1. Study shows how weather impacts response to mobile ads

    August 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences press release:

    Among the many factors that impact digital marketing and online advertising strategy, a new study in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science provides insight to a growing trend among firms and big brands … weather-based advertising. According to the study, certain weather conditions are more amenable for consumer responses to mobile marketing efforts, while the tone of your ad content can either help or hurt such response depending on the current local weather.

    As mobile users may have already noticed, many major brands — including Burberry, Ace Hardware, Taco Bell, Delta Airlines, and Farmers Insurance — are currently leveraging weather-based promotions. Indeed, more than 200 others have partnered with the Weather Channel Company for targeted advertising and promotions.

    The study, “Sunny, Rainy, and Cloudy with a Chance of Mobile Promotion Effectiveness,” was conducted by Chenxi Li of Beihang University, Xueming Luo of Temple University, Cheng Zhang of Fudan University, and Xiaoyi Wang of Zhejiang University. The authors examined field experiment datasets with mobile platforms (SMS and APP) on two digital products (video-streaming and e-book reading) on over six million mobile users in 344 cities across China. They simultaneously tracked weather conditions at both daily and hourly rates across these cities, with a focus on sunny, cloudy and rainy weather.

    The authors found that overall, consumer response to mobile promotions was 1.2 times higher and occurred 73 percent faster in sunny weather than in cloudy weather. However, during raining conditions, that response was .9 times lower and 59 percent slower than during cloudy weather. Better-than-yesterday weather and better-than-forecast weather engender more purchase responses. A good deviation from the expected rainy or cloudy weather with relatively rare events of sunshine significantly boosts purchase responses to mobile promotions. In addition, compared with a neutral tone, the negative tone of prevention ad content hurts the initial promotion boost induced by sunshine, but improves the initial promotion drop induced by rainfall. The authors also ruled out the possibility that the results could arise purely because of different mobile usage behaviors during different weather conditions. Their results also took into account the effects of individual locations, temperature, humidity, visibility, air pressure, dew point, wind, and time of day.

    “Obviously, although brand managers cannot control the mother-nature weather, our findings are non-trivial because they suggest that brands can leverage the relevant, local weather information in mobile promotions. Firms should use the prevention-tone ad copy on rainy days and the simple neutral-tone ad copy on sunny days to attain greater bang for the buck,” said Li.

    “Given that consumers nowadays are inundated with and annoyed by irrelevant ads on their personal mobile devices and small screens, for marketers, these findings imply new opportunities of customer data analytics for more effective weather-based mobile targeting,” Luo added.


  2. Study suggests marketing strategies for offline retailers

    August 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Journal of Retailing at New York University press release:

    For retailers, the era of the online marketplace brings previously unimaginable opportunity and risk: on one hand, the universe of customers has expanded exponentially, and with it the amount of information available on individuals’ buying patterns. The risk so far has fallen disproportionately on retailers who lack on online presence, as the e-commerce share of US retail nearly doubled in the past five years. New research to be published in the September 2017 issue of the Journal of Retailing shows that savvy offline retailers can use data gleaned from online retail to boost their own sales.

    In “Product Touch and Consumers’ Online and Offline Buying: The Role of Mental Representation,” Wumei Liu, of Lanzhou University’s School of Management, Rajeev Batra of the Ross School of Business at University of Michigan, and Haizhong Wang of Sun Yat-Sen University’s School of Business showed that the effect of being able to touch a product on consumers’ purchase intention and willingness to pay for a product depends on the individual’s mindset: that is, does this person think concretely or abstractly? For concrete thinkers, product touch is important; for abstract thinkers, not so much. The offline retailer who can mine the wealth of consumer research data available through the internet to pinpoint these concrete thinkers, the authors suggest, can target them with appropriate marketing strategies.

    The authors designed three studies to determine how people’s mental representations of the products they are evaluating for purchase affects their purchase decisions. Some individuals, they surmised, have a tendency and ability to think abstractly while others respond more to concrete stimuli, and the latter would value more the opportunity to physically examine a product before buying it. One study, for example, primed participants to think abstractly in one condition and concretely in another. In each condition, they were then asked to decide about buying a mug that was placed in a transparent plastic box; some participants could handle the mug while others could not. When concrete representation was primed, participants’ willingness to buy the mug increased when they could touch it, but when abstract representation was primed, the effect of touch was insignificant. A second study confirmed this effect and showed it was mediated by perceived ownership and perceived risk simultaneously. A third study with a nationally representative sample was able to replicate the results of the first two studies.

