Hearing Voices: the Impact of Announcer Speech Characteristics on Consumer Response to Broadcast Advertising

Amitava Chattopadhyay, INSEAD
Robin J. B. Ritchie, University of British Columbia
Darren W. Dahl, University of Manitoba
Kimary N. Shahin, University of British Columbia
EXTENDED ABSTRACT - Virtually every broadcast ad uses the voice of an announcer but, due to lack of guidance from the marketing literature, managers must rely on gut feel when choosing a voice. Drawing on research from psycholinguistics we identify three important voice characteristics, syllable speed, interphrase pausation, and pitch, and link these characteristics to key advertising response variables. By considering these three variables simultaneously, we test competing explanations previously offered to explain the process by which speech rate affects consumer response to advertising.
[ to cite ]:
Amitava Chattopadhyay, Robin J. B. Ritchie, Darren W. Dahl, and Kimary N. Shahin (2002) ,"Hearing Voices: the Impact of Announcer Speech Characteristics on Consumer Response to Broadcast Advertising", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 145-146.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Pages 145-146

HEARING VOICES: THE IMPACT OF ANNOUNCER SPEECH CHARACTERISTICS ON CONSUMER RESPONSE TO BROADCAST ADVERTISING

Amitava Chattopadhyay, INSEAD

Robin J. B. Ritchie, University of British Columbia

Darren W. Dahl, University of Manitoba

Kimary N. Shahin, University of British Columbia

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

Virtually every broadcast ad uses the voice of an announcer but, due to lack of guidance from the marketing literature, managers must rely on gut feel when choosing a voice. Drawing on research from psycholinguistics we identify three important voice characteristics, syllable speed, interphrase pausation, and pitch, and link these characteristics to key advertising response variables. By considering these three variables simultaneously, we test competing explanations previously offered to explain the process by which speech rate affects consumer response to advertising.

Conceptual Framework

Consumer research on the effects of voice characteristics on listener response has been limited, focusing primarily on the effects of speech compression in advertising. These studies have produced mixed findings, suggesting that compression produces significant increases in processing, recall, and attitude in some instances (LaBarbera & MacLachlan, 1979; MacLachlan & Siegel, 1980), but decreases in others (e.g., Schlinger, Alwitt, McCarthy, & Green, 1983; Vnn, Rogers, & Penrod, 1987). Alternative competing hypotheses have been advanced to account for these effects.

MacLachlan and his colleagues (LaBarbera & MacLachlan, 1979; MacLachlan & Siegel, 1980) contend that people prefer speech that is somewhat faster than normal speed, and that this prompts them to elaborate more on the advertising message. While they provide data that are consistent with this conclusion, attempts at replication have not provided support (Stephens, 1982; Lautman & Dean, 1983; Schlinger et al., 1983; Moore, Hausknecht, & Thamodaran, 1986).

Moore et al. (1986) offer an alternative thesis, suggesting that time compression interferes with the listener’s opportunity and motivation to elaborate on the ad. They argue that accelerating speech not only curtails processing time, it also serves as a cue that processing will be difficult. Drawing on the Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) they argue that when speech rate is faster than normal, consumers will tend to process the substance of the ad less and focus instead on peripheral cues such as the likeability of the announcer’s voice. Empirical findings provide support for this prediction. Unfortunately, their methodology does not enable them to determine whether this is the result of reduced opportunity to process, reduced motivation to process, or both.

One means of addressing this question is to determine whether the effects of compression are driven primarily by syllable speed or interphrase pausation. Research has found that accelerated speech is perceived as more difficult to understand, and that for the same degree of time compression, accelerating syllable speed has a much larger effect on perceptions of speech rate than shortening interphrase pauses (Grosjean & Lane, 1976; Miller and Grosjean 1981). Thus, if the effects of compression are driven by reduced motivation to process, ad response should be more sensitive to changes in syllable speed. If they are driven simply by decreased opportunity to process, then reducing processing time by accelerating syllable speed should have the same impact as an equivalent reduction resulting from shortening interphrase pauses.

