NEW YORK: Sex exerts the strongest effect on consumer attitudes among seven different appeals commonly used in advertising, according to a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

This finding came from Advertising Appeals, Moderators, and Impact on Persuasion: A Quantitative Assessment Creates a Hierarchy of Appeals, a meta-analysis of 1,200 reports mostly produced between 1966 and 2014.

And the authors – Jacob Hornik (Tel-Aviv University, Israel; Paris School of Business, France), Chezy Ofir (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem) and Matti Rachamim (Bar-Ilan University, Israel) – made a corresponding discovery about the impact of single appeals on consumer attitudes towards, and the “liking” of, advertising.

“There appears to be greater responsiveness to sex appeals, especially in more recent years,” the trio of scholars revealed in their study.

Humour and comparative appeals followed next at the top of the charts. Appeals based on fear and metaphors had a “marginal” impact, they noted, slightly ahead of gain-framed appeals.

Two-sided appeals, where ads present both sides of an argument and try to persuade the audience that one point of view wins out, were at the bottom of the pack on this metric.

Elaborating on this theme, the authors suggested a wider implication of their work was that “all else being equal, that consumers respond to emotional appeals more favourably than to rational appeals”.

“Advertising appeals were not equally effective. There seemed to be a ranking of appeal effects, particularly among emotional appeals, that should be explained by future research,” they added.

Drawing on previous studies, Hornik, Ofir and Rachamim also explained that the seven appeal types featured in their research make up 76% of all ads, and almost 85% of spots appearing on television.

Elsewhere, they found that the “greatest moderating influence” on appeal effects was the medium where ads appeared, as shown by the use of TV for emotional appeals, outdoor on sex and humour, and print for rational appeals.

“The results therefore suggest that all appeal tests should be media-specific,” Hornik, Ofir and Rachamim wrote in their JAR paper.

Another core caveat of their work was that, “In general, the effectiveness of appeals may be substantially less than many managers tend to believe.

“In other words, appeal considerations cannot be done in isolation from other elements of campaigns, such as media and product types.”

Sourced from the Journal of Advertising Research