Super Bowl Advertisers Hope That Sex Still Sells

USA Today reports that the 2012 Super Bowl commercial spots will be full of racy advertisements aimed at grabbing the attention of the100 million strong audience. The publication went inside‘s headquarters as it filmed one of two spots it will be airing during the big game and reported that the company is relying on star power coupled with borderline nudity to gain attention. With around 30 advertisers spending $230 million for just a few shining moments of air time, the race to be the most talked about will be… well… racy.

USA Today sought to find out what was behind the emerging popularity of sexy advertising. The publication quoted Barbara Lippert, former Adweek ad critic and now pop-culture expert at Goodby Silverstein & Partners ad agency who said, “We are in a very weird moment in time, with daughters of feminists taking pole-dancing lessons… Everyone is looking for fantasy, because reality is so cruel.” And wouldn’t you guess that founder, Bob Parsons, has a more “male” explanation?  “Sex sells on the Super Bowl.”

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire beg to differ with Parsons.  Their studies of Super Bowl ads over the last two decades have found that sexy ads actually take a 10% hit in the “likability” category as compared to more modest ads. USA Today quoted Chuck Tomkovick, the marketing professor who oversees the study, who said, “As a basis of comparison, imagine if you were a comedian and you knew your audience felt sexy jokes were 10% less funny than regular jokes. You’d tell them very judiciously.” Other advertisers choosing to take their chances with sexy along with include Kia, Doritos, H&M, and more.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Ashley Cloninger at

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