I didn't do any research on this but if you just want my personal opinion:
One really needs to wonder though, why does sex sell? Have we, the ones who feed at the teat of the mainstream media whore, become so dumbed down that we allow it to sell?
It's the opposite actually. Short Answer:
Sex sells works by selling the sizzle not the steak.Long Answer:
The idea of sex selling increase with one's intelligence and imagination.
It's the classic trick of being a tease. Of unwrapping the mystery.
Personally, I prefer movies without a lot of sex. The implied intimacy is much more effective than just throwing it all out there for the world to see. If I wanted to see two people having sex in a movie I would rent a porn flick. Seeing simulated or even partially real sex in a movie is just desperation to me. I prefer to have the real thing rather than fantasize about having sex, porn or even soft core never made any sense to me.
Same thing with the idea of "Sex sells."
It's not about targeting those people who fantasize about sex, porn or even soft porn.
It's about targetting people who are "on the fence" because these people are the ones who will likely have lower standards of: "Well...as long as it has sex in it".
It's the same deal with a "family movie". Sex selling may seem like the farthest from being applied in this genre but...
Artistic quality and hype aside, from a marketing perspective, you don't try to market it to people with high family standards because these are people who are bound to be most in-tune when something seems off.
Instead you target it to people who are "on the fence" about watching a movie without sex or have lower "family" standards because lower standards = more general standards = you can get away with more vague stuff.
Either way, sex sells is still applied only this time it's a variation: sell the fact that there isn't any sex or the only possible scenes there will be would be intimate and implied.
This effect sounds like the opposite of each other but it really translates more into adding burger instead of rice along with the dish.
It's less about making a 90 degrees turn on a message as much as it is changing the wallpaper to suit the person.
Yes, the image of the wallpaper can have a strong effect but at the end of the day, you're not switching the motive or the content of the application, you're just wrapping it up in a different box that the target audience would like to open.
It could even be as simple as creating an entire porn movie and just removing the sex scene and the language and dressing them up in different outfits. It's still based on the same concept because sex didn't disappear or become more intimate. Instead, the idea is that you use the target audience's expectation that the movie isn't about sex to make the movie seem intimate.
For a more specific example,
I don't know what your opinion of Wall-E is but it's generally regarded as a movie without sex and a movie that defines intimate love that elevates beyond the human need for lust or even love made stronger by love making. (As portrayed by two machines as opposed to two humans getting together)
Yet you could just as conclude, as one IMDB poster wrote, that:
This movie was ruined for me when I heard EVE resembles a certain female oriented electronic device. There, now you too can live with the pain.http://www.imdb.com/...board/flat/153424454
When I go to a movie I go for entertainment, not to wank in the back row. Commercials that feature sex or sex appeal just make me change the channel. You want to sell me a product? Show me facts, demonstrations, show me it works. Don't give me smoke and mirrors or try to assume I am some lowbrow wanker that will buy it because of a 'hot chick'. Look at al the idiots running around using Axe body spray because they assume the smell of musky animal urine combined with laundry soap is somehow going to make them smell good and be attractive, because they fell into the Lemming style trap of the commercials that caused a fad. Seems that the highly underrated movie "Idiocracy" is more than just a mere sarcastic statement on society?
Sure, but look at it this way.
Isn't the Axe commercial demonstrating that it works? ...and in the most un-sexual way possible?
After all, for a commercial with the implication that it will make women want to have sex with you, how many of the guys were actually good looking to begin with and instead of bagging a girl, merely got groped by several strangers they walked passed by? (Thus empirically highlighting how Axe actually keeps the handsome guys from having enjoyable sex.)
Compare this to a shampoo commercial where the empirical implication is that you should give a beautiful girl that brand of shampoo as a birthday present because not only does she look like she's having an orgasm using it but sometimes it's even accompanied by her looking like her best and being happy right after she got out of the shower. (Thus empirically implying that she's more likely to "get it on" with you after her shower using said shampoo.)
Yet compare the two stereotypes for both ads and the Axe commercial oozes more sexuality while the shampoo commercial may even come off as sexually unrelated.
Because in the Axe commercial, the mystery is: "I wonder what girl will grope me AFTER I use the product."
Meanwhile, while the shampoo commercial has it's own mystery, in terms of sex there isn't as much mystery.
Once the female uses the shampoo, you're already being told that she is more beautiful, that she has got it on with her man and they are both happy AND that she is going to be more in the mood to do something "fun" with you.
It's not a universal rule because quality and expectations still has to be factored as well as other aspects of attraction but the one thing definite about the rule sex sells is the paradox that less, not more sex is what makes it work best.