Do partially or fully nude models in advertisements help in sale of products or brands? No, they do not is the flat conclusion of an analysis of nearly 80 advertising studies. “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,” said lead author John Wirtz, Professor at the University of Illinois. The findings showed that not only were people no more likely to remember the brands featured in ads with sexual appeal, they were more likely to have a negative attitude toward those brands.
People also showed no greater interest in making a purchase. “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,” he added. For the study, detailed online in the International Journal of Advertising, the team conducted a first-of-its-kind meta-analysis of 78 peer-reviewed studies looking at the effects of sexual appeals in advertising.
The implications of the research for advertising practitioners are mixed, given that ads with sexual appeals are remembered more and advertisers want people to remember their ads, yet they don’t appear to help in selling brands or products. “Certainly the evidence indicates that the carryover effect to liking the ads doesn’t influence whether they are going to make a purchase,” Wirtz said.