The researchers, Robert B. Lull and Brad J. Bushman, found that while sexual or violent content in an ad or in the media featuring the ad attracted the audience's attention, they only remembered the sex and violence, not the product being advertised.
In fact, brands advertised during violent programs were remembered less often, evaluated less favorably, and were less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media.
In addition, as the sexual content and imagery in an ad increased, the audience's brand memory, attitudes and buying intentions all decreased.
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But what does sell in advertising? Lull told CNBC that an effective ad.
"The big question of 'what sells' is dependent on the goal of the campaign. For example, a brand like Apple that has already established deep associations among the public will craft a campaign with completely different goals than a lesser known brand like a local car dealer," explained Lull. "The local car dealer's overarching goal is simply to stand out among the dozens of car dealers in the area, because that means you are that much more likely to remember that dealer and make a visit there when looking for a car.
"Apple doesn't need this; you already know Apple exists so brand awareness is typically not their first goal (unless they enter a new market of course). In fact, an Apple ad to which the audience's first response would be the cheap attention typically allocated to car dealership ads would likely backfire because it would undermine their brand image."