Monday, June 7, 2010

Creative Magazine Ad - Sex & Humour Appeal

June 7, 2010
by Fred Victor

In Malaysia, companies and non-profit organizations annually invest millions of Ringgit in advertising, but much (if not most) of these expenditure are made without undertaking efforts to determine whether the advertising actually accomplishes the objectives for which it is intended. Some companies refuse to assess advertising effectiveness formally because they consider such an undertaking unnecessary; others neglect to measure advertising effectiveness because they consider the task is too expensive.

Generally, an exceptional illustration of successful advertising, there seem to be three factors underlying successful advertisements: (1) newsworthiness, (2) rational, and (3) emphasis. A good ad possesses at least one of these characteristics, although few ads boast all of them.

The following section, for instance, is best to evaluate the effectiveness of a creative magazine ad which advertised by a well-known fashion designer – Calvin Klein.


Effective advertising must somehow make a relatively lasting impact on consumers, which means getting past the clutter from other advertisements, activating attention, and giving consumers something to remember about the advertised product (or service). In other words, making an impression is essential. Accordingly, brand is the most likely aspect of a commercial that viewers retain in memory. Consumers often remember what brands are advertised but little else. What is more, the brand name – Calvin Klein, is positioned “strategically” which grabbed viewers’ attention easily.


A strong brand (e.g. Calvin Klein) is one with a good story. The character of the product (e.g. lingerie) itself is the first determinant of the content of advertising messages. The viewer is, or at least should be, the second determinant of the advertising messages. The notion of, means-end chain provides a useful framework for understanding the relationship between consumer characteristics and advertising messages. Indeed, a means-end chain is, as used in the present sense, the connection among product attributes, consumer consequences, and personal values.

Attributes are features of product, consequences, whether desirable or undesirable, are received by viewers when consuming products and values represent important beliefs that viewers hold about themselves and which determine the relative desirability of consequences. The linking (means-end chaining) of attributes to consequences to values in viewers’ memories constitutes what is more typically referred to Calvin Klein. For this reason, the means-ends concept is an important one, because creative advertising indeed is the practice of “image management”.


Whereas the use of such explicit sex was unthinkable just some years ago, it now represents part of a new trend in advertising era. Whether such advertising is effective, and under what conditions it may be effective or ineffective remains largely an unexplored issue.

Why is sex used in CK advertising, and what roles does it play? In fact, there are several potential roles for sex in advertising. First, the use of nudity, to some extent, may serve to elicit attention. It is likely that sexual material in advertising acts as an initial attentional lure and also holds attention for a longer period of time, given that the CK fashion model is attractive or the scene is pleasant. This has been referred to as the “stopping power” role of sex in advertising. A second potential role of sex is to enhance recall which CK has successfully implemented. The available evidence suggests that sexual content or symbolism will enhance recall only if it is appropriate to a product category and the creative advertising execution.

A third role performed by sexual content in CK advertising is to evoke an affective response from viewers. “A positive affective reaction to a sexual ad (such as lust or attraction) should increase persuasive impact via classical conditioning, with the opposite occurring of the ad elicits negative feelings (such as disgust, embarrassment or uneasiness)”. Research suggests that whether sexual content elicits a positive reaction or a negative one depends on the appropriateness or relevance of the sexual content to the advertised subject matter. Accordingly, CK advertising elicits a positive reaction due to its product appropriateness (lingerie and sex appeal). The pretty CK fashion model with the CK thong tells viewers that “CK thongs make you look like I wish I looked” (fantasy).

Researchers state that humour, if used correctly, can be an extremely effective advertising technique. Humorous appeal not only attracts attention, but also increase liking for the source and create a positive mood, which may enhance the persuasive effect of the message. CK ad grabbed not only women's attention but also men’s one. Researches shown that men had higher attention scores than women for humorous ads. As a result, a male viewer may be attracted by the ad, thus influence his purchase behaviour for his spouse!


In today’s Malaysia, printed media (e.g. newspaper and magazines) is one of the most well-known approach to deliver advertising messages to people. For this reason, Calvin Klein chose to advertise on magazines. No doubt, printed media has its good and bad. However, it can be an extremely effective if used correctly and congruently. No single technique is ideal, nor is any particular technique appropriate for all occasions. In fact, the choice of technique should depend on the specific objective of an advertising is intended to accomplish – relevance and congruence.


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