Sex Does Not Sell: The Effect of Sexual Content on Advertisement Effectiveness and Interference with Memory for Program Information
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Scientific articles 
Original versionPerceptual and Motor Skills. 2022, . 10.1177/00315125221138395
Does increasing the sexual content of advertisements lead, though memory processes, to greater sales? By employing a between-participants design, we aimed to explore how sexual advertising affects explicit and implicit memory, and whether it impairs memory for information preceding the commercials (retroactive interference) or following the commercials (proactive interference). We randomly assigned 182 young participants in the UK to one of two groups who watched the same TV program containing an advertisement break during which either sexual or nonsexual advertisements were shown, while brands were held constant across conditions. Participants were then tested on their explicit and implicit memory for both the advertising content and program information. Results revealed that implicit memory was better for nonsexual than for sexual advertisements. Unexpectedly, there was no group difference in participants’ explicit memory for the advertisements. Further, sexual advertising resulted in retroactive interference with program information, whereas proactive memory for program information was not impaired. We acknowledge various study limitations and discuss proposals for future research.