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Effects of humor in advertising

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2559 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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“Humor in advertising is like a gun in the hands of a child. You have to know how to use it. Otherwise, it can blow up on you.” (Miller, 1992)

According to Marc G. Weinberger and Charles S. Gulas (1992), Humor is by no means a guarantee of better ads, but its effect can be enhanced with careful consideration of the objectives

According to Fugate D. (1998), “Advertising humor refers primarily to the ability of audiences to respond positively when one or others are portrayed in a playful manner”.

Employ of humor in advertising propose that as much as 30.2% of prime time television advertising is planned to be humorous (Weinberger and Spotts 1989). Numorous researches conducted by others has also indicated similar high (or still higher) levels of practice of humor in television ads (Kelly and Solomon 1975; Markiewicz 1972; Speck 1987) and in radio (Weinberger and Campbell 1991).whereas the use of humor is high, the effectiveness of humor as a interactions device remains doubtful. In attempts to describe its impact, humor has confirmed to be extremely indefinable. This lack of information has led advertising managers and researchers similar to both honor and criticize the usefulness of humor in advertising as explained in the opening quotes. The truth is that humor is a difficult theme that has been experimentally deliberate by advertisers in numerous dozen studies over the past few years. Humor is a diverse idea that is affected by a wide range of factors. As an outcome of the many contingencies forced by preferred aim, style of humor, medium, placement and viewers , generalizations about the effect of humor are filled with pitfalls (Stewart-Hunter 1985). However the open question of humor’s usefulness in advertising is unanswerable, we can bring together the accounts of humor research in the perspective of suitable constraints to increase insights about its belongings. For that reason, the more suitable questions to ask are: 1) What communications objectives are mainly expected to be accomplished through the utilization of humor?; 2) What communication factors are likely to influence the result?; 3) For what audience is humor most suitable?; and 4) What product factors advise the use or non-use of a humorous approach? The intention of this paper then is to analytically observe the research that has been conducted to increase insight into the belongings of humor with respect to these questions.The extensive use of humor, attached with the unsettled questions regarding it, has drawn the attention of several communication researchers. In a commonly cited analysis of the early literature in the field, Sternthal and Craig (1973) drew some uncertain conclusions about the use of humor on a number of communications objectives. These conclusions must be viewed as uncertain because, although based on a thorough analysis of the existing literature in 1973, this literature base was fairly small and consisted about completely of non-advertising studies as there was merely slight previous work in advertising to review. In the years since the Sternthal and Craig work, humor has established widespread extra analysis in over 30 studies that have appeared in the marketing literature, and a vast many more studies that have appeared in the literature streams of education, communication and psychology. This paper has the relevant aspects of this literature in order to modernize and broaden on the Sternthal and Craig work. Thus, the design to be followed will be to observe the result of humor as it applies to a variety of communications objectives and then to broaden on this work by including implementation, placement, audience, and product factors that have come to light in the past few years. The nature of the communication objective plays a main role in the suitability of the use of humor. Sternthal and Craig (1973) scheduled advertising objectives and the impact of humor on each of these objectives. Revisited after few years of prevailing research some of these conclusions remain logical, while others come out to be in need of modifications.

