It’s one of the oldest clichés in the advertising industry – sex sells!
However, according to new research that might not actually be true, and sexy images of scantily clad models – both male and female – could be having a negative impact on brands.
The study, by Professor John Wirtz, an advertising academic at the University of Illinois, combined data from 78 studies that examined the efficacy of sex appeals in adverts.
Wirtz’s research, reported on the science magazine Discover, found that people who looked at adverts featuring racy, sexualised imagery weren’t any more likely to remember a brand name or purchase a product, and, in fact, they were more likely to view the brand negatively.
“We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal,” Wirtz said. “This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”
Wirtz’s new research appears to validate an older study from 2015 by the Ohio State University that found sex (nor violence) in advertising did nothing to persuade someone to purchase the product on offer. In fact, the study noted that that people have become so inundated with sexual imagery, they’ve probably grown desensitised to it.