Defining Sexually Oriented Appeals in Advertising: A Grounded Theory Investigation

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The sexually oriented appeal is a prevalent, yet poorly defined concept in the study of advertising and message effects. The goal of this exploratory research was to contribute to a more precise understanding of this concept by adopting a grounded theory approach. Respondents were asked to identify an ad they considered "sexy," and to describe characteristics of the ad that made them perceive it as such. The analysis revealed four overarching characteristics of sexy ads: (1) physical features of models (clothing, physique, and general attractiveness), (2) behavior / movement, (3) intimacy between models, and (4) contextual features (e.g., camera effects). References to physical features was the most frequently mentioned category by both women and men, while women were more likely to mention contextual features and intimacy. Other differences emerged as well. On the basis of these findings a receiver-based definition of sexually oriented appeals is offered, as are suggestions for future research.

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Advances in Consumer Research, v. 27, p. 267-273