Bob. One of them features an old "woody" station wagon. One of them features the south "pole". They all feature euphemisms for sex and male erections without. Now let's consider the women in the commercial. They are all smiling unabashedly as if all they need is a strong man with an (ahem) larger than life personality.
The marketing demographics are pretty well defined, seeing as how advertising really took off in the 1920s and has developed ever since. As social taboos loosened over time, the use of sexual images to advertise products became more and more prevalent. Younger age groups, due to natural biology and curiosity, probably are more attentive and responsive to such ads (the use of positive association). It does seem that such ads are gender biased, in that they are much more often geared towards males than females, and that males probably react more measurably to such ads.
I wonder whether we can argue that advertisements are ageist in today's society. Certainly they do seem to weighted towards the 20s to 30s age range with a few exceptions. This might explain the predominance of sex imagery in advertisements in today's world. I wonder whether there is a sense in which the youth and beauty attracts those in their more "autumn" years by making them believe that by wearing or buying a certain product they can become young again. Either that or such images threaten to alienate the more senior population.
I don't know if there's been any research on this subject. Thinking about things from a sterotypical point of view, it seems likely that younger men (say from age 15 or so to 30) will be the most influenced by sexually-charged images. Stereotypically speaking, at least, this is the general age at which men are most interested in sex and (at the lower end of the age) least sophisticated in terms of being able to see through the images of the ads. This means they are most likely to be influenced.
There is no question but that sex sells, and the advertisers are aware of this. Ads programmed to younger children do not normally appeal to ones sex appeal; but offer cartoon characters, toys, etc. designed to appeal strictly to fun. Once one reaches adolescence, sex is the primary motivator behind most advertisements. Younger people feel the desire to look like, act like and be seen like the beautiful people in the ads. Older adults (50+) are not inclined to act as impulsively as the younger set, but they are still captivated by ads depicting young, handsome people in desirable situations and obviously care free.