The Graduate Student

Exile from Acedamia
Why Sex Sells

Watson, Rayner and Little Albert

When I first saw this picture of John Watson and Rosalie Rayner conducting their experiment with Little Albert in 1920, I had a strange, immediate and unmistakable impression: He's boinking her. And then I found out that he was! Soon after their famous experiment it was revealed in a public, messy and scandalous divorce, that Watson and Rayner were having a torrid affair!

After the divorce, Watson was fired from his academic position and soon found that no other university would hire him! (Remember, this was the 1920's) So what do you do when you're a world famous scientist with no job? You marry your mistress and go to work for the advertising industry!

Divorced and effectively exiled from academia, Watson married Rayner and went to work for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. While working at this Agency, Watson applied his theories to the task of selling product.

To make your consumer react,
tell him something that will tie up with fear,
something that will stir up a mild rage,
that will call out an affectionate or love response,
or strike at a deep psychological or habit need.

Watson created ad campaigns for Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder and Pebeco Toothpaste.

In the baby powder ad, Watson deliberately tried to play to the doubts of young mothers that they could properly care for their infants.

And in the Pebeco campaign, Watson targeted young women who smoked.

Girls! Don't worry anymore
about smoke-stained teeth
or tobaco tainted breath.
You can smoke and still be lovely
if you'll just use Pebeco twice a day.

This is the man that put the "sex" in "sex sells"!

Since Watson's pioneering influence on the ad industry, sexual imagery has become a mainstay of comercial advertisement. In fact, many psychologists argue that the most money spent on behavioral research is not for medical purposes, but for advertisements!

How about a subliminal advertising link?