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Humor and Attention Studies have revealed that 94% of advertising practitioners see humor as an useful way to increase attention. Moreover, 55% of advertising research executives find humor to be better to non-humor in gaining attention (Madden and Weinberger 1984). Whereas the special views of advertising executives should not be equated with accurate hypothesis testing, these views do mirror a knowledge base built on years of day to day understanding with proper research outcome. Furthermore in the case of attention, these practitioner views find to be well supported by the available experimental proof. inside studies of real magazine ads (Madden and Weinberger 1982), television ads (Stewart and Furse 1986), and radio ads (Weinberger and Campbell 1991) in average industry ad testing situations, humor has been found to have a positive effect on attention . Likewise, this attention effect has also been verified in the laboratory. In a detailed test of attention effects in the advertising field, Speck (1987) compared humorous ads with non-humorous controls on four attention measures: early attention, constant attention, predictable attention and on the whole attention. He found humorous ads to do better than non-humorous ads on each of the attention measures. The attention attracting capability of humor has also been verified in education research (Powell and Andresen 1985; Zillmann et al. 1980). In a review of the education literature, Bryant and Zillmann (1989) conclude that humor has a positive effect on attention, the advisory attitude taken by Bryant and Zillmann is suitable for all the humor attention studies. While the outcome seem to point out a positive impact on attention, and in common the past few years of research mainly supports the conclusion drawn by Sternthal and Craig (1973) , future researchers should be attentive that all humor is not shaped equal. Associated humor, that is, humor directly associated to the product or problem being promoted, appears to be more thriving than unassociated humor (Duncan 1979; Lull 1940; Madden 1982). In detail, controlling for the associated factor makes the result of the investigational studies in advertising undeniable in their support for a positive effect of humor on attention. This explains that the mere inclusion of “canned” humor into a given ad is not likely to have the same impact on attention as the use of a more incorporated humor cure.

Humor and Understanding The literature is assorted on the outcome that humor has on understanding. In a study of 1000 broadcast commercials, Stewart and Furse (1986) found humorous substance to enhance the understanding of an ad. Other studies have found alike positive outcomes (Duncan, Nelson and Frontczak 1984; Weinberger and Campbell 1991; Zhang and Zinkhan 1991). On the other hand, these studies distinguish sharply with the outcomes of other advertising researchers who have found a negative association between humor and understanding (Cantor and Venus 1980; Gelb and Zinkhan 1986; Lammers et al. 1983; Sutherland and Middleton 1983). This negative outlook of the effect of humor on understanding is shared by the group of research executives (64%) at U.S. ad agencies. While findings indeed fail to determine the true effect of humor on understanding, they do call into question the reality of a global negative effect hypothesized by Sternthal and Craig (1973). It is important to look for factors that may sort out these findings. To this extent, it appears that some other factors seem to explain much of the lack of conformity in the studies. First, there is a lack of a reliable definition of understanding among studies. Depending on the exact measure used, recall may be an signal of understanding or it may merely draw attention. More significantly, the measures engaged may have an impact on the outcomes found. Those studies that use several measures of understanding (Speck 1987; Weinberger and Campbell 1991) are more expected to discover positive or mixed positive effects on understanding than those studies that utilize solitary measures (Cantor and Venus 1980; Lammers et al. 1983), representing that a positive understanding effect may be missed by comparatively narrow measures. Further confirmation of the significance of measures is found in the work of Murphy and his colleagues (Murphy, Cunningham and Wilcox 1979). Their study of framework effects demonstrates that diverse measures of recall may create different recall outcomes. Secondly, humor styles may be an important determinant in understanding effects. In one study which directly compared the effects of various humor styles on understanding, Speck (1987) found major differences due to styles. His findings point out that some humorous ads do better, and some do worse than non-humorous ads on expressive and message understanding and that this differential act was attributable to humor styles. “Comic wit” was found to under perform non-humorous treatments while all other humor styles(i.e., satire, full comedy, sentimental humor and sentimental comedy) out performed the non-humor treatment. Lastly, the nature of product advertised appears to play a vital role in the impact of humor on understanding. This product factor is collected of two dichotomies, high involvement vs low involvement products. Those studies employing high involvement products (Speck 1987; Stewart and Furse 1986; Weinberger and Campbell 1991; Zhang and Zinkhan 1991) in general indicate a positive effect of humor on understanding. On the other hand, studies employing low involvement products (Cantor and Venus 1980; Gelb and Zinkhan 1986) have found a negative effect of humor on understanding. we believe that these studies do present a thorough test of the association between humor and understanding that can present insight into the impact that humor may have on advertising understanding. An study of the related non-advertising studies shows eight studies that report a positive effect of humor on understanding and eleven studies that indicate a null or mixed effect. None of the non-advertising studies reports a negative effect of humor on understanding, which again challenges the conclusion drawn in 1973 by Sternthal and Craig. Of the education literature, possibly the strongest support for a positive relationship between humor and understanding appears in work conducted by Ziv (1988). This study indicates that humor can drastically improve learning.

