updated 3 Mar 2013, 10:14
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Thu, Feb 21, 2013
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Using attractive models in ads can turn shoppers off: Study

Want female consumers to buy your product? Don't get an attractive model or celebrity to pose next to it in advertisements, says a new study.

The research by Warwick Business School found that advertisers who put images of female celebrities and models next to their products spark scorn rather than shopping.

Women are turned off by products placed next to 'attractive' images of female models, but they are likely to buy the product if the images are used subtly instead.

Female subjects in the study were put through various experiments including being shown magazine pages that contained different adverts, one of which was for a vodka.

Some women received adverts that did not feature an attractive model, other women received adverts that had a bikini-clad model on the opposite page to a picture of the vodka – meaning they were subtly exposed to the idealised female image - and the third had the attractive model on a whole page next to the vodka – meaning they were blatantly exposed to the idealised female image.

Said Dr Tamara Ansons, Assistant Professor at Warwick Business School: “To successfully use idealised images in marketing communications, they should be presented subtly.

“We found that the way the picture of the perfectly shaped model was used was very important in determining a positive or negative effect on women’s self-perception.

“We showed that when exposure to these images of beautiful models is subtle, a sub-conscious automatic process of upward social comparison takes place leading to a negative self-perception. But that led to a more positive attitude towards the brand.

“Yet when the exposure to the idealised image of a woman is blatant, a conscious process is activated and consumers employ defensive coping strategies, ie they belittle the model or celebrity to restore a positive perception of themselves. So the product in the advert becomes associated with negative reactions.”

Through a series of tests the team of researchers found different responses to the adverts from the women.

Dr Ansons said: “We showed that when consumers are blatantly exposed to idealised images of thin and beautiful women they are more likely to use a defensive coping strategy to boost self-evaluation by denigrating the pictured woman. This can negatively affect the products these models endorse through the transfer of the negative evaluation of the model to the endorsed product.

“However when subtly exposed to these perfectly shaped models consumers do not engage in defensive coping by disparaging the model. Instead it leads to negative self-evaluation but does not interfere with their evaluation of the pictured model. Thus, the generally positive evaluation of the model leads to a favourable reaction to the product she is endorsing.”

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