Sexually explicit advertising gets noticed. But marketers should be aware that the context of that advertising matters — at least to the fairer sex. According to a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the University of Minnesota, women reacted more positively to a luxury watch ad featuring a couple having sex when they were led to believe the couple was in a relationship. No such effect was found among men. The researchers theorized that the difference could be men value sex as a recreational activity, while women prefer to see it as an act between committed adults. Men, on the other hand, preferred the ad when it seemed to be a spontaneous romp. Ken Wong, a marketing professor at Queen’s University, says the study’s results seem reasonable, but the scientists’ explanation appears overly simplistic. He cautions against painting males and females with such a broad brush, and points out exceptions to gender stereotypes are not uncommon. Wong cites the popularity of Harlequin romance novels as a counter-argument to the perception women only value sex in the confines of a committed relationship. “These are semi-graphic, soft-porn novels read by mainstream women and found acceptable because it’s not really pornography, it’s romance,” he says, adding that when it comes to marketing to either sex, tried-and-true consumer segmentation is key.
Advertising: Sex sells? Yes and no
Women like sexy ads featuring committed couples. Guys prefer sex with no strings.