Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure Themes in International Advertising: A Content Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure Themes in International Advertising: A Content Analysis

Article excerpt

At least three researchers (Domzal & Unger, 1987; Keegan, 1985; Laughren, 1985) indicate that leisure might be used as a global element in international advertising. Such global advertising themes appeal to a pan-human need, enhance persuasive communication and are widely used. This paper investigates the frequency of leisure themes in international advertising using a cross-cultural content analysis of print and billboard advertisements.

Leisure is a universal phenomenon, as recognized by many researchers. The role of play in human development is widely discussed across a variety of disciplines (Barnett, 1990; Piaget, 1962). Leisure's close tie to humor (Berlyne, 1969; Ziv, 1984) and to ritual (Fox, 1980) underscores its universal nature.

The focus here is the subjective properties of leisure rather than its specific activities. There has been widespread interest in defining and measuring leisure in subjective terms, focusing on the psychological experience itself (Mannell, 1980). This suggests that there are properties of the experience which transcend specific activities.

Unger and Kernan (1983) identified six dimensions of play and leisure, which provide the framework for this study: intrinsic satisfaction, perceived freedom, arousal, mastery, involvement and spontaneity. Their results indicate that intrinsic satisfaction, perceived freedom and involvement are present in the subjective leisure experience across many different types of activities. The experiences of arousal and mastery appear to be more activity-specific. Little evidence was provided in their study for the presence of spontaneity across activities. However, all six dimensions were utilized as a basis for content analysis in the present study, based on the following conceptual definitions.

Intrinsic Satisfaction

The leisure experience offers pleasure or gratification (Gunter, 1987; Mannell, Zuzanek & Larson, 1988; Samdahl, 1987; Shaw, 1985). Intrinsic satisfaction is often viewed as the essence of leisure, or a precondition of the experience itself, and empirical studies substantiate the presence of intrinsic satisfaction in leisure across many activity contexts (Mannell, 1989).

Perceived Freedom

Leisure is often described as "free," something one perceives as voluntary, without coercion or obligation. Several authors have maintained that perceived freedom is the single precondition of leisure (Ingham, 1986). There is also considerable empirical support for existence of this dimension (Iso-Ahola, 1979; Kelly, 1978; Mannell, 1980).


Berlyne (1969) discussed a rise of tension in play, which comes from "discrepancies:" novelty and change, surprise, complexity and uncertainty. The arousing experiences of play are followed by tension and arousal reduction (Csikszentmahalyi, 1975; Iso-Ahola, LaVerde & Graefe, 1988). Several researchers have noted incongruity, novelty-seeking, exploration and risk-taking behavior in leisure (Ewert & Hollenhorst, 1989; Gunter, 1987).


Feelings of mastery are also present in leisure. Piaget (1962) stressed the primacy of assimilation over accommodation in children's play, as mastering the outside world provides a rewarding experience. Mastery appears to be closely linked to arousal-seeking. According to Berlyne (1969), the rewards of play and leisure come from mastering conditions of high arousal. We seek incongruity in our environment and get pleasure from conquering it. Empirical evidence indicates that feelings of mastery are present in leisure activities (Aguilar & Petrakis, 1989; London, Crandall & Fitzgibbons, 1977; Roberts & Duda, 1984; Vallerand & Reid, 1984).


Leisure can mean high involvement or total immersion in an activity (Csikszentmahalyi, 1975; Mannell, 1980). One enters a microcosm, distinct from daily life (Samdahl & Kleiber, 1988). There is empirical support for the presence of involvement in the leisure experience (Havitz & Dimanche, 1990; Unger & Kernan, 1983). …

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