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Study: Sexual content in ads has no effect on purchase intention

David Murphy

It’s official: sex doesn’t sell. That’s the conclusion of a study carried out by John Wirtz, professor of advertising at the University of Illinois.

Professor Wirtz looked at the data from 78 studies looking at the effect if using sex in ads. He found that while sexual content has a “significant positive effect” on ad recognition and recall, the effect on brand recognition and recall was not significant.

The study also found that the effect of sexual appeals on attitude towards the ad was not significant. There was a gender skew, however, however, with males being found to evaluate ads with sexual appeal significantly more positively than females.

Most significantly, the study found that sexual content in ads has a small significant negative effect on brand attitude, and no effect on purchase intention. Whether this will have any effect on adland’s obsession with six-packs or girls in swimsuits is a moot point.