A Content Analysis of Advertisements in Magazines Oriented Toward Black and White Markets

ABSTRACT - This paper provides a content analysis of advertisements in Jet, a magazine primarily targeted toward the black market, and People, a magazine whose prim target market is white. Implications are presented for firms who have and have not previously advertised in a magazine oriented toward the black market.


Thelma Snuggs and Myron Gable (1985) ,"A Content Analysis of Advertisements in Magazines Oriented Toward Black and White Markets", in SV - Historical Perspective in Consumer Research: National and International Perspectives, eds. Jagdish N. Sheth and Chin Tiong Tan, Singapore : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 293-296.

Historical Perspective in Consumer Research: National and International Perspectives, 1985     Pages 293-296


Thelma Snuggs, Purdue University

Myron Gable, Purdue University


This paper provides a content analysis of advertisements in Jet, a magazine primarily targeted toward the black market, and People, a magazine whose prim target market is white. Implications are presented for firms who have and have not previously advertised in a magazine oriented toward the black market.


One of the major subcultures in the United States is the black market, and this group represents a sizable market to many business organizations. While there are many aspects to the marketing mix for this group one aspect that needs further research is advertising because it represents a major way to reach the black market. Whatever the causes, it appears that consumer behavior of blacks is different from that of whites in many aspects (Zaltman and Wallendorf 1983).

A search of the literature revealed numerous studies that concentrated on the frequency and role portrayal of blacks in ads and the effects of the model's race on purchase behavior (Kassarjian 1971; Cox 1970; Shuey et. al. 1953; Gitter et. al. 1972; Bush et. al. 1977; Hair et. al. 1977; Colfax and Steinberg 1972, Cullery and Bennett 1976). However, there has been little research to contrast the content of advertisements in similar black and white-oriented magazines.

Therefore, the major purpose of this study was to determine if business firm use similar advertisements in black- and white- oriented magazines. One further purpose was to ascertain if similar products were advertised in black and white oriented magazines.

A study, such as this one, has implications for marketers, especially those in advertising. For firms who have not advertised in black publications, if can provide some guidance on the strategies that can be employed if they desire to begin campaigns in these magazines. While content analysis does not necessarily indicate what is right, it does reflect what has taken place in the past. Certainly, large firms who have advertised in black magazines have evaluated and tested the viability of their advertising strategies and tactics. For firms who have. utilized black media, they are now in a position to compare their strategies to those of other firms. For this type of firm these findings can be of assistance in the evaluation stage.


Selection of Magazines to be compared. Jet is a magazine that is primarily oriented and targeted toward the black market. In addition, it is national in scope and has one of the largest circulation (862,283) of magazines targeted toward the black market (Standard & Rate Data 1985) ' Therefore, Jet magazine was selected as one of the magazines for contest analysis.

The problem was to find a magazine that was Similar in content and presentation but oriented primarily toward the white market. Comparability of magazines was determined through a questionnaire mailed to 20 periodical librarians at major universities throughout the United States. Together with a letter asking for their cooperation, the librarians were asked to respond to the following open-ended question:

The magazine is most similar in content and presentation to Jet is ______________.

The question was presented in an open-ended manner to reduce the possibility of bias by respondents by offering them a listing of magazines oriented toward the white market from which to make this choice.

Seventeen librarian responded. Fourteen of the 17 librarians selected People magazine as being most similar to Jet magazine. Therefore, People magazine was selected for comparison. People magazine is a general audience magazine with annual circulation rate of 2,779,282 (Standards & Rate 1985).

Issues to Be Compared. Because Jet and People are weekly publications four comparable October issues (8,15,22,29) and November (5,12,19,26) 1984 issues were analyzed. Observers analyzed only advertisements of one fourth of a page or larger. Smaller ads were omitted from the analysis (a total of 14 ads were omitted) .

Methods of Comparisons. Guidelines were developed to ensure consistency of analysis by the researchers. Since there are many ways to compare ads, ads were contrasted in more than one manner:

(1) By objective of advertisement -- whether the aim of the ad was to inform, persuade, or remind.

(2) By type of product advertised - Products detrimental to the health of an individual (alcohol, tobacco) and products considered not harmful to health such as automobiles, food and clothing.

(3) By type of appeal to the reader -- whether the appeal of purchasing the product is rational (strict presentation of factual information), sensory (promise of tasting, feeling or smelling good), social (promise of acceptance, love or related rewards), or ego-satisfaction (bolstering of self-image).

(4) By type of message used by the advertiser - was the execution style of the advertiser:

A. Slice-of-life. This shows one or more persons using the product in a normal setting. A family might be shown at the dinner table expressing satisfaction with a new brand of biscuits.

B. Life style. This emphasizes how a product fits in with a life style. The Revlon ads of the Charlie fragrances show an adventuresome, rule-breaking young woman going after the things she wants in life and getting them.

C. Fantasy. This creates a fantasy about what might happen in connection with the use of the product. A woman sprays on a certain brand of perfume and suddenly becomes irresistible to every man she meets.

D. Mood or image. This builds an evocative mood or image around the product - beauty, love, or serenity. No claim is made about the product except through suggestion. Many cigarette ads, such as Salems and Newport, create moods.

