Does sex sell? The effect of sexual programme content on the recall of sexual and non-sexual advertisements



This study looked at the recall of sexual and non-sexual television advertisements embedded within programmes, with or without, sexual content. It was predicted that there would be a detrimental effect of sexual programme content, and a beneficial effect of sexual advertisement content on ability to recall advertisements. Further, when programme and advertisement content were congruous (i.e. both sexual), this also would hinder recall. Participants aged between 18 and 31 were placed in one of four conditions and were shown either ‘Sex and the City’ (sexual programme) or ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ (non-sexual programme) with sexual or non-sexual advertisements embedded in each. Participants were then asked to recall advertisement details from the advertisements. The results indicated that there was a main effect of programme type, demonstrating that sexual programme content hindered recall of advertisements. However, there was no main effect of the type of advertisements seen (sexual or non-sexual) on recall, nor was there a negative effect on recall when programme and advertisement content were congruous. An interaction between advertisements and sex of participants showed that males recalled sexual advertisements better and females recalled non-sexual advertisements better. Limitations of the study are considered. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.