Women Will Tolerate Sexually Explicit Ads — at the Right Price

Harvard Business Review:

Kathleen D. Vohs, the Land O’Lakes Professor of Excellence in Marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and her colleagues set up a study in which men and women viewed advertisements for wristwatches. One of the watches was priced low, at $10; the other ran for $1250. The subjects viewed each watch against both a simple mountain backdrop and a sexually explicit scene.

So do women ever think sex sells? Professor Vohs, defend your research.

When men and women view sex-based ads featuring a cheap watch versus an expensive one, their reactions differ. Men’s reactions don’t vary much, regardless of how much the watch costs. Women, in contrast, strongly dislike the sexual ad when it’s selling a very cheap watch, but they tolerate it when it’s selling a watch that’s expensive.

Is this surprising?

We were working from a theory that woman have a vested interest in seeing sex portrayed in a certain manner, including advertising, because sex is much costlier for them from a biological perspective and socio-cultural perspective. In society, women can get into a whole lot of trouble if they behave sexually in a manner that’s not going to lead them to good long-term consequences. Biologically, they could have to carry a child. Socio-culturally, they could become stigmatized. There are a whole host of things in between.

We posited that, because of this, women are choosy about the way that they want sex to be portrayed, and they want it to align with their basic core values about the when and under what conditions sex should take place.

So we wanted to find a good way to communicate the idea that sex should be rare, valuable, and special, from an advertising perspective. What a better way to do that than by creating an implicit association between sex and a product that’s rare, valuable, and special?

Read the whole story: Harvard Business Review

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