A Preview of the Journal of Advertising Research
December 2016 (Vol. 56, Issue 4)
Finding Insights on Hard-to-Reach Targets
Editor Emeritus Geoffrey Precourt summarizes the feature articles in “Hard-to-Reach Targets,” the special theme section of this issue of the Journal of Advertising Research. “The more we learn how to use the massive infusion of data driven by a new digital ecosystem, so do tools of marketing research become richer, more tactical, and better channeled to understand specific issues,” Precourt observes. “Indeed, advertising strategists now can depend on inventive, highly focused studies to learn more about targets that traditionally have been hard to reach.”
Digital Engagement: Opportunities and Risks for Sponsors
Consumer-Viewpoint and Practical Considerations for Marketing via Mobile and Digital Platforms
Angeline Close Scheinbaum, an associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin, begins her essay with this impressive Brandwatch statistic: “At the beginning of 2016, there were 2.3 billion consumers with active social media accounts, and, on average, these consumers each had five social media accounts.” She adds, “Such pervasiveness points to a need for marketers to focus on engaging consumers on social media and other digital environments.” Close Scheinbaum applies definitions of engagement across practitioner and consumer contexts. Digital consumer engagement, she cautions, offers a route to engage consumers with a brand or message in an online or mobile platform, where marketers should consider both the consumer viewpoint and practical components and use all available measures of impact. One threat is under delivery of sponsored content on social media, due partly to constraints in copywriting. “Namely, the advertisement may be too copy heavy for digital delivery. Facebook, in its business support, sets a limit that only 20 percent of an advertisement can be text,” Close Scheinbaum notes. Furthermore, intense digital consumer engagement, such as the 2016 Pokémon Go augmented reality phenomenon, may lead to some unintended and unwanted consequences. Close Scheinbaum warns that it is possible for a brand to “over engage,” which may lead to a diminishing return on investment.
The Future of Retail is Mobile:
How Mobile Marketing Dynamics Are Shaping the Future of Retail
Marketers who look only at the bottom-line effects of mobile shopper activity on retailing are missing important clues about the future. “Mobile still is not a significant channel in driving actual purchases,” observe comScore, Inc. CEO, Gian M. Fulgoni, and VP of Marketing and Insights, Andrew Lipsman. Yet, “data from Deloitte forecast that in 2016, mobile will have influenced $689 billion in U.S. in-store sales, up from just $158 billion in 2012—a compound annual growth rate of 45 percent. These mobile-influenced sales figures account for in-store product purchases for which a mobile device aided in the shopping experience.” Another window onto the future of a mobile-driven retail sector: channel growth—the year-over-year rate of spending growth within brick-and mortar, desktop, and mobile retail sectors. Mobile’s 49 percent year-over-year channel growth rate in the 2015 holiday shopping season “meant that it had an overall retail growth contribution of 1.2 points out of the total estimated retail growth of 3.9 percent. In other words,” the authors write, “mobile represented about 30 percent of the growth contribution, despite only directly contributing 2.4 percent of discretionary spending. That growth contribution outpaced that of desktop e-commerce and was not so far behind the 2.0 percent contribution of the brick and-mortar channel.” Marketers should take cues from big retailers like Amazon, eBay, Target and Kohl’s that have created successful mobile apps that address a broad range of customer needs, and from research demonstrating that mobile advertising that can be more effective than online. “Retailers that want to stay relevant will deliver seamless omnichannel shopping,” Fulgoni and Lipman add.
How Advertising Works
Advertising across Platforms: Conditions for Multimedia Campaigns –
A Method for Determining Optimal Media Investment and Creative Strategies across Platforms
The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF)’s “How Advertising Works” research initiative combines original experiments with research from outside suppliers. The goal: to offer practical guidance for improving advertising effectiveness—and the return on investment (ROI) for marketing spend—in a complex multimedia world. ARF executive researchers Jasper Snyder and Manuel Garcia-Garcia describe their two-year collaborative study of the conditions under which inserting multiple platforms in a campaign leads to specific advertising effects. The evidence overwhelmingly points to higher ROI from advertising on multiple platforms than advertising on a single platform only, with the most powerful results coming from reinforcing television with digital strategies.
