Sex sells, but not to women?

A new study finds that women are bored by ads featuring "sexy" models.

Published September 8, 2006 12:44PM (EDT)

Most women have, at one point or another, felt completely mystified by the glut of ads featuring nearly naked women in women's magazines that are clearly geared toward a straight audience. But a new study contradicts theories about how an image of a sexy woman might successfully capitalize on some women's desire to be desired. The researchers say the ad execs simply have it all wrong.

Researchers at the University of Florida surveyed more than 100 women, asking them to rate their response to photos of attractive women according to a series of manikins representing various emotional states. Fox News reports that the more "seductive" a model, the more it instilled a disinterested response in the participants.

"Based on this research, it is evident that many advertisers may have been misled in using more sexual models to attract women to their products," Robyn Goodman, the study's lead author, told Fox. "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 sexual model."

But I'm not sold on the idea that the entire multibillion-dollar ad industry has a backward idea of what sells to female readers. Asking female participants to rate their emotional responses seems a woolly approach, too prone to their ideas of how they should respond. Not to mention, sexy advertising might instill complex emotions not easily represented by a manikin. But, by all means advertisers, feel free to take this as gospel.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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