Elaine Fogel

budweiser-ads-funny-beer-ads-sexy-girl-king-of-beersFor many years, advertisers thought that using sex or violent themes could influence consumer purchasing. Well, guess what? It ain’t necessarily so!

A new study by the American Psychological Association (APA) says that violent and sexual media content may impair advertising’s effectiveness and ultimately deter purchasing. (Well, there goes the marketing neighborhood.)

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, which appeared in the journal Psychological Bulletin®. “In general, we found violent and sexual programs, and ads with violent or sexual content decreased advertising.”

The researchers found that violence appeared to have the greatest influence, but in a negative way. Brands advertised during commercial breaks in violent media were remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media.

Sexual content had a little influence, but not as much. Brands advertised during commercial breaks in media with sexual overtones were viewed less favorably than those advertised in media with no sexual content, but there was little difference in viewers’ brand memory or intention to buy. Plus… as the sexual content of an ad increased (i.e., from suggestive poses to full frontal nudity) viewers’ memory, attitudes and buying intentions all decreased.

So, does this mean that the American public isn’t interested in sex and violence any more?

The APA reports that “while violence and sex attract attention, it’s at the expense of surrounding content that is neither violent nor sexual… People pay more attention to the violence and the sex surrounding ads, both in programs and the ads themselves, than to the actual products being advertised. Consequently, memory, attitudes and buying intentions all decrease.”

The bottom line?

“Sex and violence do not sell, and in fact they may even backfire by impairing memory, attitudes and buying intentions for advertised products.”

So, what will advertising agencies do now to promote beer, shaving cream, cologne, and other “manly” products? 

(I wonder if this post gets more shares than my other ones?)

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2 Responses to Do Sex and Violence Work in Advertising?

  • The research backs you up on this, Magdalena! I don’t know about you but I really dislike sexist spots and ads no matter which gender they target. I find them so facile and dumb. Thanks for adding your 2 cents!

  • This kind of “attention tricks” solely take away consumers’ attention from, what’s truly important, the brand/product, its values, and unique features. this way many firms create associations that do not actually recall the brand, or moreover make the brand remembered for something that they don’t aim to be remembered for which results in poor brand image and recall.

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