PART III: PERSUASION IN AMERICAN SOCIETY
CHAPTER 11: ADVERTISING
is a topic with which we are all familiar. Even so, you may not fully
appreciate its many subtle effects on attitudes and behavior. This chapter
explores the psychology of advertising, its effects, and ethics. The first
section introduces the myth of subliminal persuasion. It defines subliminal
perception and reviews research that debunks the idea that advertising
has subliminal effects. The psychology of low consumer involvement is
then discussed in detail. Mere exposure, associational concepts, and the
ELM's peripheral processing are described and concretely applied to advertising.
Readers should gain an appreciation of how advertising uses psychological
appeals to shape and change attitudes. The next section focuses on high
involvement, applying functional theories to advertising of more highly
involving products. All this leads to a discussion of the ethics of advertising,
as well as to a description of how advertising has been used to sell classic
American products from cigarettes to coca cola.
AND ISSUES TO KNOW
Myth of subliminal advertising
ELM's applications to advertising
Functional theory and advertising
Personality and advertising
Ethics of advertising
OF MAJOR TERMS
Subliminal perception: perception without awareness of the object being perceived.
It is "sub-limen" or below the limen or hypothetical threshold
of conscious awareness.
Subliminal advertisement: informal term that refers to an
ad that includes a brief, specific message that cannot be perceived at
a normal level of conscious awareness. (Strictly speaking, the ad is not
subliminal, but perception is; however, for purposes of shedding light
on the subliminal myth, the term is used in the book.)
Self-fulfilling prophecy: the notion that if you expect
something to occur, sometimes it will -- but not because of an objective
incident, but because you altered your thoughts in anticipation, and the
cognitive changes influenced behavior.
Mere exposure: psychological theory stipulating that repeated
exposure to a neutral stimulus leads to liking.
Classical conditioning: the time-honored theory of association
that says pairing an unconditioned stimulus with a conditioned stimulus
leads to the conditioned stimulus's eliciting the same response originally
evoked by the unconditioned stimulus.
Semiotics: the study of signs and symbols; a qualitative
approach that sheds light on how symbols acquire meaning.
Product placement: a paid communication about a product that is designed to influence audience attitudes about the brand through the deliberate and subtle insertion of a product into media entertainment programming.
Third-person effect: perceptual distortion in which people exaggerate media effects on others, while minimizing influences on themselves. It is also associated with the perception that mass media have strong influences, which can lead to indirect effects of media on attitudes.
- Does advertising
essentially shape attitudes in fundamental ways, or does it reinforce
preferences people already have? If the former, are such influences
nefarious and sinister, as critics suggest; if the latter, is advertising
as innocuous as defenders sometimes argue?
- Explore the complex
implications of the Elaboration Likelihood Model for advertising. What
does the model predict? What does it say about the role played by involvement?
How can advertising source and message factors perform multiple functions
-- that is, serve as an argument, cue, or catalyst for thinking? Consider
how such factors as attractiveness and mood-state might perform different
functions under different conditions.
- Review implications
of functional theory for advertising. If we know the functions a product
serves, what does this suggest about devising specific appeals?
- Cigarette marketing
is unethical. Defend this statement or criticize it, taking into arguments
presented in the book, as well as your own thoughts.
- How is advertising adapting to current technology? Taking into account live Internet commercials, ads on cell phones, and similar strategies, discuss whether these ads work in psychologically different ways than television commercials. Do people process interactive ads differently than older fare? What directions do you believe advertising will take in the next five to 10 years?
- Subliminal persuasion
a. people are influenced by sexy, erotic images
b. the association between a sign and symbol changes attitudes
c. people are influenced by stimuli of which they are not aware
d. negative advertising influences people
- Assume for a moment
that a group of people, who are told they are watching a subliminal
ad for aspirin, report that they feel better after watching the ad.
This is probably because of:
a. the expectations produced by the subliminal ad -- the power of self-fulfilling
b. hidden effects of subliminal ads on unconscious processes
c. strong emotional effects of subliminal messages
d. ability of advertisers to implant ideas into people's heads that
- Mere exposure works
best when used to promote:
a. products people are familiar with
b. products people dislike
c. expensive, big-ticket items
d. neutral, novel products
- According to semiotics,
(a) have no inherent meaning, but (b) have value and emotional power.
a. (a) signs; (b) symbols
b. (a) symbols; (b) signs
c. (a) ideas; (b) products
d. (a) squares; (b) triangles
- Let's say that
a celebrity track star endorses a brand of tennis shoes. According to
the elaboration likelihood model, which of these is true?
a. the athlete serves as a peripheral cue, as celebrities are processed
b. the athlete's endorsement will be ignored as consumers base decisions
on the merit of the shoes
c. the endorsement could function as an argument for some viewers and
a peripheral cue for others
d. the celebrity endorsement is a subliminal stimulus that has unconscious
- If marketers discover
that people are buying a Body Shop soap to express a pro-environmental
ideology, they are best advised to develop which of these appeals:
a. social adjustive
Answers: 1: c, 2:
a, 3: d, 4: a, 5: c, 6: b
- Explore the ways
symbols function in advertising. Watch ads for such products as sneakers,
soft drinks, or jeans (or, if you have time, consult books on advertising
history, or on such icons as the Nike swoosh, McDonald's Golden Arches,
or Coke and Pepsi). How does advertising carefully hone symbols to promote
attitudes toward these products? How are they also selling American
values? Is this a good or bad thing?
- Examine how people
process ads differently when they are high or low in involvement. You
could measure involvement informally by asking people how much they
care about a series of products -- ranging from convenience goods to
cars. Or you could measure involvement more formally by locating one
of several scales of consumer involvement (see Mittal's review piece
listed in the book's references). Ask people to tell you how they decided
to purchase a product under low involvement conditions, -- that is,
how they decided to buy a particular product that was, for them, low
involvement. Do the same for high involvement. What do you discover?
- View a host of movies and video games that use product placements. Keep a log of the product placements, examining their visual or auditory appeal and centrality to the plot. Dream up an experiment to examine their effects on audience members.
Cigarettes have been
icons of American culture. The following article looks at how tobacco
companies sold cigarettes to Americans through the time-honored billboard:
The billboard prepares to give up smoking," by Barry Meier, The
New York Times, April 19, 1999, pp. A1, A20.
After reading the
article and the chapter, what insights do you have about how tobacco companies
used persuasion to advertise cigarettes? More generally, how have tobacco
companies implemented persuasion approaches to convince Americans that
cigarettes are attractive items? Or how they have built on smokers' attraction
to cigarettes to reinforce smokers' habits? You will gain further insight on these questions by reading Allan M. Brandt's book, The cigarette century: The rise, fall, and deadly persistence of the product that defined America. (New York: Basic Books, 2007).