When in doubt, advertisers often seem to default to stuff that's as seXXXy as possible. "Sex sells!" they cry to anyone skeptical of this approach. Turns out that's maybe not the case, though—as long as we're talking about female consumers.
The Independent reports that a study, newly published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found that women are actually turned off by explicit advertising—unless, that is, it was for something "superior and expensive."
Well, you know, it's not really a luxury handbag unless you've seen it in Vogue being clutched by a buck naked model.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers sat men and women down with ads for women's watches. Some were sexy, others featured mountains; some priced watches at $10, others at $1,250. Women, wrote a researcher, "found sexual imagery distasteful when it was used to promote a cheap product, but this reaction to sexual imagery was mitigated if the product promoted was expensive."
"We predicted and found that sexual ads promoting cheap products heightened feelings of being upset and angry among women," she added.
So what gives? According to the Independent:
"Women generally show spontaneous negative attitudes toward sexual images," writes psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs, a researcher at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues. "Sexual economics theory offers a reason why: The use of sexual imagery is inimical to women's vested interest in sex being portrayed as infrequent, special, and rare."
Maybe they simply find it distasteful when marketers try to use OMG BOOBS to market cheap crap. Maybe the dudes in the study have just been desensitized by a lifetime of tawdry beer ads. Who knows! But suggesting that women don't like raunchy ads because they think sex should only be soap-opera-wedding-night romantic is quite an intuitive leap.
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