Syrian Consumers: Beliefs, Attitudes, and Behavioral Responses to Internet Advertising

Article excerpt

Introduction

Advertising is a standard promotional tactic that is designed to reach a target audience and to either affect behavior or to introduce, persuade, and/or remind consumers of an offer (Nihel 2013). Advertising messages could be delivered through various mediums (e.g. TV, radio, and magazines). Some scholars characterize advertising as ubiquitous and an important part of the fabric of modern life (Shavitt et al. 1998). Advertising has advanced with technological innovation, now common throughout the world. Several new advertising mediums are emerging and these have paved the way for advertisers to increase their interactivity with target consumers. Berthon et al. (1996) were the first researchers to investigate how advertising might operate on the internet and they characterized it as a new medium in the marketing communication mix. Other researchers differentiated between offline and online advertising, suggesting that traditional media (print, TV, and radio) is based on messages that are connected to entertainment, whereas the internet is better viewed as an information-based medium Lei (2000). Further debate over how to characterize the internet followed. Wolin et al. (2002: 88) reason that the internet also possesses an entertaining component. They see internet advertising as a broad format that consists of "commercial content paid for by sponsors, designed for audiences, delivered by video, print, audio, graphics or animation". Recently, the internet has been regarded as the most powerful advertising media (Radbata, Kubenka 2012).

With an estimated amount of $2,660,000 as an expenditure on internet advertising in the Middle East by the year 2013 (Dubai Press Club 2010), Advertisers targeting Syrian consumers are well aware of the promise of the internet as an advertising. The escalation of internet advertising has grown rapidly in Syria, and is exhibited in a wide variety of forms (e.g. websites, banner ads, rich media ads, web logs, electronic mail ads, and online social network advertising). While some researchers have addressed the internet as a very effective advertising medium Pabedinskaite, Rojute-Gaukstiene (2004), Wolin et al. (2002) refered to the internet as a source of challenges and opportunities for advertisers, and that includes the need for investigating internet users' beliefs, attitudes, and even their behavioral responses towards this type of advertising espcially when it comes to the results of previous research which considered consumer attitudes towards advertising as an indication of advertising effectiveness (e.g. Russell et al. 1994; Ducoffe 1996; Mehta 2000; Wolin et al. 2002; Wolin, Korgaonkar 2005; Karson et al. 2006; Wang, Sun 2010a, 2010b; Sun, Wang 2010; Mahmoud 2012a, 2012b). Effective internet advertising could promote for purchase intentions towards advertised products (Sathish et al. 2011). Therefore, modelling the relationships among beliefs about, attitudes and behaviors towards internet advertising, through the results of the current study, could help advertisers produce conveniently advertising messages that reach audience more effectively in the Syrian context. Yet while research and practice have identified the promise of internet advertising, little is known about the impact of internet advertising in the Syrian context as the literature has largely focused on developed nations (Sun, Wang 2010; Wang, Sun 2010a, 2010b; Kamal, Chu 2012). See Mahmoud (2012a, 2012b) for preliminary research into research focusing on developing countries such as Syria. Therefore, the aim of the present study is to validate scales measuring beliefs and attitudes towards internet advertising with respect to the Syrian cultural context and test a model (see Fig. 1) linking beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to internet advertising. This model is proposed on the basis of previous research and will utilize structural equation modeling.

Literature review and research hypotheses Beliefs

Beliefs have been conceptualized as predictions held by people in regard to the possibilities that their knowledge about a referent is true (Wyer, Albarracin 2005) or, alternatively, that an event or state of affairs has or will occur (Fishbein, Ajzen 1975; Eagly, Chaiken 1998). …