It might surprise you, but researchers have found that sex doesn’t sell. An analysis of 78 advertising studies has shown that sex appeal in advertising might be memorable, but does not contribute to the sale of the product.
What exactly is sex appeal? The study’s abstract describes sex appeal as “a persuasion attempt that uses words, images, and/or actions by models appearing in ads to deliver an explicit or implicit sexual message designed to evoke sexual thoughts, feelings, and/or arousal in a target audience”.
Lead author John Wirtz, an advertising professor at the University of Illinois, told Phys.org: “We found that people remember ads with sexual appeals more than those without, but that effect doesn’t extend to the brands or products that are featured in the ads.”
The analysis also found that men had a more positive response to these ads than women. And women tended to then cultivate a negative opinion of the brand.
Wirtz told Phys.org he decided to conduct this research because he believes meta-analysis is a powerful tool. Meta-analysis combines data from a range of studies using a set statistical procedure. Many institutions agree with Wirtz and often use meta-analysis to draw conclusions, especially around medical research.
“The average number of participants in each individual study was about 225, but by using a meta-analysis, we could combine studies and conduct some analyses with more than 5,000 participants – in one analysis, with more than 11,000,” Wirtz said. “This means that our results present a more accurate picture of what happens when someone sees an ad with a sexual appeal.”