This study examines the perception of northern women on the use of sex appeal advertisements in Yola, the basis that underlined the northern women’s perception on the use of these advertisements and also investigates whether sex appeal ads influence the decision of buyers when purchasing any product. The study adopted both qualitative and quantitative method to gather data. Survey research design and questionnaires were shared to collect data. The findings reveal that there are negative perceptions of the use of sex appeal ads in the Yola community. It also reveals that women are commonly displayed in these ads than men. Additionally it was also discovered that sex appeal ads barely influence them into buying a product. The use of sex appeal in not accepted due to the norms and beliefs of people in this community.



Advertising is defined as a form of influencing or changing the consumer’s perception towards a particular product or service (Courtney, Perres 2016). It is also a form of creating awareness about a brand or product (Michal, 2001). In today’s world advertisers bombard prospective customers with all kinds and forms of adverts, from the moment they wake up until the very time they fall asleep. In the work effective advertising, Tellis quotes Gerrard as he (Gerrard) claims that an average varying between 100 to 1000 advertisements is what unsuspecting customers come across on a daily basis (Tellis, 2004). These ads appear in almost every facet of our daily lives and the use of modern technology makes them more attached to our lives. Because of the very nature of advertisement, “which is to influence and change customers perspective” (Dright) toward making a favorable decision on a product or services. Competition has heightened between advertising agencies and even so making strategy, key in wining this battle among equal.

Therefore, advertising has become an important element by sparking competition among firms. Making these firms to continuously employ different approach/appeals in advertising, influences the buyers’ decision on a product or service. These appeals include the use of the following:

  • Fear appeals
  • Humor appeals
  • Rational appeals
  • Sex appeals
  • Bandwagon appeals among others (Tellis 2014).

However the use of sex appeal in advertising is very common these days and it is one of the most effective forms of advertising. It has a way of drawing one’s attention in seconds. Women are often used to advertise certain products like cosmetics, perfumes, underwear and so on. For example, “Fragrance products use sex appeal to convey romance to women by indicating the use of the product will help her find the man of her dreams” (Wimbush, 2018). And when it comes to men, companies like beer companies use sex appeal to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product. There are many ways to influence the attitudes of consumers with the aid of sex appeal. With this growing trend in the advertisement agencies, it is gradually becoming an issue or rather a concern for regulatory bodies to examine the content of ads as it can be viewed very sensitive to some society. Also, “Today’s society is exposed to so much sex appeal in advertisements that consumers do not make the connection between the sex appeal in the ads and the product or service” (Piccolotto, 2013).

Background of the study

The sophistication of advertisement in the 21st century has lead to a great concern, causing the evaluation of ads contents in some societies. The simple reason for this evaluation is the belief that advertisements have a great impact in not only influencing the buying decision of customers, but also affecting their culture, directly or indirectly (Cohan and Alan). Therefore, cultural issues are beginning to be major elements when producing advertisements. In this case, “culture is the sum to total of knowledge, beliefs, morals, law, custom, and any other way of life of a particular group of people” (Toland, 2003). The cultural boundaries of Nigeria, is an important element  that has affected almost every facet of life. This therefore motivated the writer to elaborate more

on the conventional cultural differences, that Nigeria has embraced over the years especially that which affects the northern women.

Given that advertisement is a ‘big deal’ now in the society, cultural differences as well as religious restrictions do not allow Northern women to express their sex appeal as compared to the women from other parts of the country. The Nigeria of the 21st century has evolved, from the pre-colonial era from where every region in Nigeria is conservative by their cultural boundaries. Now those cultural boundaries do exist only to a great extent in their mind and also as their personal identity that every individual chooses to carry. However, each single coined personal identity is a conglomerate of fractions of some of the cultures is exposed to.

Adamawa state is one of the 19 northern states in Nigeria. The state has a long history of over 200 years of existence. Modibbo Adama is the founder of Yola emirate, the state capital of Adamawa sate (Williams, 2008).

