Magazine article USA TODAY

Do Sex and Violence Really Sell Products?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Do Sex and Violence Really Sell Products?

Article excerpt

If there is one thing advertisers think they know, it is that sex and violence sell. An analysis by researchers at Ohio State University, Columbus, however, provides some of the best evidence to date that this widely accepted adage just is not true, as they analyzed the results of 53 different experiments (a so-called meta-analysis) involving nearly 8,500 people, done over 44 years.

The results show that, with some caveats, programs featuring violence and sex are not the ideal context for effective advertising, indicates study coauthor Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology. It is not that people do not pay attention to sex and violence. In fact, it is just the opposite. "People are so focused on the sex and violence they see in the media that they pay less attention to the advertising messages that appear along with it. Advertisers shouldn't be so sure that sex and violence can help them sell their products."

The analysis included studies involving print, TV, movies, and video games. Examined were studies in which the ads themselves contained sex or violence as well as studies in which only the media surrounding the ads contained such content.

People reported less intention to buy brands that were advertised in media containing violence, sex, or both, compared to the same brands in media containing no sex or violence.

However, what about ads that themselves featured sex and violence? Here, the findings were not as dear-cut. Overall, memory for brands that featured sex and violence was not impaired, but attitudes toward brands that featured sexual ads were significantly lower than those same brands in neutral ads. …

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