A first-of-its-kind online study combining a questionnaire with an eye-tracking method has revealed that sex in print advertisements improves the ad for men — including their “like” for the ad, the product, and all-important “purchase intent” — but it decreases ad effectiveness for women. Interestingly, with their brains presumably aswim in lust and/or disgust, sexual ads make it less likely that either men or women will recall correctly which brand an ad was promoting.
“You can increase purchase intent using sex when advertising to men. But you pay a price; brand recall suffers. That means using sex in ads only makes sense for companies with a well-established brand, or those where branding plays no role,” said Karsten Weide of MediaAnalyzer Inc, the company that conducted the test for AdWeek magazine.
The study also found that sexual ads have a strong, polarizing effect on the visual behavior of men and women. Men spend a high amount of attention on the sexual imagery (e. g., female breasts, legs, and exposed skin). While this does increase ad liking and product liking, and transfers to purchase intent, it draws men’s attention from other elements such as the brand logo — one of the reasons why their brand recall is worse than women’s. Women, on the other hand, avoided looking at sexual imagery or even exposed skin.
Sexual ads also appear to polarize the sexes in general. While men like ads with sexual themes and do not think they have negative effects on society, women feel the opposite way. Most women believe there is too much sex in advertising (58%), and more than 40% of all women feel that sexual ads signify and promote a general deterioration of moral and social values and pose a threat to the proper upbringing of children: ie, they don’t dig it.
I wonder if these gender discrepancies are biological, cultural, or otherwise.