In northern Nigeria, Hausa is the predominant language. With a large population of Muslim and Christians (Wogu, 2014). The culture of northern Nigeria is seen as conservative. Though so many cultural beliefs are giving way for western Ideology and cultures, yet some traditional and religious beliefs still remain sacrosanct.

Because of the natural expectation of advertisement, knowledge of culture is very important because instead of achieving desired result, which is positive response to a product or services, it can actually bring the opposite. Among other important things to note about culture and advertising agencies should consider the verbal and non verbal language, symbols and signs, and well as attached value, and meaning to them (Toland, 2003).

However, Yola the state capital of Adamawa state is a place where it can best be described as the confluence of culture. In Yola the various cultures, religion, tradition and beliefs are all brought together into one melting pot. The expected result of cultural hydrid has given birth to a society that is more liberal. However, with the doted representations of both foreign and local cultures the state is not free from classes that suggest the society still have some construction. Yola, metropolitan like any urban center has its own share of conflict that might be seen as direct opposition to westernization. In recent years, we have read in the news, how some Northern actress was banned for what was perceived as improper display of affection. In 2016, Sadau Rahama, a leading Hausa musician was banned for hugging on screen. She appeared to have hugged “Classique” a musician based in Plateau state. Her action was termed as “immoral behavior” by the Kannywood (BBC, 3rd Oct. 2016)

The North is generally seen as a place where the culture and religious beliefs are very important to the people. Things that are previewed to be against the religious beliefs and culture are fought to stand still. However with all these issues, foreign media has a very high inclusion of sex appeal in their programs and advertisement. If this is true then how are the people of Northern Nigeria and most especially Yola metropolis copping with this, seeing foreign media content are popular in the area.

Statement of problem

The world of advertisements has since evolved, while new and improved ways of swaying consumers have been developed. One of such methods is the use of sex appeal to advertise products and services. Currently, sex appeal is among the major tools used for adverts today therefore utilizing it comes with numerous advantages Maxwell, Dongrey, 2009).

However, in the Northern metropolis of Yola, especially among women, due to influences of culture, religion and traditional values, there could be negative perceptions when it comes to the use of sex appeal in advertisements. This situation may play a huge role in limiting the scope of advertising companies when producing adverts for their clients. This is a major problem because sex appeal adverts are capable of raising the patronage of the goods and services being advertised.

If there is a negative perception, and if it is allowed to continue it will only further restrict the crucial role that sex appeal adverts play in winning over consumers. The usual occurrences that follow up a sensual advert is majorly twofold, acceptability and/or dissatisfaction by the general public. The extent to which sex appeal is used for adverts is deteriorating by the day because now and again, the actions of people, especially the younger generation has created a standard of sex appeal for adverts that wish to sell. From previous research, the southern culture in Nigeria is predominantly known for its incessant use of sex appeal in advertisements for patronage (Muyiwa). It has been noted that products like bathing soap, tops, perfumes and other bodily related cosmetics and materials are advertised with a serious touch of sex appeal. This research however intends to examine the perception of women in Yola metropolis on some of the obscure photos and videos of sex appeals that have been used over the years for ads; as well as their thoughts on the actions of northern Nigerian movie industry (Kanny Wood) as regards their total condemnation and obnoxious law against certain simple, non-sensual roles that have been played by their actors and actresses over the years.


The objectives of this study is to:

  1. Identify the perception of women in Yola community on the use of sex appeal in advertisements, and the causes and reasons why these women do or do not appreciate the use of sex appeal in advertisements. These could either be the use of sex appeal on newspapers, Television, movies, billboards or signposts.
  2. Determine if the use of sex appeal in advertisement shapes the type of advertisement being portrayed by media outlets in Yola metropolis.
  3. Establish whether sex appeal influences the decision of consumers in the Yola Community.

