• Who Says Sex Sells?

    by  • July 28, 2015 • Advertiser Accountability • 2 Comments

    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.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    2 Responses to Who Says Sex Sells?

    1. Chuck
      July 31, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      This is one of the reasons we removed the TV completely about 40 years ago. Our Pastor/son says it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He does not have Tv/cable to this day.

    2. Wayne
      July 31, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Every night I have the desire in my heart to watch stories of virtue with real challenges. Something that demonstrates great people overcoming great challenges or smart comedy with virtue underneath it.

      Good stuff is hard to find, I don’t want stories focused on sex or violence as an end. Hollywood, give me something that inspires that greatness in people.

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