Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Conceptualization and Exploration of Attitude toward Advertising Disclosures and Its Impact on Perceptions of Manipulative Intent

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

Conceptualization and Exploration of Attitude toward Advertising Disclosures and Its Impact on Perceptions of Manipulative Intent

Article excerpt

Significant research has been conducted in an effort to understand how varying elements of disclosures (e.g., size, placement, complexity) in advertisements impact consumers' abilities to understand and recall the disclosed message. Although it is important to research the effectiveness of disclosures, advertisers may have additional concerns if the mere presence of a disclosure impacts consumers' perceptions of the company, advertisement, or brand. Little research currently exists examining the notion of consumers' attitudes toward advertising disclosures or how they might impact the effectiveness of the disclosed message, attitude toward a given communication, or overall evaluation of the brand. We introduce the concept of attitude toward advertising disclosures and develop a scale to measure consumers' attitudes toward disclosed messages. The resultant 14-item, multidimensional scale is then used to demonstrate how attitude toward advertising disclosures plays a moderating role in influencing consumers' perceptions of manipulative intent.

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The US government has historically intervened on behalf of seemingly naive consumers to protect them from marketers' persuasion attempts. For example, spurred by the lack of adequate information provided in commercials, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established "clear and conspicuous" standards (CCS) for advertising disclosures (for a review of the FTC's standards, consult Trade Regulation Reporter 1971 and Hoy and Andrews 2004). These standards pertain to advertisers across all product categories and suggest that when using disclosures to augment or qualify advertised claims, disclosures need to be presented in a manner that enables consumer understanding. The standards have been expanded over the years to provide further guidance for advertisers and, presumably, increase protection of consumers (Eggland's Best Inc. 1994; Hoy and Andrews 2004).

The consequences of these standards on the practice of marketing have been examined with great interest, starting with Wilkie's series of papers that explored in detail the nature of the FTC's orders (Wilkie 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987). Wilkie's work was largely descriptive and focused on documenting the frequency, placement, type, and length of disclosures used in advertising. Other researchers considered the impact of disclosures directed toward the general population (e.g., Kolbe and Muehling 1992) as well as children (e.g., Kolbe and Muehling 1995; Stern and Harmon 1984; Wicks et al. 2009). Later research investigated advertisers' adherence to the CCS, which was generally found to be lacking (e.g., Hoy and Andrews 2004, 2006).

Adding to the literature are studies examining disclosure effectiveness. Research suggests that advertisers hold divergent views regarding the effectiveness of disclosures (Kolbe and Muehling 1997; Muehling and Kolbe 1997). The question of effectiveness is further fueled by the conflicting results reported in research from the audience perspective. Tests of the impact of the FTC's standards on consumer outcomes such as awareness (e.g., Morris, Mazis, and Brinberg 1989), comprehension (e.g., Morris, Mazis, and Brinberg 1989; Murray, Manrai, and Manrai 1993, 1998), recognition (e.g., Barlow and Wogalter 1993) and recall (e.g., Barlow and Wogalter 1993) have been mixed. However, research by Thomas, Fowler, and Kolbe (2011) suggests that the inability to draw definitive conclusions from the literature may be due in part to the complication of trying to satisfy multiple execution techniques as outlined by the CCS at once. For example, the authors found that disclosures presented in dual modality (visually and auditorily) performed in a manner superior to those disclosures presented in single modality (visually) for aiding recall and comprehension, but that these results were only maintained when the disclosure was presented with minimum distractions. Conversely, single modality performed significantly better on measures such as ability to remember, understanding, and attention when distraction levels were high. …

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