But does sex appeal actually sell a product to millennials? A report by the Ohio State University contradicts that oft-heard advertising cliché. A meta-analysis of 53 past experiments involving a total of 8,489 subjects published by the American Psychological Association found that sex and violence in ads doesn’t help sell products.
“It never helps to have violence and sex in commercials,” according to Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University and co-author of the study. “It either hurts, or has no effect at all.”
According to the study, images of sex and violence are so intense, they distract the viewer from the most important thing in the ad, the product. The study also found that products advertised during sexual or violent programming do not fare as well either. “Brands advertised in violent contexts will be remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media,” the study says. “We also suggest that advertising in sexual media may not be as detrimental as advertising in violent media, but does not appear to be a successful strategy either.”
The studies focused on a variety of media including movies, television programmes, video games and print. Some looked not only at violent and sexual content in the media themselves, but also the content of the advertisements.