Two researchers of Ohio State University have conducted a meta-analysis on research on the effect of sex and crime in advertisement. They come to a surprising conclusion – against the common sense notion of “Sex sells”: “As intensity of sexual ad content increased, memory, attitudes, and buying intentions decreased.”
They found that as the emotional intensity of marketing efforts (so for example sex and violence) increased, people actually got more and more distracted from the actual brand messages. Peoples exposed to such strongly emotionalized ads would not recall the brands behind the ads and no positive effects of the ads on buying intentions could be found . This is supported by anecdotal evidence. In some parts of Germany, ads with strong sexual content are even banned from being displayed next to streets as they can cause accidents. Well, and obviously people involved in accidents might not remember your brand message anymore ;-).
As a consequence the study’s authors recommend companies to be more careful when using highly emotional content in their marketing efforts, as they can distract from the key messages that you want to align with your brand.
“It seems that advertisers are beginning to understand that advertising in violent and sexual media is not always an advisable strategy. This review provides empirical and theoretical support for that conclusion.”
Their paper in the Psychological Bulletin is available for free download at: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-bul0000018.pdf