The Use of Women in Advertising

Beautiful women are everywhere in advertising.
Beautiful women are everywhere in advertising. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The advertising industry uses images of women in a number of ways. Advertisements for domestic products frequently feature women in traditional roles. Many products portray women's bodies in sexual ways so that viewers will associate their products with desirable qualities and buy them. Some products portray women as domesticated while others portray them as powerful, but the intent of all advertisements is to sell products.

Traditional Roles

The gains of women in the workplace throughout the late 20th century have not been reflected in a more equitable distribution of domestic work between men and women. Advertisers know this, and they continue to market domestic and household products primarily to women. They do this by featuring women prominently in their advertisements so that female viewers will identify with them. Women who see other women using everything from toilet cleaner to toothpaste in magazines, on television and on billboards more easily identify with these products and buy them.

Beauty Products

Women of exceptional beauty are constantly being sought by the advertising industry for use in their promotions. Beauty products are promoted by beautiful women, sending the message that anyone who uses them will then look like the woman in the advertisement. Shampoo, makeup and weight loss products are all sold by associating them with women who have beautiful hair, beautiful faces and slim bodies. Beautiful female celebrities are particularly valuable to the advertising industry because their product can be simultaneously associated with the lure of physical beauty and the aura of fame.

Sexual Imagery

"Sex sells" is one of the mantras of advertising. Sexual imagery involving women is used to sell products that can be associated with sex as well as products that have no direct connection to sex. Everything from chocolate to cars to travel to clothing to alcohol is successfully promoted by lending it a sexual aura through the inclusion of scantily clad and suggestively posed women in advertising. This obsession with sex on the part of the advertising industry occasionally causes controversy, particularly when it involves girls of questionable age, as was the case in a series of notorious Calvin Klein jeans advertisements.

Male Audience

Women are frequently used to promote male-oriented products to a male audience. Sometimes this is done by associating the female body directly with the product. At other times, the female is shown being attracted to the man because of his use of the product. Men are shown images of gorgeous women chasing after a man who is smoothly shaven and receive the message that they could gain access to such a woman if only they purchase the correct razor. The same message is sent in association with products including cars and beer.

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