    The implications for offline retailers, the authors write, suggest that they should try to identify consumers who value touch and that this information is easily available through syndicated psychographic data on consumers. With such segmentation, for example, retailers could offer free trials to these consumers. But online retailers can also benefit, by promoting an abstract mindset, such as consumers’ passion and love for life, in their marketing and merchandising.


  3. Study assesses effectiveness of loss-leader strategy

    July 30, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Journal of Retailing at New York University:

    Deep discounting by retailers, accompanied by a blitz of promotions, is a long-established and well-accepted strategy for boosting brand and category sales. But relatively few studies have analyzed store-level data in an effort to compile systematic empirical evidence on the impact of deep discounting on such store performance metrics as traffic, sales, and profits. New research delves into the numbers to find out if the received wisdom is justified.

    In “An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Promotional Discounts on Store Performance,” Dinesh K. Gauri, a marketing professor at the University of Arkansas’s Walton College of Business, and co-authors Brian Ratchford, Joseph Pancras, and Debabrata Talukdar gathered data from 24 branches of a grocery chain in the Northeastern US over 49 weeks. Their analysis of several different metrics, to be published in the September 2017 issue of the Journal of Retailing, showed that that deep discounting is a valid strategy supported by the numbers, with the caveat that broad discounting in a category may lead to diminishing returns.

    For each week in each of the two dozen stores, the authors compiled data on overall traffic, sales per transaction, and margin, for a total of 13,815 transactions, with a mean value of $15.44 and margin of 23.6 percent. They looked at the impact of loss leader strategies, including promotional expenditures, on penetration and frequency, impulse buying, stockpiling, and store brands. Besides confirming the legitimacy of the strategy in general, they unearthed insights that could help shape retailing strategy.

    Among the findings that can give retailers an edge: the data showed that discounts on high-penetration, high-frequency items — staples such as meat and produce — and low-penetration, low-frequency items — fill-ins, like beer and spreads — led to increased traffic but lower sales per transaction, suggesting that these features tend to attract small-ticket customers. However, discounts in these categories were associated with higher margins, especially with the low-penetration, low-frequency category, suggesting that the smaller transactions generated by the discounts tend to contain an above-average number of high-margin items in addition to the discounted items — a result driven mainly by beer, which was featured almost every week.


  4. Study looks into doing market research via brainwave scans

    July 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Missouri University of Science and Technology press release:

    A researcher at Missouri University of Science and Technology wants to scrap the traditional electronic and paper survey approaches to gathering marketing and information systems data in favor of scanning your brainwaves.

    Dr. Keng Siau, professor and chair of the business and information technology department, is looking at using an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset to pick your brain. He and a former graduate student compared the pros and cons of EEG and other neurophysiological for a paper published last January in the Journal of Database Management.

    An EEG tracks and records brain wave patterns. Small metal discs with thin wires (electrodes) are placed on the scalp and send signals to a computer to record the results.

    “We’re actually trying to go deeper inside,” Siau says. “Because when you ask someone to fill out a questionnaire, there are a few issues.”

    Chief among them, he says, are time and accuracy.

    “I receive a lot of questionnaires. But do I have time to fill them out? Most of the time, I don’t. I just put them aside,” says Siau.

    He uses the common problem of getting accurate survey responses as an example.

    “A lot of times, we want to get information from CEOs, but CEOs don’t have the time and just pass it to their secretaries,” Siau says. “The secretaries are the ones that fill out the questionnaires, not the CEOs. A secretary’s opinion will be somewhat different from the opinion of a CEO.”

    Siau also says that people often answer survey questions based on what they think the surveyor wants to hear.

    “‘This is what I think, but this is what they want. OK, I’ll give them what they want’,” he says. “When I look at something, maybe I have a first response. But then I think maybe people want to hear this answer and not that one.”

    When an individual’s brain activity is monitored, however, “it’s harder to lie, it’s more instantaneous and unfiltered,” Siau adds.