Deciphering Word-of-Mouth Marketing Campaign Reach:
Everyday Conversation versus Institutionalized Word of Mouth
In this study, authors Lars Groeger and Francis Buttle (Macquarie Graduate School of Management, New South Wales, Australia) investigated the process of how a brand campaign is integrated into social-media conversations. (Groeger is a lecturer/assistant professor and Buttle is an honorary adjunct professor as well as an independent customer management consultant.) They wanted to discover whether campaign participants actively create opportunities to talk up the brand or simply integrate brand-related chat into their everyday conversations. The authors also wanted to identify the conversation partners: Are they found in all clusters of the participant’s network of social contacts, or are just a few network clusters activated and, if so, which ones? This work is important at a time when communication budgets are shifting away from traditional media to work-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) campaigns. Is it worth the investment? “Clients use WOMM agencies in the expectation that campaign participants will integrate the campaign brand into their conversations. If this doesn’t happen, the WOMM agencies produce no value,” the authors noted. Among their findings: roughly half of campaign-related conversations are initiated intentionally by campaign participants. The other half emerge in everyday conversation. Participants also delivered the brand message into about half of the social-network clusters to which they belonged.
Consumers’ Cross-Channel Use in Online and Offline Purchases:
An Analysis of Cross-Media and Cross-Channel Behaviors between Products
Advertisers have little knowledge of how consumers use different media and channels to guide their specific online and offline purchases. Amsterdam School of Communication research scholars/professors—Hilde A. M. Voorveld, Edith G. Smit (who is also dean), Peter C. Neijens (chair in media and persuasion), and A. E. (Fred) Bronner—studied more than 1,000 Dutch consumers and their use of 17 channels during a recent purchase. The authors found that people used more online channels when making an online purchase than when making an offline purchase, but that they used offline channels to the same extent when buying a product online as when buying a product offline. Consumers, in fact, more often rely on offline channels when buying a product for the first time. And, the authors found, they use more online channels when buying high-involvement products (e.g. bicycle, watch) than when buying low-involvement goods (food and beverage/household).
Shocking People Into Action: Does It Still Work? An Empirical Analysis of Emotional Appeals in Charity Advertising
A combination of prolonged economic downturn and government budget cuts in the U.K. has made it increasingly difficult for charities to raise funds and attract volunteers. Since the late 1980s charities have used shock advertising to attract attention, but do those methods still work? U.K. authors Antje Cockrill, an associate professor at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Isobel Parsonage, who helps run global marketing efforts at S & C Electric Company’s Swansea offices, used an experimental design based on a cross-sectional sample of three groups of adults, exposing them to an advertisement with a shock, neutral, or positive emotional appeal for a charity. The respondents indicated their intention to donate, volunteer, agree to the charitable cause, and talk about the advertisement with family and friends. The researchers found that shock advertising does work, but not by shocking. Instead, surprise, compassion, and interest were key emotions that influenced behavioral intention.
Agents of Social Change: A Model for Targeting and Engaging Generation Z across Platforms – How a Nonprofit Rebuilt an Advertising Campaign to Curb Smoking by Teens and Young Adults
For decades, the obstinacy of young people who choose to smoke, despite overwhelming evidence of health risk, has puzzled health-care specialists and marketers. Youth smoking declined in the first decade of 2000 thanks to tobacco prevention outreach; the biggest declines had occurred among middle-school children, but the impact was smaller among high-school students and young adults. The Truth Initiative—whose mission is to bring that number to zero (its earlier ‘truth’ campaign had contributed to the decline in teen smoking)—took the opportunity to investigate attitudes and behaviors of Generation Z, people born after 1995. Truth Initiative researchers Donna Vallone, Alexandria Smith, Tricia Kenney, Marisa Greenberg, Elizabeth Hair, J. Cantrell, Jennifer Rath, and Robin Koval describe key findings from their Gen Z data: “Teenagers and young adults did not demonstrate a shared interest in tobacco as a social or personal health issue. This was understandable, given that smoking rates for younger teens at the time had declined and seemed a nonissue. What this audience did have in common was an interest in—and often involvement in—movements for social change.” That interest is what prompted Truth Initiative to relaunch its “truth” campaign, using social-media tools to engage this audience, with particular focus on 15- to 21-year-olds. “By broadening the new audience of Generation Z to include nonsmoking youths, the ‘truth’ campaign was able to ignite enthusiasm with facts about tobacco use and tobacco industry practices. Messages gained further impact by creatively seizing cultural moments as vehicles for maximum reach.” What’s more, the authors write, “these efforts collectively have helped the ‘truth’ campaign further render the perception of smoking as an abnormal activity by creating a popular movement for youths and young adults to end tobacco use.”