Research questions

  1. What is the perception of northern women on the use of sex appeal in advertisements in Yola metropolis and what basis underlined the Northern Women’s perception on sex appeal on adverts?
  2. What kind of advertisement is portrayed in media outlets in Yola metropolis?
  • Does sex appeal influence the decision of buyers when purchasing a product?

Significance of study

This research is going to be focused on northern women in Yola metropolis. It is aimed at examining their perception on the use of sex appeal, how they are expected to behave in their cultures and also find out if they admire this form of advertising or want to be part of it. Based  on personal experience growing up in the northern part of Nigeria, women are thought to be reserved and be confined to their homes preventing them from expressing themselves through participating in businesses that involve constant interactions and exchanges with strangers. This is mostly due to religious and cultural teachings. Women in the north mostly get this opportunity

after they get married. “Early marriage, lack of access to education, seclusion and time-limiting reproductive work can severely limit women’s economic opportunities. More than half of girls in the north, and two-thirds of girls in the rural northeast, marry before the age of 16. 70.8% of young women in the north cannot read or write.” (Georgia, Erika and Jessica). These are the kind of factors that affect the participation of women in the northern part of Nigeria from taking part in businesses. This research will focus on northern women taking part in the cosmetics business and their perception on the use of sex appeal to promote their respective businesses and products.

< class="wp-block-heading" id="h-key-terms">Key Terms
  • Metropolis- a very large city, often the most important city in a large area or country (Cambrige Advanced learners Dictionary and Thesaurus)
    • Culture- The total way of life of people. “Culture is defined as the learned and shared human patterns or models for living; day to day living patterns” (Center for advanced research aquisition)
    • Perception- The way situations, events, history, ideas are perceived by individuals. “Perception is defined as the process whereby people select, organize, and interpret sensory stimulations into meaningful information about their environment” (National Open University)
    • Kanny wood- the name given to the Northern Nigerian movie/film industry- with its headquarters based in Kano state, Nigeria.
    • Foreign media- these include but not restricted to international media houses as well as area networks that disseminate information to the general public.
    • Influence-“defined as a compelling behavior change without threat of punishment or

promise of reward” (Jeffrey W. Lucas)



Interestingly, there have been tons of reviews (Tuzla and Hayri) (Ujejinta) that particularly

buttress the idea of using sex appeal for the purpose of increasing service patronage. This will be discussed in later chapters of this research. Since it is confirmed to be one of the oldest traditions

known to man, advertising in itself is a key concept that has been generally accepted by all and sundry and has therefore become indispensable in contemporary society. It could be in speech form, in written, through actions, and even through silence, depending on the message that is trying to be passed across and the content of that message. Many writers, especially those in the media, business and marketing sectors have come up with unique researches (involving data analysis) about both customer behaviours and advertising strategies that explain the roles of sex appeal in the advertising world. This research shall study some of these journals, books, reports etc that have highlighted the roles of sex appeal in advertising and whether or not the latter has gained acceptance among the northern population over the years. The contents in the articles present this issue in two-fold, first the connection of sex appeal to advertising, secondly, its general acceptance by the people. We shall expound on some of the numerous articles, books, periodicals and journals that have been published over the years…articles that have a direct or indirect connection to the topic in question. This will offer an insight on the views that some of these renowned writers have garnered from studies and years of experience and data gathering.

To begin with, (Popoola and muyiwa) research was conducted in 2014, in a location (Lagos State) in Nigeria, where a sample space was drawn from a university. College graduates were asked to give their views on the trending influence of sex appeal used in television advertising messages to capture the attention of the general (Popoola and muyiwa). This article did not only provide data for students who were in full support of the use of sex appeal to advertise and promote the patronage of products; but also supplied a concrete report on the gender that is most comfortable with the use of sex appeal in advertisement. It was noted by the writer that in as much as there were a lot of positive response from the sample space, the positivity mostly came

from the male gender. Only a few of the females stressed “the need to appreciate their femininity through the display of their feminine qualities,” as one of the interviewees would have it.