    Cognitive neuroscience is an emerging field in information systems and marketing research. Siau and his former research assistant, Yeli Zhao, who recently graduated with an MBA and is now working at the Chinese University of Petroleum in Beijing, reviewed several neurophysiological tools used in this field. Their review included the EGG, as well as functional MRI (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). They outlined the strengths and weaknesses of each tool and highlighted future research directions in cognitive neuroscience in their review article “Cognitive Neuroscience in Information Systems Research,” published in the January 2016 edition of the Journal of Database Management.

    As expected, Siau and Zhao found a strong correlation between cost and effectiveness among the tools. For example, an EEG headset can only scan the surface of the brain, while a functional MRI can penetrate deeper into the brain to retrieve thoughts and emotions. But at $50,000, the cost of a good quality EEG headset is relatively cheap compared to a state-of-the-art MRI scanner, which goes for about $2 million to $3 million.

    Siau called the comparative and review research “a starting point.”

    “It’s a new way of thinking about and researching previous research questions,” he says. “We have been using surveys as a technique for data collection. Now we have a new technique called cognitive neuroscience that will look at brain activity.

    “It opens up new dimensions to study cognition in information systems research,” he adds.


  5. Now or later: How taste and sound affect when you buy

    July 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    There’s a reason marketers make appeals to our senses; the “snap, crackle and pop” of Rice Krispies makes us want to buy the cereal and eat it. But as savvy as marketers are, they may be missing a key ingredient in their campaigns.

    New research finds the type of sensory experience an advertisement conjures up in our mind — taste and touch vs. sight and sound — has a fascinating effect on when we make purchases.

    The study led by marketing professors at Brigham Young University and the University of Washington finds that advertisements highlighting more distal sensory experiences (sight/sound) lead people to delay purchasing, while highlighting more proximal sensory experiences (touch/taste) lead to earlier purchases.

    “Advertisers are increasingly aware of the influence sensory cues can play,” said lead author Ryan Elder, associate professor of marketing at BYU. “Our research dives into which specific sensory experiences will be most effective in an advertisement, and why.”

    Elder, with fellow lead author Ann Schlosser, a professor of marketing at the University of Washington, Morgan Poor, assistant professor of marketing at San Diego State University, and Lidan Xu, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, carried out four lab studies and a pilot study involving more than 1,100 study subjects for the research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    Time and time again, their experiments found that people caught up in the taste or touch of a product or event were more likely to be interested at an earlier time.

    In one experiment, subjects read one of two reviews for a fictional restaurant: One focused on taste/touch, the other emphasized sound/vision. Participants were then asked to make a reservation to the restaurant on a six-month interactive calendar. Those who read the review focusing on the more proximal senses (taste and touch) were significantly more likely to make a reservation closer to the present date.

    In another experiment, study subjects read ad copy for a summer festival taking place either this weekend or next year. Two versions of the ad copy existed: one emphasizing taste (“You will taste the amazing flavors…”) and one emphasizing sound (“You will listen to the amazing sounds…”).

    When subjects were asked when they would like to attend, those who read the ad copy about taste had a higher interest in attending a festival this weekend. Those who read ads emphasizing sounds were more likely to have interest in attending the festival next year.

    If an advertised event is coming up soon, it would be better to highlight the more proximal senses of taste or touch — such as the food served at the event — than the more distal senses of sound and sight,” Schlosser said. “This finding has important implications for marketers, especially those of products that are multi-sensory.”

    As part of the study, researchers also learned an interesting insight into making restaurant reviews more helpful. In their field study, the authors analyzed 31,889 Yelp reviews to see if they could find connections between the sensory elements of a reviewer’s experience and the usefulness of a review.

    They found reviews from people who emphasized a more distal sense (such as sight) were rated more useful when the review used the past tense (“We ate here last week and…”), while people emphasizing a proximal sense (touch) had more useful reviews when they used the present tense (“I’m eating this right now and it is so good!”).

    “Sensory marketing is increasingly important in today’s competitive landscape. Our research suggests new ways for marketers to differentiate their products and service, and ultimately influence consumer behavior,” Elder said. “Marketers need to pay closer attention to which sensory experiences, both imagined and actual, are being used.”


  6. Study suggests clever way to help de-clutter home

    July 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    If your attic is full of stuff you no longer use but can’t bear to give away, a new study may offer you a simple solution.

    Researchers found that people were more willing to give away unneeded goods that still had sentimental value if they were encouraged to take a photo of these items first, or find another way to preserve the memories.

    Such a strategy could help parents part with old baby clothes they no longer need or help a former athlete give up a favorite basketball or hockey stick.

