New analysis exposes the advertising ploy as a huge turnoff for customers
Looks like sex doesn’t sell.
A new study suggests that the age-old ad adage is actually turning shoppers off.
University of Illinois researchers analyzed almost 80 advertising studies published over three decades, and defined promotions with “sexual appeals” as: Those with models who were partially or fully nude; models engaged in sexual touching or positions that suggested they were about to have sex; sexual innuendos and sexual embeds, or partially hidden words or pictures communication sexual messages.
They found that while people did remember titillating ads more than the ones without sexual appeals, they actually didn’t remember the brands themselves. And when they did recall the product, they were more likely to have a negative attitude toward it if it had a provocative promotional campaign than if it was cleaner.
And most damning of all, shoppers showed no greater interesting in buying the brands showcased in the sexually-charged ads.
“We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal,” wrote the study’s lead author and University of Illinois advertising professor John Wirtz in the report. “This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”
Less surprising, while the overall results were not separated by gender, surveyed men on average liked sexual ads more than women did.
But the research showed that still didn’t make men more inclined to actually buy whatever the sexy spots were selling.
Perhaps that’s one reason why fast food chain Carl’s Jr. turned down the heat on its notoriously sexy commercials at this year’s Super Bowl. Previously, celebrities like Kate Upton, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton were shown biting into oversized burgers while flashing plenty of skin. But critics slammed the tasteless ads, and groups like One Million Moms staged protests.
So much for the bottom line.
“If the ‘sexy ads’ had been effective, it’s unlikely the company or ad agency would have made such a drastic change,” Wirtz wrote. “When product is moving, people don’t make changes.”
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