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Humor and influence Sternthal and Craig (1973) concluded that the interruption effect of humor may lead to influence. However, they note that the influential effect of humor is at paramount no superior than that of serious appeals. These conclusions seem to agree with the opinions of U.S. ad executives. Madden and Weinberger (1984) found that only 26% of these practitioners approved with a statement claiming humor to be more influential than non-humor. whereas U.S. advertising executives mainly agree with the conclusion of Sternthal and Craig (1973), this opinion is in sharp distinction to that of their British counterparts, 62% of whom found humor as more influential than non-humor and only 7% of whom were found to conflict with this claim (Weinberger and Spotts 1989).

Audience Factors The majority of practitioners consider that humorous ads are best appropriate to a target audience composed of better educated younger males (Madden and Weinberger 1984). The advertising literature usually supports this faith. Quite a few studies have indicated an communication between gender and humor efficacy (Gorham and Christophel 1990; Lammers et al. 1983; Madden and Weinberger 1982; Stewart- Hunter 1985; Whipple and Courtney 1980,1981). The effect of gender may be moderately explained by obvious differences in humor admiration. In a review of the literature, Whipple and Courtney (1981) conclude that men appear to enjoy aggressive and sexual humor more than women do, and women emerge to have a better admiration for nonsensical humor. However, they warning that the results are not convincing and that these preferences may be shifting as society changes. Additional, the perception of the initiator of the humor may be an key mediator, as will be discussed. Contrary to the hold of the findings in marketing, research in education generally has not found major gender effects on humor response. Both in an broad educational experiment discussed earlier (Ziv 1988), and in other experiments (Davies and Apter 1980; Weaver, Zillmann and Bryant 1988; Zillmann et al. 1980), the positive effect of humor on learning was not found to be different by gender. The dichotomy of outcome of gender effects on humor raises some attention-grabbing issues. Humor is very closely attached into the culture, experiences, and points of suggestion that are shared between the humor creator and the humor receiver. For instance, research has recommended that the gender response to sexual humor is reversed when the creator of the humor is female (Gallivan 1991), and the individuality of the joke may persuade which audiences discover the joke funny (Gruner 1991). If this is certainly the case, then much of the distinction based on gender, and maybe race and age as well, may be explained by different perspectives of the creator of the humorous treatment and the receiver of that treatment. Thus, the “shared point of view’ between the initiator of a humorous ad and the target of the ad is a potentially significant dominant variable in humor effectiveness. This problem has been largely ignored by researchers. In addition to gender, race, and age, other audience factors may impact the competence of humor and are worthy of thought. Humor is a common human practice exhibited by people of all cultures and throughout all of recorded history (Alden, Hoyer and Lee 1993). Though, the research that has examined humor in advertising cross-culturally indicates degree of difference in use of humor among countries, equally in humor types employed and in supreme levels of humor used (e.g. Alden, Hoyer and Lee 1993; Weinberger and Spotts 1989). Moreover, experimental proof indicates that people of diverse cultural backgrounds respond to humor in a different way. In an experiment that compared Israeli Jews of Eastern and Western descent, Weller and his colleagues found significant differences in the admiration for ridiculous jokes between the two groups (Weller, Amitsour, and Pazzi 1976). They conceive that these differences are due to habits of thought and mental attitudes ingrained in cultural backgrounds. These findings entail that even when language differences are uninvolved, jokes may not be easily “exchangeable” among cultures. An additional audience factor of note includes audience and product relations such as prior brand attitude. Chattopadhyay and Basu (1989) indicate that humor has better positive effect, with regard to influence, for those audience members with a prior positive brand attitude. These and other audience factors should be reserved in mind in the blueprint of humorous ads and upcoming humor study.


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