The effect of exposure to sexual appeals in advertisements on memory, attitude, and purchase intention: a meta-analytic review

John Wirtz, Johnny V. Sparks, Thais M. Zimbres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Researchers have often attempted to answer the question, ‘Does sex sell?’ In this article, we present a meta-analysis of studies that used an experiment to test the effect of sexual appeals in ads on memory, attitude, and purchase intention. Our analysis revealed a significant positive effect for sexual appeals on ad recognition and recall (weighted Cohen's d =.38, p <.001), but the effect on brand recognition and recall was not significant (d =.09, p =.30). We also found that the effect of sexual appeals on attitude towards the ad was not significant (d = −0.07, p =.26); however, additional analysis showed that males (d =.27, p <.01) evaluate ads with sexual appeals significantly more positively than females (d = −.38, p <.001). Finally, we found a small significant negative effect on brand attitude (d = −.22, p <.05), but no effect on purchase intention (d =.01, p =.94).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-198
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Advertising
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2018



  • Sex in advertising
  • ad recognition and recall
  • attitude toward ad
  • attitude toward brand
  • brand recognition and recall
  • meta-analysis
  • purchase intention
  • sexual appeal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Marketing

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