The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of celebrities on the materialistic nature of teens; particularly focusing on celebrity appearance in advertising. Children in America are continually seen as targets by advertising campaigns. This is due to the fact that children are seen as primary consumers at younger and younger ages. In the food industry for example, "parents are two to three times more likely to name a child as the family expert for selection of fast food, snack food, restaurants, and new breakfast cereals." The behaviors of children and their purchasing patterns will likely affect their purchasing patterns as they grow in age. It is important to learn about the effects of different media in hopes of discovering ways to control the overall consumption patterns of the American public.
This essay will begin by reviewing a series of issues that have relevance to the topic. They will help explain the degree to which previous studies have dealt with the issues of teenage materialism and celebrity advertising. Finally, the dimensions of the study will be explained.
Media Affects on People:
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When studying the effects of advertising in a particular area, one will find that the advertising business is one with many different facets. There is variation in the types of media used, the locations, the targeted audience, the advertising style, and the advertising intention altogether. Many studies engage particular areas of advertising as their focus. However, most tend to have a relation to the media's effect on people. For example, Audrey Dentith's study on female adolescents in Las Vegas focuses largely on the media in the area. But a huge emphasis is put on how these mediated images affect these young women. In her article she describes Las Vegas as a "consumer culture within the highly sexualized and distinctive tourist context." In this article she uses a qualitative analysis in an attempt to uncover any patterns of conception that young women have in regard to the sexually oppressing culture of the city. She found several social patterns that different groups of adolescent girls alluded too. The effect of media on people is further supported in an essay by Debbie Ging. Ging's research uses a group of boys in Ireland. The study is similar to Dentith's study, but focuses on the masculinity of boys. Her goal is to find a link between mediated imagery and the masculine acts of boys in Ireland. Her findings were that trends in media often were reflected by trends in the behavior of the adolescents of her study.
Therefore, the all encompassing powers of mediated culture assuredly influence behaviors in people. Advertisements are a part of media, so they also have specific effects that need to be studied. There are many ways that advertisements influence people. The purpose of an advertisement is to influence the purchasing behavior of those that view it. There are many different types of advertising. Today advertisers are trying all kinds of different methods to break through the clutter of ads that bombard American citizens on a daily basis. The large amount of advertising has caused people to start to disregard advertisements all together. Inventions such as TiVo have made it easier to avoid the annoying ads. With this knowledge, advertising agencies are continually trying to use unique new forms of advertising. "Within-show advertising" is a good example of this. Roehm focuses on two types of advertising in particular, "product placement" and "plugs." Product placement occurs when a product or logo is placed in a program with the intention of gaining exposure for the product. A plug, however, is when a product or slogan is mentioned in what appears to be off-the-cuff dialogue in a program script (Roehm, 18). These forms of advertising have different effects on their viewers. In Roehm's study, it was found that product placement initiated stronger memory retention of the product as opposed to that of the plug. However, both forms of advertisement effectively influenced the intended audience.
Celebrities in Advertising:
"Almost 20% of all television advertisements in the United States feature a famous person as an endorser." The worldwide percentage of celebrity appearances in commercials doubled from 1994 to 2004. Why are advertisers willing to put out millions of dollars to have these famous people in their ads? Studies show that celebrities cause ads to be "more effective." They "enhance method recall, and aid in the recognition of brand names." As stated previously, advertising agencies are trying to find new ways to break through the clutter of advertising. Celebrity appearances are among many of the ways these agencies try to gain better results for their advertisements.
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The teenage consumer market is one that is highly sought after by major marketing corporations. The use of famous athletes is common in the attempt to reach a portion of this audience. Celebrity athlete endorsement has been the focus of some studies. Some of the most influential spokespeople in today's culture have been sports celebrities. "Celebrity endorsers may be influential because they are viewed as highly dynamic and they have attractive and likeable qualities." One part of their charm is due to their physical attractiveness. Also, the status of athlete, especially to youth, is a very desirable position. Therefore, kids will often look up to the spokesperson and in turn be influenced to buy the endorsed product. This principle can also be transferred to that of actors/actresses and popular music stars. The attractiveness of the sponsors is very important to the effect that they have on the audience. Therefore, the ideal celebrity for marketing a product is recent, physically attractive, and holds an overall good standing as far as likeability goes. Celebrities that fall into these guidelines cost a greater amount than those that do not.