Consumer Response to Gay and Lesbian Imagery: How Product Type and Stereotypes Affect Consumers’ Perceptions
Images of gays and lesbians—an increasingly lucrative target market—appear more frequently in advertisements, thanks to new confidence empowered by total-market cultural insights. Yet, according to Kathrynn Pounders (assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin) and Amanda Mabry-Flynn (assistant professor at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), “the majority of companies try to walk a thin line between appealing to both LGBT and mainstream consumers without alienating one or the other.” Brands increasingly recognize that this market needs to be advertised to beyond a few niche channels. “Although prior research documents that mainstream consumers prefer advertisements that feature heterosexual imagery,” the authors write, “there is a need to identify when heterosexual consumers are more accepting of explicitly gay and lesbian imagery.” Pounders and Mabry-Flynn conducted three studies to explore how sexual orientation, product type, and model-product fit influence consumer reactions to advertisements with gay and lesbian imagery. Their findings suggest product type moderates the effect of sexual orientation on attitude toward the advertisement and word of mouth, and that positive evaluations of an advertisement may occur when gay and lesbian imagery “fits” within consumers’ existing schemas.
Why Older Adults Show Preference for Rational Over Emotional Advertising Appeals: A U.K. Brand Study Challenges the Applicability of Socioemotional Selectivity Theory to Advertising
As the world’s population continues to age at unprecedented rates, many advertisers are struggling to find effective ways to reach older consumers. Lynn Sudbury-Riley, a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Liverpool and Lisa Edgar, founder of The Big Window Consulting Limited, investigated whether conventional methods that use factual, rational appeals over emotional appeals, to reach older adults, are valid. They chose this area of study because advertising experiments advocating emotional-based appeals suggest the conventional advice may be misleading. Those experiments are grounded in socioemotional selectivity theory, which posits that when people perceive time as limited, they pursue emotion-orientated rather than knowledge-orientated goals. In fact, Sudbury-Riley and Edgar found, the conventional advice was correct all along, although an understanding of the advertising context is crucial. “If the objective is to communicate emotional brand values, advertisers perhaps should use an emotional appeal when targeting older adults. If, however, the overall campaign objective is to drive home a specific and practical product-related message and encourage specific consumer action—such as to visit a store—or even publicize a well-known brand, then perhaps a rational appeal should be used,” the authors write. The results of their work “lend support for the need to carefully consider age differences in information processing and preferences when designing advertising.”
Framing Advertisements to Elicit Positive Emotions and Attract Foster Carers:
An Investigation Into the Effects of Advertising on High-Cognitive-Elaboration Donations
Fostering a child, in contrast to the charitable act of either donating money or volunteering to feed the hungry, requires major long-term decision making. Such high-cognitive-elaboration donations are in a special category when it comes to advertising appeals to target audiences. University of Wollongong’s Melanie Randle (associate professor), Leonie Miller (researcher), and Joanna Stirling (lecturer)—with Sara Dolnicar, a research professor of tourism at the University of Queensland—tested the concept of guilt on appeals to foster carers. Guilt has been found effective in prompting socially desirable behaviors like making monetary donations to charity. Yet, the results from their advertising experiment, conducted with 470 respondents, showed the opposite approach was more effective. Guilt, in fact, had no impact on reaction to the advertisement in the context of foster care, and sadness had only a small impact. And, appeals that provoked positive emotions caused stronger reactions to the advertisements, while processing motivation and preexisting attitudes played a critical role. “Implications for marketing foster care—and possibly other, similar high-cognitive-elaboration donations—include that ongoing communication and elicitation of positive emotions is essential to first form the right processing motivations and attitudes, which then more likely will lead to behavioral change on later advertising exposures.” Moreover, the authors write, “It is critical not to rely on single-advertisement exposure but to design longer-term campaigns that ensure the best possible basis for later advertising exposures.”
Coming in March 2017: Why Television Still Matters
JAR Co-Executive Editor (North America) John B. Ford looks ahead to the March, 2017 issue’s special package on “Why Television Still Matters,” summarizing the rich history of research on this topic published in this journal over several decades.