Most of the men on the other hand did not find it repulsive for either gender to display through sex appeal the need for consumer patronage. While a few commented on decency and the need to embrace other non-sexually appealing advertising strategies, some men found it interesting and ‘catchy’ especially when the opposite sex is involved. As per the data collected, it was noted that older women, especially those from the ages of 33 and above, have kicked against the use of sex appeal to attract consumers to patronize certain products. This article gave way to a variety of information that gave an assorted view about whether or not it was ‘okay’ to create a certain level of sex appeal in order to capture the attention of consumers. Other factors like religious beliefs, traditions and cultural issues were passively expatiated.

Similarly, (Fang, Hong and Jianyao) did a cross-cultural study of ‘Consumer Responses to Sex Appeal Advertising.’ This article published in 2009, is not only timely but has also compared the transition that has occurred over the years between the former system of advertising products to consumers and that of the modern system. Although the case study of the article is on Australia, China and the United States of America, it is believed that through cultural diffusion and the interconnectedness that globalization has introduced, the same scenario of sex appeal in advertisement is observed in other countries that have been influenced by the three major ones mentioned above.

Through their study, they found out that “females models were more likely than male models

to be portrayed in nude or partially nude modes (Fang, Hong and Jianyao).” In other words, more women than men portray nudity. In northern Nigeria, the same logic is applied. The article went

further to explain how movies/films make primary use of women, especially models to portray sex appeal while men have just but an insignificant role to play in many cases. Only in rare cases would one see a man used on an ad to portray sex appeal for the purpose of attracting consumer or customer patronage. This is not uncommon but from statistics, ten adverts illustrating women’s sex appeal could have just one for that of a man. The ratio therefore is 10:1. (Fang, Hong and Jianyao).

In their annual publication, (Tuzla and Hayri) the case study of Turkey. Hayri explains how modern cars make use of female models to increase patronage and consumer awareness. The particular use of a ‘conservative society’ like Turkey gives a striking connection to the topic in question and the case study of this research. Turkey is predominantly Muslim inhabited, and from the last census (conducted in Nigeria, in 2013) northern Nigeria is said to be inhabited predominantly too by Muslims. Therefore it is safe to say that both case studies share some characteristics that could pass for ‘conservative societies (Tuzla and Hayri).

Although religion might have been the major constituent of the aforementioned scenario, Hayri still suggests that the culture of men regarding their interest in female models may have been the major contributing factor (Tuzla and Hayri). A table of statistics was placed at the bottom of the article indicating the degree of nudity of the photos of models that have been used by each car model all in a bid to advertise through sex appeal. In Nigeria, it may not be cars, but there are definitely other products like the different brands of bathing soaps displaying nude photos of female models on their soap covers.

In  their  most  recent  article on  consumers’  attitudes  towards sex  appeal  in advertising, the

research by (Karlsson and Hestrom) was conducted with a sample space of consumers from the

age of 18-24. Although there was no specification of the number of sample space used, the aim was to examine how the attitude of each consumer differs from the attitude of the next. The result for the research showed that both the male and female consumers found it both morally and ethical wrong to make adverts with high use of sexual contents in order to advertise products for consumer patronage (Karlsson and Hestrom).

Cohan and Alan offered a valid argument that adverts could still be successful in generating sales even without portraying the female gender as ‘things’ or mere ‘sex objects (Alan and Cohan).’ In 2001, research conducted by this pair gave way to a new form of feminine acceptance. The stereotype about weakness associated with women became the key element that was discussed at length.”The primary concern was that most of the men preferred to see the women as tools created to satisfy their urges as well as used as sex objects to gain the attention  of men especially in commercial adverts that portrayed sex appeal (Alan and Cohan).” This objectification of women gave rise to a new form of generation because as a result of the above- mentioned reason, newer generations grew up to embrace the existing culture that they were born into. As far as they were concerned, women were created to suit their everyday need. This was no fault of theirs since people who came before them out rightly misinformed them.