By: Sara Doekes

What is Viral Media?

All around us, we are bombarded with marketing in many different forms. "Viral Media" is a growing phenomenon in which consumers within a target market are the ones who bring awareness to advertisements of all kinds. What makes an advertisement go viral? Why are so many advertisements based on sex appeal being shared amongst consumers and receiving so much attention?

In marketing terms, "going viral" is defined as "any marketing technique that induces websites or users to pass on a marketing message to other sites or users, creating a potentially exponential growth in the message's visibility and effect."

The majority of videos that receive viral attention often make use of sex and nudity to attract success. In an analysis conducted by The Journal of Interactive Advertising in 2006 of 266 viral advertisements, results revealed that ads tend to rely on provocative content in order to encourage unpaid receivers from communicating with one another and passing along the ads. It's no surprise that so many companies are turning to the use of sex in their marketing campaigns to help try to sell their products or services in hopes of going viral!

Why Do Advertisements That Use Sex Go Viral?
It’s not just the content of an advertisement that leads to viral sharing but the emotion evoked within a forwarder when they see it. Amusement, irritation, dissatisfaction, interest and pleasure are the top elicited emotions linked to the sharing of online advertisements. By incorporating sex appeal in advertisements, marketing companies are able to tap into these biological emotions of viewers and prompt them to share. According to the Journal of Advertising Research in a 2004 study of forwarded emails, email users forwarded 60% of naked pictures and 56% of jokes about gender. Viewers often share advertisements with this kind of content to obtain a sensation, reduce feelings of dissonance, strengthen social connections and enhance their identity.

Sex advertising works in ways beyond gaining attention and offering sex-related benefits. As long at people desire to be attractive to others, crave romance, intimacy, and love, advertisers can show how their products help meet those needs and desires. Sexuality is a primal instinct within every human being. When marketers make use of provocative or suggestive content, it is easy for viewers to share these messages because they are so easily relatable.

Examples of Viral Advertisements That Make Use of Sex Appeal

The following examples have in their own way made use of sex in their advertisements. Companies have realized that by using sexually suggestive or provocative images in their ads, the target audience is much more involved and are likely to "share" it's content.

Video Advertisements:
Axe - Wash Your Balls
Old Spice - The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
M&M's - Sexy And I Know It
Carl's Junior & Hardee's - Southwest Patty Melt
Liquid Plumr - Double Impact

Other Advertisements:
American Apparel
Axe Body Spray
Jose Cuervo Tequila
Diesel Jeans


Eckler, Petya and Paul Bolls. "Spreading the Virus: Emotional Tone of Viral Advertising and Its Effect on Forwarding Intentions and Attitudes ." Journal of Interactive Adertising 11.2 (2011).

Hall, Ben. Campaign Viral Chart: Sex, Sex and Sex in Top Three Positions. 2 March 2012. Haymarket Business Media. 4 March 2012 <>.

Izawa, Michiko. What Makes Viral Videos Viral?: Roles of Emotion, Impression, Utility, and Social Ties in Online Sharing Behavior. The Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore, MD, 2010.

Jenkins, Blaise. "Consumer Sharing of Viral Video Advertisements: A Look into Message and Creative Strategy Typologies and Emotional Content." American University School of Communication, 2011.

Paz, Alejandro. Top Ten Sexy Ads For Stuff Not Directly Related To Sex. 28 September 2009. Guanabee LLC. 29 February 2012 <>.

Reichert, Dr. Tom. Does Sex in Advertising Work? 22 March 2008. The Blake Project. 5 March 2012 <>

Viral Marketing. 2000-2012. TechTarget. 4 March 2012 <>.