The Effects of Advertising Context on Consumer Responses

Amna Kirmani, Duke University
Youjae Yi, The University of Michigan
ABSTRACT - This paper provides a summary of a special topic session organized to address how consumers' responses can vary as a function of advertising context. The papers presented in this session provide theoretical frameworks that can be useful for investigating the processes in which affective and cognitive ad context influence consumers' responses to advertisements. The theoretical and practical implications of advertising context effects are also discussed
[ to cite ]:
Amna Kirmani and Youjae Yi (1991) ,"The Effects of Advertising Context on Consumer Responses", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 414-416.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991      Pages 414-416

THE EFFECTS OF ADVERTISING CONTEXT ON CONSUMER RESPONSES

Amna Kirmani, Duke University

Youjae Yi, The University of Michigan

ABSTRACT -

This paper provides a summary of a special topic session organized to address how consumers' responses can vary as a function of advertising context. The papers presented in this session provide theoretical frameworks that can be useful for investigating the processes in which affective and cognitive ad context influence consumers' responses to advertisements. The theoretical and practical implications of advertising context effects are also discussed

OVERVIEW

Many advertisements do not occur in a vacuum, but rather appear simultaneously with other materials such as programs on TV, articles in magazines, ads for other products, and station identifications. Such material within which ads are embedded are usually referred to as advertising context (Soldow and Principe 1981). Advertising context can vary to a great extent, and an important decision is selecting an appropriate context for advertisements. In this regard, a key question should be considered: What are the influences of advertising context on consumers' responses (e.g., brand recall, attitudes toward the ad or brand, purchase intentions). This question seems very important for an understanding of advertising effectiveness, given the wide variety of advertising context. In fact, several surveys show that the impact of advertising context is currently among the top research priorities for advertisers (Chook 1985; Schultz 1979).

A number of studies suggest that ad context can influence the audience's perception of the ad and thus its effectiveness, but studies have often yielded conflicting results. Furthermore, although many studies have examined the overall impact of advertising context, relatively little attention has been given to underlying mechanisms and specific effects (but see Goldberg and Gorn 1987). It seems useful to develop theoretical models that can systematically account for the effects of advertising context.

This session attempts to provide theoretical frameworks that can be useful for investigating the processes in which advertising context influences consumer responses to advertisements. It is proposed that advertising context may have at least two types of influence on the impact of advertisements: affective influence and cognitive influence. Affective influences of advertising context are examined in the first and second papers (e.g., how context-generated mood influences consumers' attitude toward the brand). The third and fourth papers investigate cognitive influences of ad context (e.g., how ad context influences consumers' processing of product information in ads).

The first paper by Douglas Stayman examines the impact of affective context (mood, program tone, other ads) on advertising effectiveness. This paper provides an overview of various streams of research on affective context (e.g., affect modeled either as a moderator or as a mediator) . The second paper by Helen Anderson develops a conceptual model of change in emotional responses due to context by. integrating a theory of adaptive response with a theory for the structure of emotions. It is proposed that perception of an ad stimulus will be a function of how close (or similar) that stimulus is to the current.reference point. Specifically, close stimuli are assimilated, while distant stimuli are contrasted to the reference. To apply this theory to the affective domain, Anderson develops a measure of distance between emotion types based on a theory for the structure of notions (Shaver et al. 1987).

The third paper by Kevin Keller and Amna Kirmani examines the effect of other ads in the environment on memory and evaluation of the target ad. Like Anderson, they derive predictions from assimilation-contrast theory, looking at how valence and nature of the surrounding ads affect the target ad. They use these predictions in an experiment using print advertisements. Finally, the last paper by Yi investigates a way in which advertising context can affect consumers' processing of ambiguous product information in advertisements (i.e., information that has multiple implications for the evaluation of the advertised product). Yi posits that prior exposure to contextual factors can prime certain product attributes and subsequently increase the likelihood that consumers interpret product information in terms of these activated attributes, thereby affecting consumers' evaluations of the advertised brand. More detailed abstracts of the papers provided by the authors are presented next.

ABSTRACT - S

 

THE EFFECT OF AFFECTIVE CONTEXT ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF ADVERTISING

Douglas M. Stayman, Cornell University

This paper discusses the impact which the affect due to surrounding content can have on the effectiveness of advertising. The paper discusses two primary effects which have been identified. The first effect is the effect of context on the affective responses to advertising. Research suggests that the affective state which a viewer is in before a commercial starts can have predictable and substantial effects on the affective response of the viewer to the commercial. Research on the effect of editorial (for print) and programming (for television) content is first reviewed which suggests that the affective tone of programming can 'carry-over' to advertising (e.g., Goldberg and Gorn 1987). Second, work is reviewed that suggests that the advertising which precedes a commercial can have a contrast effect on the affective responses, inflating responses to commercials for which the affective appeal is different from those of preceding commercials (e.g., Aaker, Stayman and Hagerty 1986). Such effects of context on affective responses have been shown to influence such outcome measures as ad recall, ad attitudes, and brand attitude change.

The second effect discussed is the effect of affective context on the processing of the informational content in advertisements. Work in social cognition by Isen and others suggests that affective states can have significant impact on the processing of information in persuasive messages. For example, mood states have been shown to affect the amount and type of processing of print advertisements as well as the motivation to selectively process information about different types of products.

Finally, the paper concludes by combining these two areas in a discussion of affective context in differentially affecting informational versus emotional appeals. Implications for both additional theoretical work necessary as well as practitioner usefulness of the reviewed findings are made.