    What people really don’t want to give up is the memories associated with the item,” said Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

    “We found that people are more willing to give up these possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory.”

    Reczek conducted the study with Karen Winterich, associate professor of marketing at Pennsylvania State University, and Julie Irwin, professor of business at the University of Texas at Austin.

    The results were just published online in the Journal of Marketing.

    “The project got started when I realized I was keeping an old pair of basketball shorts just because they reminded me of beating a major rival basketball team in junior high,” Winterich said.

    “I didn’t want the shorts — I wanted the memory of winning that game and that’s what I thought of when I saw the shorts. A picture can easily mark that memory for me and I can donate it so someone else can use it, which is even better.”

    Inspired by this story, the researchers conducted a field study involving 797 students at Penn State who lived in six residence halls on campus. At the end of a fall semester, the researchers advertised a donation drive before the students left for the holidays. But there was a catch: There were actually two different advertising campaigns that varied by residence halls.

    In the memory preservation campaign, signs in the residence hall bathrooms stated, “Don’t Pack up Your Sentimental Clutter…Just Keep a Photo of It, Then Donate.” In the control campaign, fliers told students, “Don’t Pack Up Your Sentimental Clutter, Just Collect the Items, Then Donate.” Similar numbers of students were exposed to both campaigns.

    After finals week, research associates who were unaware of what the study was about emptied donation bins in each residence hall, counting the items donated.

    The researchers found 613 items were donated in the halls that hosted the “memory preservation” campaign, versus only 533 in the control campaign.

    Reczek said the results show it may be relatively easy to break our old habits of clinging to some of our possessions with sentimental value.

    “It is not terribly surprising that we can keep the same memories alive just by taking a photo of these possessions, but it is not a natural behavior. It is something we have to train ourselves to do,” she said.

    In other related experiments, the researchers found that it wasn’t just the memories associated with these possessions that were keeping people from donating — it was the identities linked to those memories.

    For example, older parents may still feel connected to their identity as new mothers and fathers and not want to part with their infant clothes.

    In one study, some people who were donating goods at a local thrift shop in State College, Pennsylvania, were given instant photos of the items they were donating, while others were not. They were then asked about whether they would feel a sense of identity loss from giving away the item.

    Results showed that those who received the photos reported less identity loss than those who did not.

    “These memories connected to possessions are a carrier for identity. It is this reluctance to give up a piece of our identity that is driving our reluctance to donate,” Reczek said.

    This memory preservation strategy won’t work for items that don’t have sentimental value, she said. It also won’t work for items you want to sell instead of donate. She also suspects there may be a limit to what some people are willing to give away.

    “It may not work for something that has a lot of sentimental value, like a wedding dress,” Reczek said.

    The bottom line is that everyone benefits by using this memory preservation strategy to de-clutter a home, Winterich said.

    “We hope that it will not only make it easier for people to clear out clutter, but it will also help spur the donation process, benefiting nonprofits and the recipients that they serve,” she said.


  7. Study looks at how to improve customer experience

    July 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Twente press release:

    Customer experience plays a major role in why consumers choose a specific product or service. But how do you improve that customer experience? University of Twente PhD student Harald Pol has been conducting research into the question of how organizations do this successfully. He defended his dissertation, Mastering Meaningful Customer Connections, on June 16.

    Loyalty

    A customer’s emotional experience of an organization, product or service is an important factor in determining that customer’s loyalty. There is also an economic aspect: customers will not only return sooner and more frequently, but by creating an experience, organizations can also ask a higher price for their products and services. The most obvious example of this is a simple cup of coffee: at a ‘normal’ catering establishment, you will pay about €2.50 for this, while at Starbucks this is around €3.75, and on the terrace of a café on the Place du Tertre in Paris you can easily pay about €8 for the same cup of coffee.

    Personal relationship

    Pol decided to search for explanations using the Relational Models Theory (Fiske, 1991), a theory that had until recently mostly been used to describe and explain relationships between individual people. He noted that there are two common types of relationships: Communal Sharing and Market Pricing. With Communal Sharing, both parties invest in the relationship without keeping track of what the relationship is yielding. The main values experienced are equivalence, concern for the surrounding environment and concern for each other. Market Pricing focuses on the profits and losses of the relationship. If these profits and losses cease to be in balance, the relationship finishes.

