My Topics

3 May 2019

Does Sex Sell? Men Don’t Remember Brands Advertised through Sex Appeals

Sex is ubiquitous in advertising. Marketers assume that “sex sells” as it increases attention and memory. A study in Journal of Media Psychology examines how men and women remember sexual and nonsexual commercials. Results show that sex does grab attention, but that men get too distracted by it to remember the advertised brands.

Take aways

  • Both men and women remember commercials with sexual appeals better than nonsexual ones.
  • Because men get distracted by sexual appeals, they recall brands that are advertised without sexy images better.
  • Marketers should not use sex as a marketing tool for men if they want to immediately increase sales or if they want men to remember their brand.

Study information

  • Who?

    146 participants (mean age: 21, age range: 19-25, 51% female)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    Participants watched a series of short videos, among which 5 commercials using sex appeals and 5 using other, nonsexual appeals, matched by product type. After watching all videos, participants completed two direct memory tests (recognition and free recall).

Facts and findings

  • Participants remembered 20% more commercials that used sex appeals, compared to commercials that used nonsexual appeals.
  • Participants recalled 70% of the brands that were advertised with nonsexual appeals; as compared to only 43% of the brands that were advertised with sexual appeals.
  • Especially male participants remembered less brand information when commercials used sex appeals.
  • Interesting fact: almost all participants recognized all brands when they were presented with the brand names during the recognition test, therefore asking participants to freely recall brands seemed like a better memory test than only recognition.