While sexual ads may be more memorable, a new analysis has found that they are actually associated with a negative attitude from consumers toward the advertising brand.
The findings, authored by the University of Illinois' John Wirtz with colleagues Johnny V. Sparks of Ball State and Thais M. Zimbres of Cal-Davis, were published in the International Journal of Advertising earlier this week.
The analysis looked at 78 peer-reviewed studies on the effects of sexual appeals in advertising published over the last three decades, according to Illinois' website.
"We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal,” Wirtz told the university's website. “This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”
But even the positivity, perhaps unsurprisingly, was limited to one gender.
“The strongest finding was probably the least surprising, which is that males, on average, like ads with sexual appeals, and females dislike them,” Wirtz said. “However, we were surprised at how negative female attitudes were toward these ads.”
Wirtz said the findings in the studies could be a reason why Carl's Jr. has gone away from its ads featuring scantily clad women, instead opting for a campaign playing on characters Carl Hardee Jr. and Sr. (Illinois did not name the company in its write-up).
In total, Wirtz said the 78 studies added up to about 11,000 participants involved in the analysis.
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