Provocative advertising campaigns have little impact on sales and can have a negative effect on a brand's image, according to new research.
John Wirtz, an advertising professor at the University of Illinois, combined data from 78 studies that examined the efficacy of sex appeal in adverts.
The study, titled 'The effect of exposure to sexual appeals in advertisements on memory, attitude, and purchase intention results', found that audiences were no more likely to recall a brand's name or purchase a product if an ad campaign used sexualised content.
Wirtz, who recently published his analysis in the International Journal of Advertising, said: "We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal.
“This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”
Protein World's is perhaps the most prominent example of sexualised ads negatively impacting on a brand's image. It's 'beach body ready’ campaign in 2015 was widely criticised on social media and saw 378 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The growing trend of sexualised advertising led the ASA to launch an ongoing investigation into gender stereotyping which appears to objectify or sexualise women.
Some brands have even taken measures to address the issue themselves. Unilever unveiled its global ambition to eradicate gender stereotypes from its ads in 2016 and recently launched a new Unstereotype Alliance to further the cause.