Who Says Sex Sells?

Written by PTC | Published July 28, 2015

MadMenAdsThe advertising mantra since the days of the original Madison Avenue "Mad Men" has been "Sex Sells!" There is mounting evidence that's not actually true. Last week researchers at Ohio State University published the results of a meta-analysis of 53 studies comprising 8,489 participants that found that violent and sexual programs, and ads with violent or sexual content decrease advertising effectiveness. Researchers aren't trying to claim that viewers aren't interested in sex and violence, however. Quite the contrary. From a survival standpoint, we are biologically hard-wired to be drawn to sex and violence, whether it's good for us or not. So much so, that we tend to ignore everything else. So, if a company is using sex to sell their product, the product being advertised is ignored because the viewer's attention is locked on the sexual content of the advertisement. By contrast, research shows that sponsoring family-friendly programming can help an advertiser build brand equity and get a better return on their advertising dollars. The good news in all of this for advertisers is that they can do well by doing good. By seeking out family-friendly programming to sponsor, by encouraging the development of family-friendly fare that they can put their advertising dollars behind, by telling their media buyers to avoid programs that will harm their brand equity, by refusing to buy time on programs that could damage brand equity and diminish the returns on their ad investments – and telling the networks why they are not advertising on certain programs, sponsors can not only improve ad performance and get a better return on their ad dollars, they can also have a positive and lasting impact on the culture.

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