 

CONTEXTUAL EFFECTS ON RESPONSES TO ADVERTISING: THE ROLE OF EMOTION TYPES

Helen M. Anderson, University of Arizona

This research examines the impact of contextual factors on affective responses to advertising. The contextual influence is operationalized as the emotional reaction to the television program in which the ad is embedded. Ad responses include affective reactions, involvement, and attitudes.

A conceptual model of change in emotional response due to context is developed by integrating a theory of adaptive response with a theory for the structure of emotions. In adaptation level theory (Helson 1964), perception of a stimulus is argued to be a function of the distance between a stimulus and the current reference point. Close stimuli are assimilated, or perceived to be more like the reference than objective measures of distance would indicate. Distant stimuli are contrasted, or perceived to be less like the reference.

Shaver, Schwartz, Kirson, and O'Connor (1987) posit a theory for the structure of emotions which incorporates a dimension of distance between emotion types. Thus, by integrating Shaver et al.'s work with that of Helson, predictions are generated for when the perception of emotions in the ad may be contrasted or assimilated based on emotion engendered by the television program. For example, predictions may be made as to when a given ad may be seen as more or less joyful.

Initial findings from a laboratory experiment indicate that reactions to the ad.are affected by the programming context. These results are argued to have interesting managerial implications with regard to ad design and media placement. In addition, findings hold important implications for future research on assessing emotional reactions to advertising stimuli, especially in terms of research design and measurement.

 

CONTEXT EFFECTS IN ADVERTISING: THE ROLE OF OTHER ADS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Kevin Lane Keller, Stanford University

Amna Kirmani, Duke University

The basic proposition of this paper is that people seldom evaluate ads in a vacuum; they judge the merits of an ad relative to some standard or context. The context may be explicit, or externally imposed (e.g., from other ads in the environment); or it may be implicit, or internally generated from memory (e.g., from other product class ads stored in memory). The context that we examine is that of other ads in the environment.

We investigate context effects on both memory for and evaluations of a target ad. We propose that the target ad may be either assimilated or contrasted with competing ads. Several factors may moderate this process, leading to either assimilation or contrast: 1) adjacency (whether adjacent ads are from the same product class as the target ad); 2) valence of competing ads (whether the surrounding ads are judged as good or bad); and 3) position (whether the competing ads precede or follow the target ad). We hypothesize that people may use adjacent preceding ads as an anchor, and assimilate or contrast the target ad with their evaluation of the prior ad. We would expect interference effects to be stronger with adjacent ads in the same product class. We present evidence from an experiment which looks at these variables in the context of print advertising. We measure ad and brand recall, as well as ad and brand attitudes.

 

THE INFLUENCE OF CONTEXTUAL PRIMING ON ADVERTISING EFFECTS

Youjae Yi, The University of Michigan

Product information in an ad can often be perceived in different ways. For example, when an ad emphasizes that a piece of luggage is light, one might conclude either that the bag is easy to carry or that the bag is not durable. Then, what determines the particular interpretation given to such product information? An answer to this question may be-found from the work on priming which demonstrates that an ambiguous stimulus is interpreted in terms of the concepts primed by contextual factors (e.g., Herr 1989; Meyers-Levy 1989).

This presentation investigates how contextual materials affect the processing of ambiguous product information in advertisements. It is proposed that contextual factors can prime certain product attributes and subsequently increase the likelihood that consumers interpret product information in terms of these activated attributes. These interpretations may result in the formation or change of beliefs about the advertised brand, thereby affecting consumers' evaluations of the brand.

This research should be of interest to researchers who study basic information processing, attitude change and consumer responses to advertising. The present research is also relevant to practitioners of advertising. By showing that an ad context is not merely a benign background but can influence the effectiveness of an ad, this study expands the scope of both strategic and tactical approaches to persuasion. The present study also helps advertisers to understand potentially dysfunctional effects of the ad context. If the ad context primes negative interpretations of the product, perceptions of the advertised product will be negatively affected.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The session co-chairs thank Christopher Puto of the University of Arizona for providing valuable comments as discussant.

REFERENCES

Aaker, David A., Douglas M Stayman, and Michael R. Hagerty (1986), "Warmth in Advertising: Measurement, Impact, and Sequence Effects," Journal of Consumer Research, 12 (March), 365381.

Chook, Paul H. (1985), "A Continuing Study of Magazine Environment, Frequency, and Advertising Performance," Journal of Advertising Research, 25 (4), 23-33.

Goldberg, Marvin E. and Gerald J. Gorn (1987), "Happy and Sad TV Programs: How They Affect Reactions to Commercials," Journal of Consumer Research, 14 (December), 387-403.

Helson, H. (1964), Adaptation Level Theory, New York: Harper & Row.

Herr, Paul M. (1989), "Priming Price: Prior Knowledge and Context Effects," Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (June), 67-75.

Meyers-Levy, Joan (1-989), "Priming Effects on Product Judgments: A Hemispheric Interpretation," Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (June), 76-86.

Schultz, D. E. (1979), "Media Research Users Want," Journal of Advertising Research, 19 (December), 13-17.

Shaver, P., J. Schwartz, D. Kirson, and C. O'Connor (1987), "Emotion Knowledge: Further Exploration of a Prototype Approach," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52 (6), 1061-1086.

Soldow, Gary F. and Victor Principe (1981), "Response to Commercials as a Function of Program Context," Journal of Advertising Research, 21 (2), 59-65.

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