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The Attitude toward advertising in general and Attitude toward specific ads: is it the same influence whatever the

countries?

Christian Dianoux
CEREFIGE - University of Lorraine -
IUT, Ile du Saulcy, 57045 METZ, France – christian.dianoux@univ-metz.fr

Zdenek Linhart
Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, PEF
Kamycka 129, 165 21 Praha 6, Czech Republic – linhart@pef.czu.cz

Abstract

Consumers’ attitudes toward an ad (Aad) have offered a critical theoretical construct since 1981, with
the publication of two influential articles (Mitchell & Olson, 1981; Shimp, 1981). Following these seminal
articles, various studies were dedicated to demonstrating the effects of Aad on brand attitudes and purchase
intentions (e.g., Gardner, 1985; MacKenzie, Lutz, & Belch 1986; McKenzie, & Lutz, 1989). Other studies show
that Aad notably depends on attitudes toward advertising in general (Lutz, McKenzie, & Belch, 1983; Muehling,
1987; MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989; Mehta, 2000). Yet attitudes toward advertising in general (AG) and their
influence on advertising effectiveness have rarely been studied in cross-national studies (Mehta, 2000). This gap
is puzzling, in that AG seems likely to differ across countries (Durvasula, Lysonski, & Mehta, 1999) and authors
add about the countries studied, as "consumers in India and Singapore analyze advertisements differently. It
would, therefore, appear to be inappropriate to standardize all advertising campaigns" (p.57).
Alongside these results, it is surprising that a number of advertisements are used uniformly over several
countries notably European and seem reach satisfactory efficiency scores in each country. It is therefore possible
that other factors influence that.
The purpose of this paper is to show that this gap between theory and practice comes from the definition
of AG. We show from an experiment that if it is possible to detect by country some attitudinal differences toward
advertising in general, these differences can be higher or lower depending on the type of advertising. Indeed, the
concept of AG is in some cases too broad and needs to be replaced by more accurate measurements which focus
on specific ads. We show that the concept of AG must be accompanied by more precise measurements for
contextualizing advertising.
We start with a theoretical background to clarify the key constructs of attitude toward advertising in
general and attitude toward an ad, as well as their relationship. In light of our theoretical background and
empirical evidence, we present the international context of our research and develop research hypotheses. Next,
we outline our methodology and our research findings, followed by a discussion, conclusion, and some
implications for managers.

Keywords:

Attitude toward advertising, Attitude toward advertising in general, hard sell, soft sell, Czech Republic, France.

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Introduction

Consumers’ attitudes toward an ad (Aad) have offered a critical theoretical construct since 1981, with
the publication of two influential articles (Mitchell & Olson, 1981; Shimp, 1981). Following these seminal
articles, various studies were dedicated to demonstrating the effects of Aad on brand attitudes and purchase
intentions (e.g., Gardner, 1985; MacKenzie, Lutz, & Belch 1986; McKenzie, & Lutz, 1989). Other studies show
that Aad notably depends on attitudes toward advertising in general (Lutz, McKenzie, & Belch, 1983; Muehling,
1987; MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989; Mehta, 2000). Yet attitudes toward advertising in general (AG) and their
influence on advertising effectiveness have rarely been studied in cross-national studies (Mehta, 2000). This gap
is puzzling, in that AG seems likely to differ across countries (Durvasula, Lysonski, & Mehta, 1999) and authors
add about the countries studied, as "consumers in India and Singapore analyze advertisements differently. It
would, therefore, appear to be inappropriate to standardize all advertising campaigns" (p.57).
Alongside these results, it is surprising that a number of advertisements are used uniformly over several
countries notably European and seem reach satisfactory efficiency scores in each country. It is therefore possible
that other factors influence that.
One of these factors is maybe the kind of advertising that people like. Indeed it is not because somebody
likes something in general that he likes a precise thing. In this way Soo and Chia (2007) have demonstrated that
there can be differences between attitudes toward TV ads and magazine ads. Following this reasoning we
supposed here that the attitude toward the advertising in general can vary depending on the type of ad.
The purpose of this paper is to show that the problem comes from the definition of AG. We try to show
from an experiment that, if it is possible to detect by country some attitudinal differences toward advertising in
general, these differences can be higher or lower and have a variable influence on Aad depending on the type of
advertising. So, the concept the most managerially interesting to predict Aad is the attitude toward a specific type
of ad. Indeed, the concept of AG is in some cases too broad and needs to be replaced by more accurate
measurements which focus on specific features of ads. We will try to show that the concept of AG must be
accompanied by more precise measurements which take into account the main features of advertising.
We start with a theoretical background to clarify the key constructs of attitude toward advertising in
general and attitude toward an ad, as well as their relationship. In light of our theoretical background and
empirical evidence, we present the international context of our research and develop research questions. Next,
we outline our methodology and our research findings, followed by a discussion, conclusion, and some new way
of research.

