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Calling Don Draper, new study says that sex and violence don’t actually sell

Sex Sells*
Sex Sells*
Alexis Gravel via Flickr

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A new study published in the journal “Psychological Bulletin” has disproved a long-held wisdom in the advertising industry: that sex and violence sell.

Researchers at Ohio State University reviewed 53 studies on the topic conducted since the late 1960s, and found the cumulative answer to the questions of  whether viewers remember better products advertised with TV shows that feature sexual and violent content, and whether that attention translates to purchase, is a resounding no.

Do you agree with the findings? What implications would they have on the ad and entertainment industries?


Brad Bushman, co-author of the meta-analysis, “Do sex and violence sell? A Meta-Analytic Review of the Effects of Sexual and Violent Media and Ad Content on Memory, Attitudes, and Buying Intentions” published in the July issue of the journal, Psychological Bulletin. He’s a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University