Does your provocative ad attract women?

by Ellen Voie

Before the trucking industry existed, the sight of a female’s ankle or exposed arms might have been provocative enough to attract attention (from men.) Today, more than arms and ankles are used in advertising to turn a potential customer’s head.

Ellen Voie
Ellen Voie

Too often, the models are women and the intended buyer is male. Since the trucking industry is overwhelmingly a male- dominated environment, some carriers have used provocative images of women to attract a driver’s attention.

Research has proven that men are more attracted to visual content and women are more “textual,” or drawn to written descriptions (think about those trashy novels.) So, a driver recruiting ad featuring a scantily clad female is going to be appreciated by men more than women because of the way our brains are wired.

Unfortunately, it seems as if some carriers forget that 5% of the driver population is women and their ads might actually offend this segment of potential drivers. Maybe it’s because they forget that there are women in this industry and the numbers are growing, no thanks to these companies.

In fact, in today’s politically correct environment, using suggestive ads to recruit drivers can backfire in more ways than we might imagine. Some consumers take offense at an ad because it is demeaning to them. Why would a carrier focus on a model’s appeal when a driver is more interested in home time, pay and benefits?

A study from the University of Georgia found that ads using sex to sell products and services have nearly doubled since 1983. The ads are typically used to sell “low risk” items, which they defined as being “impulse purchases.”

Would a driver who just sat for six hours at a loading dock after an argument with his dispatcher be susceptible to an impulse reaction to an ad? Possibly. And since the study reported that 92% of the models used in these ads are female, the intended “buyer” is more often a male.

Think about whom the company is NOT recruiting with a suggestive ad. They’re not focusing on women, and they are offending drivers looking for real information, but they are also losing out on drivers who will walk past a booth because he or she has a child in tow (think, family). Some of the images border on pornography and a decent mom or dad will shield a child from seeing these ads.

So, why do some companies, or their advertising agencies, think they should include sexy images in their recruiting efforts? An article by Ira Kalb, at the Marshall School of Business gives the following reasons people think “sex sells”:

  • First, it taps into in inherent part of our brains. As humans we’re just wired to have sexual thoughts and advertisers think this can be used to attract attention to their products or services.
  • Secondly, we are repeatedly told that “sex sells,” so there is a tendency to start believing that is the truth.

Provocative ads do get our attention, even when that attention isn’t positive. (For myself, the sight of sexual imagery in a recruiting ad makes me angry, but then again, I am not the target audience.) Also, since sex is usually socially prohibited, it gets attention.

Finally, sex is often used in ads, so we make assumptions that it is acceptable, even if our assumptions are misguided.

The author does state that sex IS effective in selling products related to sex (a trucking company does not seem to fall into this category in my estimation). A study by the University of Wisconsin found that we are 10% more likely to view ads using sex to sell “un-sexy” products less favorably.

Why should the trucking industry refrain from using scantily clad women in their recruiting ads? Kalb gives the following reasons, with the likelihood of offending the potential driver being the most important. Using a less provoking image will attract a greater audience, including women.

He says some people feel that using sex to sell something cheapens the image of the company and distracts the intended buyer from the product or service itself. If a carrier has a great benefits package, a decent pay scale and generous home time, do they need to use a provocative image to attract a driver’s attention?

Another reason a company might want to forgo a focus on cleavage is that the viewer might not remember the advertiser’s name! Advertising unrelated to the job has a tendency for less recall of the carrier’s name than the image in the ad.

The Women In Trucking Association is focused on creating a better environment for women looking for careers (and already employed in) the trucking industry. Provocative recruiting ads have no place in this industry and do not promote a positive image for these women.

Ellen Voie, CAE, is president of the Plover, Wisconsin-based industry association Women in Trucking Inc.

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  • what a supercilious waste of space, provocative adds do command attention male or female! The challenge regarding driver recruitment is lack of monetary return for work performed by “Professional” Drivers over the last thirty years. Line-Drivers are the lowest paid trade in Canada! Please no more minority dribble!

  • You’re right, Ellen! And there’s another factor too: When ads were tested that included what might be termed “neutral” or “non-sexual” photos of both men and women, men tended to look more at the ads containing pictures of men and women more at ads containing pictures of women. The mechanism is not well-understood, but it may be something more primal than even sex: competition. In any case, there’s a possibility that if you want your target to look at your ads, you might consider using non-sexual pictures of people similar to your target.

  • yes that should be great as well. women can do it to. good to go. dream come true. ABM-Z. l am wanting to drive a rig to. Western Star is the best. love the Star’s Truck’s. good driving recorded. l am driving Bus right now. l love my Truck Paper New. WELL bless all the trucker out there. #1 Safety. I WANT A DREAM COME TRUE. THANKS .DON