    Focus on feeling versus focus on prices

    In certain sectors, it is possible to see trends in how organizations project themselves: telephone providers often emphasize lower rates or favourable terms and conditions, and in the energy sector too, many companies compete on price to win over customers from their competitors. Companies that are less able to differentiate themselves in this way often make a transition to emphasizing Communal Sharing: they increasingly compete using the feeling behind the product.

    Exerting influence successfully

    Companies really are able to influence the emotional nature of the customer relationship using specific words and images — this is known as ‘priming’. This is particularly effective when it occurs unconsciously and when the words or images used fit the customer’s motivations for using a particular service. One of the secondary studies shows that a leaflet which contains personal images will have a more positive impact on the customer’s experience and inclination to switch than a leaflet that includes only business images.

    ‘The relationship models used by customers provide a deeper insight into the conscious and — more particularly — the unconscious thoughts and feelings of customers,’ explains Pol. ‘They demonstrate the specific values that customers apply in relation to the organization. Often, these values remain invisible. But if organizations can identify and explore these values, customer behaviour can be understood and predicted better. Relationship models enable organizations to see and understand customer satisfaction, confidence, loyalty and likelihood to recommend.’


  8. Study suggests tendency to trust may be inherited, but distrust is not

    July 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Arizona press release:

    Research has shown that how trusting a person is may depend, at least in part, on his or her genes. However, distrust does not appear to be inherited in the same way, according to a new study led by the University of Arizona.

    The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explores distrust as a separate and distinct quality from trust.

    “This research supports the idea that distrust is not merely the opposite of trust,” said Martin Reimann, assistant professor of marketing in the UA’s Eller College of Management and lead author of the study.

    “Both trust and distrust are strongly influenced by the individual’s unique environment, but what’s interesting is that trust seems to be significantly influenced by genetics, while distrust is not. Distrust appears to be primarily socialized,” Reimann said.

    Reimann and his colleagues — UA assistant professor of management and organizations Oliver Schilke and Stanford sociologist Karen S. Cook — studied sets of adult identical twins — who have identical genetic relatedness — and adult fraternal, or non-identical, twins — who have different genetic relatedness.

    Based on the core principles of behavioral genetics, if genetics explain variations in distrust and trust behaviors, then identical twins should behave more similarly to each other than fraternal twins, since the genes of identical twins are shared, while the genes of fraternal twins are only imperfectly correlated, Reimann said.

    Studying the two different types of twins allowed researchers to estimate the relative influence of three different factors on twins’ trust and distrust trust behaviors: heritable factors — that is, genetic influences; shared environmental factors — that is, common experiences of growing up in the same family and interacting with the same immediate peers; and unshared environmental factors — or the siblings’ unique experiences in life.

    For the research, 324 identical and 210 fraternal twins participated in a study task that asked them to decide how much money to send to another study participant — representing trust — and another task that asked them to decide how much money to take away from another participant — representing distrust.

    The researchers found that the identical twin pairs behaved more similarly than the fraternal twin pairs in their trust behaviors but not their distrust behaviors, suggesting that genetics influence trust, but not distrust.

    Overall, analyses estimated that trust is 30 percent heritable, while distrust is not at all heritable. Meanwhile, the estimated contribution of shared environment to distrust was 19 percent, while shared environment didn’t contribute at all to trust.

    Unshared environment — or the twins’ independent experiences in life — had the biggest impact on both trust and distrust, with unshared experiences contributing 81 percent to distrust and 70 percent to trust. In other words, much of a person’s propensity to trust or distrust is neither inherited nor commonly socialized. It is instead influenced by unique experiences in life.

    “We all have a stock of past experiences that we draw on to help determine how we are going to behave in different situations, and future research should look at what particular types of life experiences could be the most influential on trust or distrust,” Reimann said. “Disposition to trust, however, is not a product of experience alone; genetic influence is also significant. But we don’t see the same genetic influence with distrust.”


  9. Study suggests anxious adults drawn to advertising messages that feature home concepts

    by Ashley

    From the Vanderbilt University press release:

    New research by Steve Posavac, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, uncovers another consequence of anxiety symptoms: susceptibility to certain marketing themes.

    According to a paper recently published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, individuals with relatively elevated symptoms of Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder (ASAD) are more favorable to advertisements with home concepts.