E. Personality symbol. This creates a character that represents or personifies the product. The character might be animated (Green Giant, Cap'n Crunch, or Mr. Clean) or real (Marlboro man, Morris the Cat). The Chicago advertising agency of Leo Burnett has been very successful in creating memorable characters around mundane products.

F. Technical expertise. This features the care that the company exercises and the experience it has in selecting the ingredients for this product or in manufacturing the product. Thus Hills brothers shows one of the buyers care fully selecting the coffee beans and Italian Swiss Colony emphasizes the many years of experience the company has in wine making.

G. Testimonial evidence. This features a highly credible or likable source endorsing the product. It could be a celebrity like O.J. Simpson (Hertz Rent-a-Car) or ordinary people saying how much they like the product (Kotler 1984).

(5) By size of ad -- Large ads, that is an ad being one page or more, and small ads, an ad of one-fourth of a page up to less than one page.

(6) By use of color in ad -- Whether the ad was in black or white or color.

(7) By the use of models in ad -- A model was defined as a picture of individual(s) appearing in the body of the ad. Omitted from analysis were individuals on book covers or phonograph record album.

(8) If models were used, by whether or not ad was integrated -- If both black and white models appeared in the ad, it was classified as an integrated ad.


A content analysis of the two magazines, Jet and People resulted in 857 advertisements that were used for analysis. See Table 1 for distribution of ads by magazines.



The content analysis yielded 146 ads in Jet magazine for the eight issues that were examined and 711 for People magazine. While there were many more ads in one publication than the other, this poses no problem in analyzing differences that exist between these two magazines. Chi-square analysis permits appropriate statistical comparison in these types of situations.

The data in Table 2 reveals two major statistical differences in the demographics of the ads:

1. Jet had a higher percentage of ads of one page or more than People; and

2. More products considered detrimental were advertised in Jet than in People.

No difference emerged in the use of color in the ads of the examined magazines. Similar proportions of color and black and white ads were used.



The characteristics of the ads are presented in Table 3. From Table Three, it can be observed that differences were found in four of the five factors examined through content analysis. These differences were in:

1. The objectives of the ad. There were more informative and less persuasive ads in Jet than People.

2. The type of appeal to the reader. There was a lower percentage of rational, sensory, and ego-satisfaction appeals and a higher percentage of social appeals in Jet than in People.

3. Execution style. Ads in Jet made less use of life style and greater utilization of personality symbols and mood or image than People; and

4. The use of models. Jet had a higher incident of utilization of models than  People.

Where models were used, there was no differences in the employment of integrated advertising in Jet and People. In fact, only a small proportion were integrated. Basically, advertisements in Jet made use of black models, and advertisers in People utilized white models.



One major result of the study indicated that advertisers made greater use of informational objectives and lesser utilization of persuasive objectives in Jet than in People. This result my reflect that firms are using a black publication for the first tine and are making use of a mcdel, such as the hierarchy of effects model. This refers to the steps an audience proceeds through when they are exposed to a communication such as advertising. See Figure one for a depiction of the sequential steps of the model.



While some researchers my question that stages proceed in this sequence, hierarchy of effects denotes that each step is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the next step. That is, before making an attempt to persuade consumers to purchase your products or services, firms have to just make black consumers aware of their offerings. Models such as hierarchy of effects, indicate a sequential set of steps, and providing information precedes persuasion. With products long known to white buyers, advertisers can proceed directly to the persuasion stage.

Another explanation of this finding might reflect an attempt by large national corporations to indicate their contribution to the black community. There were a sizeable number of ads in Jet providing this type of information. This was not reminder advertising because the intent was not to keep the consumer thinking about the product or service.

Another finding revealed that Jet had a greater percentage of products detrimental to the health of the consumer than People. One possible explanation is that the major cigarette and liquor firms have engaged in stereotyping. Possibly, they believe blacks represent a far more viable market than whites for these products. Conceivably, the average black is less educated than the average white and therefore, is less cognizant of the detrimental effects of liquor and tobacco product.

An additional finding was that advertisers made greater use of models in Jet than in People. One explanation might be that there was a greater percentage of cosmetic and health care products in Jet than People. See Table 4. Products such as cosmetics, need to make greater use of models to be effectively advertised than products such as food, large appliances, or automobiles.



Another possible explanation is that advertisers have perceived that black consumers have a greater need for identification than whites. Therefore, use of models is greater.

While the results of this study have value to advertisers, there is the need for content analysis on a broader scale. Studies, such as this one, should be replicated in other similar black and white oriented magazines to determine the consistency of these findings.


Bush, Ronald R., Paul S. Solomn, and Joseph Hair (1977), "There are more Blacks in TV Commercials," Journal of Advertising, Vol. 17 (January), 21-25.

Colfax, David and Susan Steinberg (1972), "The Perpetuation of Racial Stereotypes: Blacks in Mass Circulation Magazine Advertisements," Public Opinion Quarterly (Spring), 8-18.

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Zaltman, Gerald and Melanie Wallendorf (1983), Consumer Behavior, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 61.



Thelma Snuggs, Purdue University
Myron Gable, Purdue University


SV - Historical Perspective in Consumer Research: National and International Perspectives | 1985

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