Review of literature

A lot of studies show that Attitude toward the advertising (Aad) depends on attitudes toward advertising
in general (Lutz, McKenzie, & Belch, 1983; Muehling, 1987; MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989; Mehta, 2000). In their
structural model of the cognitive and affective antecedents of Aad, MacKenzie and Lutz (1989) suggest attitude
toward advertising in general exerts an important influence, along with several variables (i.e., ad credibility, ad
perceptions, attitude toward advertiser, and mood). The authors assess four ad exposure situations (i.e., pure
affect transfer, message-based persuasion, contextual evaluation transfer, and dual mode persuasion) that reflect
varying levels of both ad message and ad execution involvement; in all cases, AG served as an important
construct for explaining ad-based persuasion mechanisms.
Despite widespread acceptance of this theory, specific research on the relationship between AG and Aad
is rare. Mehta (2000) cites a few studies dedicated to research the effects of AG on advertising recall (Donthu,
Cherian, & Bhargava, 1993) or on consumer involvement in specific advertisements (James & Kover, 1992). His
research also reveals the influence of AG on the overall attention paid to print advertisements (measured as brand
recall) and on persuasiveness (measured as buying interest).
Some other research show that AG differs significantly across countries (Durvasula, Lysonski, & Mehta,
1999).
However, in admitting the above hypotheses (AG influences Aad and AG differs across countries), it
seems not very easy to understand why we observe more and more identical advertising campaigns which work
very well in different countries notably European countries.
This apparent paradox could be easily explained if AG differs between countries but do not influence
automatically Aad because people answer to general question on AG with a standard in mind and this standard
can be identical or not with the ad they see. For example, if for the consumer the standard is an informative ad
and he has a positive or negative attitude toward informative ad, there will be a link between AG and Aad
essentially when the ad is informative. If the ad is only an image with a beautiful girl and a claim, there will be
maybe not any link between AG and Aad. In this case, we can have the following process if the advertiser has to
choose between two campaigns (table 1).

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Table 1: Example of two different relationships between AG and Aad
Campaign A (with an informative ad)
(case where AG is a good gauge because the consumer does think at the A-type of ad –here an informative ad-
when he answers to the questions about AG)
Country 1 ASGinfo+++ (Attitude toward Specific informative ads in AG+++ => Aada+++
General)=> Aada+++
Country 2 ASGinfo- - (Attitude toward Specific informative ads in AG- - => Aada- -
General)=> Aada- -
Campaign B (with a sensual ad)
(case where AG is not a good gauge because the consumer does think at the A-type and not at B-type of ad –here a
sensual ad- when he answers to the questions about AG)
Country 1 ASGsensual+ (Attitude toward Specific sensual ads in AG+++ no link with Aadb+
General)=> Aadb+
Country 2 ASGsensual+++ (Attitude toward Specific sensual ads in AG- - no link with Aadb+++
General)=> Aadb+++

Furthermore, we can imagine that campaign B is a communication which use soft-sell arguments and
ASGb is the liking of soft-sell advertising type in both countries which justified the same campaign, because this
kind of advertising is liked (more or less) whatever the country comparing to hard-sell communication
(campaign A). This hypothesis is consistent with the observation of Okazaki et al (2010) who show that
international identical advertising campaigns are more oriented around soft-sell communication than hard-sell
communication. In other words, that means AG is not always a strong predictor of AG toward a specific type of
advertising and that we need to measure Attitude toward specific advertising in general (ASG).
Indeed, as few cross-national research have been made on this topic (Mehta, 2000), it is possible that
the relationship between AG and Aad has been observed in certain circumstances and could be not observed in
all context. So we can imagine the following hypothesis: when the advertising is conform to the ad standard
expected by consumer when he answers to the questions on AG, we can observe a relationship between AG and
Aad. The ad standard could be described as an advertising type that the consumer has in mind when he answers
to questions about his thoughts on advertising. So it is possible that we have a strong relationship between AG
and Aad in some circumstances and not in others because of the general advertising reference the consumer has
in his mind when he answers to the questions.
This could mean that, in addition to the attitude the consumer may have toward advertising in general,
specific attitude variations can play an important role. Thus we could have the same relation that Soo and Chia
(2007) have shown for attitude toward commercial ads in general (Atv) which can be different of attitude toward
print advertising in general (Aprint).
We would then have a general attitude which influences Aad but could have significant distortions
depending on the type of advertising used. Because one can suppose that this is not the fact of liking the
advertising in general but more importantly the fact of liking a particular type of ad. It is obvious that when a
consumer does absolutely not like the advertising in general, all the ads appear annoying (except maybe some
specific ads). But out these extreme and rare cases, what really matters is the type of ad that people like. The fact
of liking advertising in general is a whole interesting concept but managerially irrelevant, especially in an
international context where consumers can have different advertising standard in mind which vary from one
country to another (or maybe can also vary for the same consumer depending on the ads he has in mind). So the
aim of this paper is to show that:
-it is possible to find situations where we have an influence of ASG on Aad and no influence of AG on Aad.
Methodology

