It's official: Sex doesn't sell

Emma Haslett
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Sorry, Abercrombie & Fitch: These boys won't help you push up your sales (Source: Getty)

Those who came up with the old adage that sex sells were a little hasty in reaching their conclusions, it seems, after a new study concluded scantily-clad young men and women do nothing to push up sales.

In fact, the analysis of a range of studies, published in the International Journal of Advertising, found that including "sexual appeals" in ads has no effect on purchase intention whatsoever.

Researchers from the University of Illinois, Ball State University and the University of California-Davis examined almost 80 studies published between the late 1960s and this year, which analysed at 17,000 consumers.

Sadly for marketers who are fans of the strategy, it turns out although people found it a little easier to recognise ads and the brands behind them if a little sex appeal was included, the effect wasn't significant. In many cases, ads containing sexual appeal actually had a negative effect on consumers' attitudes towards the brand in question.

The study also found the effect of sexy ads on consumers' attitudes towards the ad itself wasn't significant - although one study found that men were more "significantly" more likely to evaluate ads with sexual appeal positively than women.

"We found literally zero effect on participants' intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal," said John Wirtz, from the University of Illinois.

"This assumption that sex sells - well, no, according to our study, it doesn't. There's no indication that there's a positive effect."

"The strongest finding was probably the least surprising, which is that males, on average, like ads with sexual appeals, and females dislike them," he added.

"However, we were surprised at how negative female attitudes were toward these ads."

Read more: Prepare yourself for the inevitable rise of sex robots

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