While the adage ‘sex sells’ has become virtually synonymous with advertising, research coming out of the American Psychological Association suggests this isn’t actually the case.
The study 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 found brands that advertised with violent and sexualised content were remembered less often and looked on less favourably.
“We found almost no evidence that violent and sexual programs and ads increased advertising effectiveness,” said Brad J. Bushman, PhD, professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University, and a co-author on the study.
“In general, we found violent and sexual programs, and ads with violent or sexual content decreased advertising effectiveness.”
The second co-author Robert B. Lull added it’s not because people aren’t attracted to sex and violence, “on the contrary, people have been attracted to sex and violence since evolutionary times, when attending to violent cues prevented our ancestors from being killed by enemies or predators and paying attention to sexual cues attuned our ancestors to potential reproductive opportunities.”
Taking a look at violent and sexual content in the media – which includes violent/sexual TV programs, movie, games etc – Lull and Bushman determined advertisers believe sex and violence sells, so buy prime time ad spots during programs with high sexual and violent content. And subsequently, producers continue to produce the intense content as it attracts the ad dollars.
According to the study, gun violence in movies rated PG13 (PG in Australia) have more than tripled since 1985, and many of the top selling games, movies and TV shows were rated on the basis of violent content and sexual content.
“Overall, these percentages suggest that almost half of the most popular shows, films, and games contain violence, and more than a quarter contain sex,” said the report. “Therefore, insofar as a larger audience leads to more exposure for the product and thus more potential customers, advertising in violent and sexual media may provide advertisers the exposure they seek.”
However, the results from the study concluded violent media content “impairs brand memory, brand attitudes and buying intentions”, which means brands who advertise within violent programs, games, movies etc end up on the periphery of the program, not at the forefront of the consumer’s mind. Whereas no violent media content means “individuals can focus attention on the central and peripheral cues in the advertisement”.
Similarly, in terms of sexual content in advertising, brands who upped the raunchiness were looked on “less favourably” than those who took the safer route. However, the authors noted there were no statistically significant effects for advertising during highly sexualised media content.
The study used 53 different experiments and 8489 participants during 2014 to come to its conclusions. The study was published online on July 20, 2015.
Bushman added: “Our findings have tremendous applied significance, especially for advertisers. Sex and violence do not sell, and in fact they may even backfire by impairing memory, attitudes and buying intentions for advertised products.
“Thus, advertisers should think twice about sponsoring violent and sexual programs, and about using violent and sexual themes in their ads.”
Locked down Victorians who don’t currently have an Optus Sport subscription will have complimentary access to Optus Sport from this weekend to enjoy the UEFA Champions League tournament plus access to premium health and fitness content through the Optus Sport app. UEFA Champions League – the world’s premier continental football tournament – kicks off at […]
Torrens University Australia has launched ‘Career Crush’ via VCCP Sydney and Lash, to help match students with a career they’ll love. Career Crush is an online quiz that determines prospective students’ personal strengths, passions and aspirations to match them with the careers and courses they’re most compatible with. One of the toughest decisions young people […]
Pedestrian Group has partnered with Nine subsidiary Mi9 New Zealand to offer NZ brands the opportunity to partner with the likes of Business Insider Australia, Pedestrian.tv and Gizmodo Australia. Next month, Mi9 New Zealand will be representing Pedestrian Group in the NZ market, offering clients the opportunity to work with leading youth publications including Lifehacker […]
ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI), a division of ViacomCBS, is launching a premium streaming service internationally, appealing to audiences of all ages. The new SVOD service will start its international roll-out early in 2021, offering exclusive premieres of all new SHOWTIME series, including Halo and American Rust. CBS All Access originals will also premiere exclusively on the new service, such […]
As part of a larger project to refine their brand with partner branding agency Re, Optus have engaged experimental creative studio FutureDeluxe to explore how the iconic ‘Yes’ brand mark behaves in a sophisticated 3D environment. FutureDeluxe have produced a series of 8x idents and a number of static key visuals which will be used […]