It is well established that, for male speakers, low-pitch voices are perceived as more pleasant, attractive, and persuasive (e.g. Zuckerman & Miyake, 1993). Thus, if high speech rates are preferred and lead to greater processing, pitch should have less of an effect on the favorableness of responses toward the ad when speech is accelerated. On the other hand, if higher speech rate reduces opportunity and/or motivation to process, we would expect pitch to have a greater effect on ad response variables when speech rate is high. Furthermore, if the mechanism is lack of opportunity, then for an equal change in syllable speed and interphrase pausation, pitch should interact equally with both variables. However, if the mechanism is attentional (i.e., motivation to process), then, for an equal change in syllable speed and interphrase pausation, the pitch - syllable speed interaction should be significant while the pitch - interphrase pausation interaction should be either non-significant or small.

Method

We constructed an ad based on an actual 30-second radio spot, then digitally altered the speech characteristics of the source recording using computer software. We then examined consumer response to our ad in a laboratory experiment using a 2-2-2 between subjects factorial design, with voice pitch (low, high), syllable speed (normal, high), and interphrase pausation (normal, short) as the independent factors.

Findings

An ANOVA with the number of positive cognitive responses toward the ad as the dependent variable revealed a significant interaction between syllable speed and pitch, F (1, 151)=4.10, p<.05, w2=0.02. Subjects in the high syllable speed/low pitch condition had more positive cognitive responses toward the ad (M=0.69) than those in the high syllable speed/high pitch condition (M=0.29), t (158)=2.59, p<.05, while pitch made no difference in the normal syllable speed condition, t (158)=0.28, p>.10.

We also conducted an ANOVA with ad attitude as the dependent variable, and found a statistically significant interaction between syllable speed and pitch, F (1, 151)=5.54, p<.05, w2=0.03. Subjects in the high syllable speed/low pitch condition liked the ad more (M=6.19) than subjects in the high syllable speed/high pitch condition (M=5.19), t (158)=2.93, p<.01. There was no effect of pitch in the normal syllable speed condition, t (158)=0.41, p>.10.

To test whether the relationship between the independent variables and ad attitude was mediated by positive thoughts about the ad, we conducted an ANCOVA with ad attitude as the dependent variable and positive ad-directed cognitive response score as a covariate. Results indicated that ad-directed positive cognitive responses mediated the impact of the independent variables on ad attitude.

Finally, we conducted an ANOVA with brand attitude as the dependent variable, and found a significant interaction between syllable speed and pitch, F (1, 151)=4.91, p<.05, w2=0.02. Subjects in the high syllable speed/low pitch condition liked the advertised brand more (M=6.24) than subjects in the high syllable speed/high pitch condition (M=5.56), t (158)=2.23, p<.05. There was no difference as a function of pitch in the normal syllable speed condition, t (158)=0.91, p>.10. We also found that ad attitude mediated the effects of the independent variables on brand attitude

Conclusions

Consistent with previous research by Moore et al. (1986), we show that the effect of increasing speech rate in broadcast advertising is to disrupt, rather than enhance, consumer processing of the ad. More importantly, we extend their work by distinguishing between two alternative explanations for the observed disruption. First, we find that interphrase pausation has no effect on ad processing or attitude change. Since this variable has a substantial impact on the time available to process, it seems unlikely that lack of opportunity to process is responsible for the reduced processing associated with faster speech. Syllable speed, on the other hand, does influence consumer response, with faster articulation serving to disrupt message processing. Further, in the high syllable speed condition, subjects exposed to an ad with a low pitch voice, which is perceived as more attractive and credible, exhibited more favorable ad-directed cognitive responses and more positive ad and brand attitudes. Given that both manipulations reduced the ad’s running time by exactly the same amount, these results support a motivational explanation for the effects of compressed speech, at least within the normal range of human speech.

REFERENCES

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