Racy ads helped GoDaddy become the talk of the Internet after the 2005 Superbowl. Founder Bob Parsons hasn't shied away from the fact that, at the time, the company's goal was to use sex to sell.
"You want to have an ad that people will talk about," he told the audience during the Inc. 5000 conference last November.
GoDaddy certainly isn't the first company that has banked on the idea that sex sells. But just because people are talking about your ads, doesn't mean they'll buy your product, as a new study from Ohio State University suggests.
Study authors Dr. Robert Lull and Brad Bushman compared and contrasted results from 53 different studies that spanned 44 years of research and involved a collective 8,500 participants. All of the studies had to do the role of sex and violence in media, and whether it led to an increase in sales for a particular product.
Their conclusion: yes, sex and violence do grab people's attention. But after watching both neutral and sexually suggestive ads, viewers were more likely to have a negative view of the brands behind the racy ads and they were less inclined to buy those products.
"People are so focused on the sex and violence they see in the media that they pay less attention to the advertising messages that appear along with it," Bushman said in a press release.
This isn't the first time Bushman or Lull have conducted research related to sex and advertising. But this latest study indicates that even long before Carl's Jr. featured Paris Hilton in a bikini, or American Apparel ran an ad featuring a porn star, sex wasn't all that effective of a means to sell a product.
It's worth noting, too, that for all the attention the GoDaddy brand received for its ads, the company hasn't turned a profit in 18 years. The controversy hasn't killed it, either: the web-hosting company was finally able to successfully go public this year and today serves more than 13 million customers. But it's also pulled back on the racy ad strategy.
Bottom line: If you're just starting out and your goal is to grow sales and brand awareness, you might be wise to turn to less controversial advertising.