empiricalstudy.humor - RESPONSES TO HUMOROUS ADS Does...

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RESPONSES TO HUMOROUS ADS Does Audience Involvement Matter? Yong Zhang and George M. Zinkhan ABSTRACT: This study investigates the relationship between audience involvement—a critical audience state in humorous advertising—and the responses to humorous ads. It is hypothesized that the degree to which the audience is involved with the ad determines how the ad humor is processed because the functions that ad humor plays vary depending on the state of audience involvement. An experiment involving 360 participants tested the hypotheses. The results support the conceptualization of humor’s various roles and the moderating function of audience involvement. Specifically, for products that are not intrinsically humorous, ad humor is more effective in influencing audience attitudes toward both the ad and brand when involvement is relatively low rather than high. Implications are discussed with regard to formulating advertising strategies employing humor as a device. Fundamental to the practice of employing humor in advertising is the belief that humor helps influence audience responses to the ad and the advertised product in a direction favorable to the advertiser. This belief has led to the popularity of using humor in advertising (see Burnett, Fisk, and Lunsford 1987; Weinberger and Campbell 1991) and continued efforts in the study of humor in advertising (e.g., Alden, Mukherjee, and Hoyer 1993, 2000; Chattopadhyay and Basu 1990; Spotts, Weinberger, and Parsons 1997; Weinberger et al. 1995; Zhang 1996, among others). Despite humor’s widespread use, however, empirical studies only offer piecemeal evidence in support of the practice since Sternthal and Samue’s (1973) article on the topic (for a summary of earlier results, see Weinberger and Gulas 1992). These tireless efforts in trying to pinpoint the seemingly ephemeral humor effect suggest that something might be missing in the quest for a better understanding of humor effect in advertising. Reflecting such concerns, researchers began to focus on situations and factors that are particularly conducive to humor’s role in aiding ad processing rather than searching for a general and omnibus humor effect. These factors include, for example, the individual’s mental predisposition in processing more challenging information (Zhang 1996); the ad message structure (e.g., incongruity and surprise; Alden, Mukherjee, and Hoyer 2000); and audience members’ need for levity and humor (Cline, Altsech, and Kellaris 2003). Another important variable that may provide further insight into humor’s effect is the omnipresent audience involvement state. Audience characteristics have been identified as the “vitally important factors in the success or failure of humorous ads” (Weinberger and Gulas 1992). Previous research has indicated that audience involvement influences not only the process through which advertising works (Chaiken 1980; Petty, Cacioppo, and
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This note was uploaded on 04/23/2008 for the course COMM 1 taught by Professor Mullin during the Winter '07 term at UCSB.

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empiricalstudy.humor - RESPONSES TO HUMOROUS ADS Does...

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