As one can see, the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements is derived from the fact that consumers will have a preconceived image of the celebrity in their minds, and that this notion will in turn be related to the product that is being endorsed. These endorsements also help to improve the products trustworthiness, believability, persuasiveness, and likeability. Studies on this effect relates to the linking of memories. The idea is that after being exposed to a celebrity in association with a given product enough times the mind will create a link. When the mind recalls memory of the celebrity it will bring up memories of the product that he/she is associated with. This is a theory referred to as the Associative Learning Theory (ALT). An example of this is when mentioning the name of the famous boxer George Foreman; many will automatically link their thoughts to that of the George Foreman Grill products. It also works the other way around. For example, when mentioning the name of the line of men's underwear by the brand Hanes, many will automatically link their thoughts to that of Michael Jordan. These media implicated reactions cognitively influence their viewers.
The Effects of Advertising on Youth:
The well-being of children is an important task. The topic of how young people are influenced is one that undergoes massive examination. The influence of media on children and teens is something that is studied often. Kraak focuses primarily on this influence and the impact that is had on food purchasing decisions. She alludes that the influence that children have on the food market is significant . It is assumed that this impact is probably similar in other areas of the consumer market (although, likely not as significantly as that of the food market.) It is easily seen, however, that children and teens are a major target of advertising firms.
The effects that media have on children are wide in range. Ging's study on teenage boys in Ireland indicates many relations to the media and behaviors of the subjects. She imposed the idea that mass media defines the masculinity of boys. She uses a qualitative research method to find relations between what is shown in media and how male boys behave. Bush mentions that "teenagers spend and estimate $153 billion a year on everything from computers to cars to clothes." He includes in his essay a notion of consumer socialization, which is the "process by which young people acquire skills, knowledge, and attitudes relevant to their functioning as consumers in the marketplace." The influence of advertisements and media exposure are included in these processes.
The study of cigarette advertising and its impact on teens is one that is very prominent. There is a concern that cigarette advertisements serve a large role in getting young people to start smoking. A study by Krugman and King indicates that a substantial amount of teenagers will come in contact with cigarette advertising in magazines. A critical analysis of this study, however, claims that reducing the amount of these ads would have little effect on teen smoking patterns. Despite the argument here, there is also a concern over whether or not cigarette companies target young people with their advertising. The influence of advertising on children is a very broad topic that has many different points of interest. Too many of these areas have little evidence to determine how to influence children to make good decisions. Instead, a focus is put on the negative effects of advertising to children.
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Mediated images have a far reaching affect on people. So far studies seem to support the idea that exposure to different media cause people to have certain reactions. It is of large concern because the well-being of society is at stake. Studies show that children are very easily influenced by media, and in turn have a major affect on the economics of a culture. Purchasing decisions of children or teens account for a significant amount of money. This is precisely why advertising companies are targeting them with their ads. Their use of celebrities in advertising is a further effort to influence young people.
The problem that has not been confronted is whether or not these advertisements have an effect on a child's behaviors in terms of materialism. The materialism of teens is something that can be observed easily. But do the mediated images of celebrities cause teenage materialism to increase? This is why I am proposing the following research question: Does the appearance of a celebrity in an advertisement increase a teen's materialistic behavior in relation to their desire for the product? I believe that research does indicate that celebrities have an impact on children through advertising. Therefore, their association with these individuals as role models will likely affect their responses to advertisements featuring them.
The participants of the study range from the ages of 14 to 18. They will all be students of Shelbyville High School, located in Shelbyville, Illinois. Eight different classes will be surveyed, two different classes from each grade level (2 freshman classes, 2 sophomore classes ...). The classes will be randomly selected from a list of teachers. Each teacher's "home room" class will be used as the sampled class. ("Home room" is a mandatory study hall class that lasts 20 minuets at the beginning of every school day.) There will be 132 total students surveyed. Each class contains an average of 17 students each. The students are placed in home room classes randomly; therefore they provide a representative sample of each grade level. The use of Shelbyville High School is a choice of convenience, being that I reside in Shelbyville myself. Gender, race, religion, or any other demographic definition is not relevant in this particular study. This study is only concerned only with age affiliation. However, further studies could consider these other traits to further the progress of this research topic.
The two classes of each grade level will view two different advertisements. The first group's ad will feature a celebrity endorsing a product. The second group's ad will be an ad for the same product without any celebrity. Immediately after viewing the advertisement, students will be asked to complete a survey. They survey will contain questions like: 1) Do you like the celebrity in the ad? 2) Do you own the product advertised? 3) After watching this advertisement, do you have a desire to own the product? 4) On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate your desire to own the product? 5) On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate your opinion of the celebrity in the advertisement? (Celebrity related questions will be omitted from survey for those that did not view the appropriate advertisement.)
The analysis of the data will possibly show differences in reactions to the questions depending on which advertisement the kids were exposed to. My prediction is that those that watch the advertisement with the celebrity endorsement are likely to have a higher rating of the product desire than those that had a non-celebrity ad. If this proves to be true, I believe it can be inferred that the effect of celebrity endorsement may possibly lead to an effect on teenage materialism.