Sex Sells In Advertising : But Not Always

sex sells

Study: Sex Does not Sells

In a recent study entitled “Do Sex and Violence Sell? A Meta-Analytic Review of the Effects of Sexual and Violent Media and Ad Content on Memory, Attitudes, and Buying Intentions”, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University , Brad Bushman, said “It never helps to have violence and sex in commercials, …It either hurts, or has no effect at all.”
Analyzes of results from 53 previous experiments involving 8,489 participants, suggests that Violent and sexual television programming impairs viewers’ memory because it diverts attention from the advertising.

Distinguish the ads from their surrounding

An interesting observation i found in this study in the “Cognitive interference hypothesis”, which basically point out that ads would be assimilated to their surrounding programs…

The cognitive interference hypothesis suggests that placing violent advertisements in a violent program or sexual advertisements in a sexual program impairs memory and reduces attitudes and buying intentions (Furnham, Gunter, & Walsh, 1998). Proponents of this hypothesis argue that advertisements placed in congruent contexts are susceptible to “meltdown,” a process whereby memory traces of the advertised brand fuse with the surrounding program content and make it more difficult to remember the brand (Bryant & Zillmann, 1994). Therefore, advertisements placed in in-congruent contexts are preferable because they are more likely to stand out from the surrounding program content (Furnham, Gunter, & Richardson, 2002). Several studies have found evidence for the cog-nitive interference hypothesis (Cruz & Lull, 2014; Dickinson, Hanus, & Fox, 2013; Furnham & Goh, 2014; Furnham et al., 2002; Furnham & Price, 2006). Our review will test the cognitive interference hy-pothesis using all available studies.

It is important to point 2 things in this study:
1. We are dealing with brands, meaning that people are supposed to know these brands.
2. We are focusing on “sales”, not getting the viewer’s attention, do Sex Sells?

Advertising Reality: Sex Sells !

In reality, all experienced advertisers know that sex does sells, but by that we mean it in the “Sexy” sense, rather than the traditional sense,
and we also use the term sells in the sense of capturing the attention rather than in the sense of selling products.
But here’s the interesting part, more attention captured = more product sold, and the more female nudity the more you’ll capture the attention. So basically Sex do sells!
All you have to do is check some sexy superbowl ads and compare them to some none sexy superbowl ads , it’s 2x to 20x the number of views. Now i’m no math genius, but if you capture the attention of 1000 and get 2% sales, is way better than capturing the attention of 100 and getting 4% sales!
This is not limited to video, any publisher knows that an article have a higher probability of being clicked on if it features a woman, than if it was featuring a man, and the sexier the better.

Saturation of usage and desensitization

Sure there is a saturation in the market, when everybody starts featuring sexy women, you start being captured less by these ads … this leads to becoming desensitized, and in this sense the study mentioned above might kick in … let’s say you capture the attention of 160 and get a 2% sales, it’s not as good as 4% sales and only 100 person’s attention captured.
On internet: Main Causes of desensitization are the click-bait photos, and click-bait video thumbnail.

~ A.Alaili

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