Humor, sex and celebrities -- three of advertising's favorite tools -- don't really sell products, according to a new study of 5,000 TV commercials.
Information, not entertainment, is what persuades consumers, said the study by Research Systems Corp., an advertising-research firm that works for major consumer-products companies.
The Evansville, Ind.-based firm surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers about their brand preferences before and after viewing the commercials.
RSC offered few specifics about its survey results, because in general it was testing the ads of its clients.
RSC said that commercials emphasizing how a product differs from the competition are the most effective. Consumers also found product demonstrations convincing.
But other ad experts noted that in many cases there is little difference among competing products, and advertisers must try some other device to woo consumers.
As for sex, he noted that commercials that can be shown on TV aren't sexy enough to grab a viewer's attention.