Do Sensual Excesses Really Sell?

Flashy magazine ads portraying lewd women may not catch the eyes of female readers, according to recent research. The advertising industry bases its success on consumers being drawn to their products. But when it comes to selling in magazines like Allure and Glamour—publications with a female readership of nearly 100 percent—what do consumers want? To find out, a team of researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville gauged the emotional responses of more than 100 college-aged women to photos of attractive women. After looking at each photo, the participants would point to a manikin that represented their emotional reaction. For instance, one set of manikins represented arousal reactions; ranging from disinterested to excite.

The more seductive the model, the more it left the women bored and uninterested, according to lead author Robyn Goodman. The findings seem to contradict the sensual images that saturate the ads in glossy female magazines. It seems they missed the mark here. The results also illuminate a gap between the male executives who are marketing the magazines and the consumers.

What is beauty?

In an initial survey, participants were asked to rate photos of models according to six beauty categories, including lewd kitten and classic feminine. These beauty types were determined by fashion editors at New York magazines. But rather than distinguishing between six beauty types, the participants only saw two types. After analyzing the data, it was found that female consumers only saw two types of beauty; wholesome and lewd-sensual. For instance, Katie Holmes is an example of wholesome while the Victoria’s Secret models are lewd-sensual. The study was presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention last month in San Francisco.

Message to advertisers based on this research; it is evident that many advertisers may have been misled in using more lewd models to attract women to their products. What do women want? Presumably, women desire to be more like the wholesome beauty models, and in turn, will purchase the products they endorse more readily than they would a product endorsed by a more overtly lewd model. The researchers did discuss whether or not clothing or posture had any effect on the results. They thought it was mostly a look and not necessarily those other characteristics such as attire and pose. They hope to test this theory by showing images of the same women in different attire and poses.

Indeed, this study seems to show the fallacy in the age-old adage that “lewd sells."

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