    “Importantly, our research suggests a vulnerability to persuasion among those with adult separation anxiety disorder symptoms that goes beyond simply the appeal of a product itself,” Posavac and co-author, psychologist Heidi Posavac, write. “Featuring the concept of home as an advertising theme leads to more favorability towards the persuasive attempt.”

    The paper says consumer advertising regularly invokes the idea of home, citing recent Super Bowl ads by Jeep and Budweiser as examples.

    Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder is a psychological condition in which an individual has excessive anxiety regarding separation from places or people to whom he or she has a strong emotional attachment. The lifetime incidence of adult separation anxiety disorder in the United States is estimated to be 6.6 percent, but a much higher percentage may experience symptoms.

    In a study conducted at Vanderbilt Business’ Behavioral Research Lab, participants completed a questionnaire to measure ASAD published by the American Psychiatric Institute. Later, they read an internet advertisement for a fictitious airline: one version incorporated a theme of “coming home to family,” the other promoted a message of “seeing new things.” Participants with high ASAD symptoms had more favorable attitudes toward the home-themed ad, while those with little to no symptoms offered no preference.

    While the Posavacs’ findings may suggest an opportunity for marketers, they caution that it may also reflect a threat for sufferers of adult separation anxiety disorder. Should marketers be able to identify and target a subgroup of consumers with ASAD or ASAD symptoms, home-themed advertising might increase sales, but the impact on the consumers themselves might not be so positive.

    “Whether in individual treatment sessions, or with a psychoeducational approach, individuals experiencing chronic adult separation anxiety may be well served by clinicians who help to inoculate them against the possibility of coming under undue influence by savvy marketers,” the authors write.


  10. Research suggests sexual appeals in ads don’t sell brands, products

    July 1, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign press release:

    Could it be that sex actually does not sell? An analysis of nearly 80 advertising studies published over more than three decades suggests that’s the case.

    “We found that people remember ads with sexual appeals more than those without, but that effect doesn’t extend to the brands or products that are featured in the ads,” says University of Illinois advertising professor John Wirtz, the lead author of the research.

    Wirtz and his co-authors conducted a first-of-its-kind meta-analysis of 78 peer-reviewed studies looking at the effects of sexual appeals in advertising. Their findings were posted online this week by the International Journal of Advertising.

    Their research found that not only were study participants no more likely to remember the brands featured in ads with sexual appeals, they were more likely to have a negative attitude toward those brands, Wirtz said.

    Participants also showed no greater interest in making a purchase. “We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal,” Wirtz said. “This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”

    Co-authors on the research were Johnny V. Sparks, a professor of journalism at Ball State University, and Thais M. Zimbres, a doctoral student at the University of California, Davis.

    As defined in the research, sexual appeals included models who were partially or fully nude; models who were engaged in sexual touching or in positions that suggested a sexual encounter was imminent; sexual innuendoes; and sexual embeds, which are partially hidden words or pictures that communicate a sexual message.

    “The strongest finding was probably the least surprising, which is that males, on average, like ads with sexual appeals, and females dislike them,” Wirtz said. “However, we were surprised at how negative female attitudes were toward these ads.”

    When not separating the results by gender, the effect of sexual appeals on participants’ attitudes toward ads was not significant, he said, but separately “they’re just going in completely opposite directions.”

    Wirtz said he decided to pursue this research because he sees meta-analysis – the application of statistical procedures to data from a range of studies – as a powerful tool.

    “The average number of participants in each individual study was about 225, but by using a meta-analysis, we could combine studies and conduct some analyses with more than 5,000 participants – in one analysis, with more than 11,000,” Wirtz said. “This means that our results present a more accurate picture of what happens when someone sees an ad with a sexual appeal.”

    The implications of the research for advertising practitioners are mixed, given that ads with sexual appeals are remembered more – and advertisers want people to remember their ads, Wirtz said – yet they don’t appear to help in selling brands or products. “Certainly the evidence indicates that the carryover effect to liking the ads doesn’t influence whether they’re going to make a purchase,” he said.

    This could be one reason why a national restaurant chain, known in recent years for ads selling its sandwiches with scantily clad models in suggestive poses, made a very public break with that approach in a three-minute commercial in the last Super Bowl, Wirtz said.

    “If the ‘sexy ads’ had been effective, it’s unlikely the company or ad agency would have made such a drastic change,” he said. “When product is moving, people don’t make changes.”