David Ogilvy didn't believe in the idea that sex sells. He didn't believe in it, because his wealth of advertising knowledge, data, analysis and research had taught him that it just isn't true. In his book Ogilvy on Advertising, he spoke about the problem of using breasts to sell products that had nothing to do with breasts.
It's the same notion that Brad Bushman and Robert Lull, researchers and academics who published in the Psychological Bulletin, concluded in their recent study:
"Brands advertised in violent contexts will be remembered less often, evaluated less favourably, and less likely to be purchased than brands advertised in nonviolent media. We also suggest that advertising in sexual media may not be as detrimental as advertising in violent media, but does not appear to be a successful strategy either."
There's a lot more research too. But we don't listen. Ad agencies keep on selling women draped all over cars in provocative poses, despite data that says more women make car purchasing decisions than men. Ad agencies keep on selling women stripping down to sell cologne, sandwiches, bourbon, blenders, binders and workboots.
It comes down to laziness. Sheer laziness. A campaign full of sex is eye catching and edgy, and regardless of how effective it is, it'll keep being pushed because it's an easy way to persuade a client that you're full of big ideas.
Ultimately, advertising needs to be driven by data and research that helps businesses to make sales and build their brand. Throwing sex into a pot and calling it a day doesn't do that - particularly when the research and the experience clearly shows that it doesn't work.
When I build a campaign at Opkomend, I'm not asking how I can make a product look like an entry into a softcore porn mood boarding competition. I'm asking how I can make the product the star, the audience the target, and the campaign a winner. Because at the end of the day, advertising is a tool. And if that tool doesn't get a job done, it's a broken tool.