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Consumer responses to sex appeal advertising: a cross‐cultural study

Fang Liu (Lingnan University (College), Sun Yat‐Sen University, Guangzhou, China)
Hong Cheng (E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA)
Jianyao Li (School of Business, Sun Yat‐Sen University, Guangzhou, China)

International Marketing Review

ISSN: 0265-1335

Article publication date: 17 July 2009




Sex appeal has been widely used in most countries. However, little is known about consumers' responses to sex appeal advertising in different cultures. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of sex appeal on ad and brand evaluation among Australian, Chinese and US consumers.


The paper adopted a three (Australia, China and the USA) × two (male or female model) × two (low or high level of sex appeal) between‐group factorial design.


Australian, Chinese and US consumers have significantly different attitudes when exposed to the same ad. However, consumer buying intentions towards the advertised brand are not significantly different. Despite the general assumption that Chinese consumers might react least favourably to sex appeal ads, this paper finds that they hold similar attitudes towards sex appeal ads as US consumers and even more favourable attitudes than Australian consumers. Product involvement is found to be a significant covariate.

Research limitations/implications

The sample includes young consumers, who may be more tolerant to sex appeal advertising than older generations in China. A similar situation may exist in Australia and the USA.

Practical implications

Understanding how consumers in different cultures respond to different advertising appeal strategies is important for international advertisers.


This is the first reported empirical study that compares Chinese consumers' responses to sex appeal advertising with those in Western countries. Findings add to the understanding of the standardisation‐localisation debate.



Liu, F., Cheng, H. and Li, J. (2009), "Consumer responses to sex appeal advertising: a cross‐cultural study", International Marketing Review, Vol. 26 No. 4/5, pp. 501-520.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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