Research context
Our research encompasses two European countries with different economic and cultural backgrounds:
the Czech Republic and France, but with similar advertising laws because of the European Union rules. This
choice is justified considering the differences observed by Dianoux, Linhart, and Ognajov (2012) who found that
attitudes toward advertising in general (measured by: advertising in general is bad/good, Unfavorable/favorable,
negative/positive with a seven-point semantic differential pairs) differ significantly across the two European
countries with French people who tend to like advertising in general (M = 4.30), and Czech people who tend to
dislike advertising in general (M = 3.81).
Economically the countries differ greatly. France represents the largest market, with a population of
60.9 million people and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of 31,067 Euros. The Czech Republic has a
population of 10.2 million and GDP per capita of 12,922 Euros (the 2008 GDP per capita come from the Pocket
World in Figures (2010 Edition, The Economist, Profile Books, London).

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In terms of total advertising spending per capita, the Czech Republic (211 Euros) leads France (195
Euros) (Data -2008- are based on Euromonitor International for World Association of Newspapers).
Furthermore, there are cultural differences among the two countries. The individualism scores for the
two countries are as follows (Hofstede’s website): Czech Republic 60, and France 71.
According to de Mooij (1999), media structures can summarize acquired cultural values, such that
individualistic cultures rely more on newspapers but collectivist cultures prefer TV in their overall media
consumption. Bush, Smith, and Martin (1999) have revealed opposite, that the amount of TV viewing is
positively associated with AG. The advertising data for the two countries in our study support claim of Bush,
Smith, and Martin (1999) and don’t support de Mooij’s (1999) finding. In the Czech Republic, the share of
televised advertising spending in 2008 was 45% and 35% in France. Their shares of print advertising spending
reveal the highest level in France (36%), and a bit less in the Czech Republic (34%).
Sample
Most cross-national studies use student samples, which offer appealing homogeneity (e.g., Durvasula et
al., 1993). We also use student samples; specifically, we survey 179 (undergraduate and graduate) business
students attending two universities in the two focal countries (97 in Czech and 82 in France). This sample is also
interesting for research because of students’ generally more favourable attitudes toward marketing and
advertising (Roberts & Manolis, 2000).
Measures
During the course of a business class, respondents from each country answered some questions about
their attitudes toward advertising in general. To measure it, the three items was (Pollay and Mittal, 1993):
Subjects were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with three statements on a seven-
point scale: -Overall, I consider advertising a good thing -My general opinion about advertising is unfavourable’
(reverse coded) -Overall, I do like advertising. The original Muehling’s scale (1987) used three items “very
general semantic-differential item pairs” (p.33): My attitude toward advertising is Good/Bad,
Favorable/Unfavorable, Positive/Negative). Recently, two of these three items were used by Rojas-Méndez,
Davies, and Madran (2009): ‘Overall, I consider advertising a good thing’, and ‘Overall, I strongly dislike,
somewhat dislike, feel neutral, somewhat like, strongly like ... advertising’. Moreover we have added the
Mehta’s scale (2000).
To measure attitude toward specific advertising in general, we have taken in account:
-the attitude toward advertising in specific media (Tan, Chia, 2007) and adapted Pollay and Mittal’s
scale to the billboard media which is studied in this paper (e.g. Overall, I consider billboard ads a good thing).
-the attitude toward soft-sell and hard-sell advertising (Okazaki et al., 2010) and we have retained the
following items: “In general, how likely do you like or not billboard ads which are (7-point scale with I like very
much=7 - I totally dislike=1) with

For Hard-sell appeal: For Soft-sell appeal:


-concrete (Thinking dimension) -entertaining (Image Dimension)
-feature centered (Fact dimension) -visually oriented (Image Dimension)
-informative (Fact dimension) -emotional (Feeling Dimension)
-instructive (Explicitness dimension) -abstract (Feeling Dimension)

To measure attitude toward the ad, we have adapted both Okazaki et al. (JA2010 and JIM2010) and the
believability and irritation measures (Bhat, Leigh, and Wardlow, 1998): “For you, this ad is rather: (7-point
Likert scale with surely disagree=1 and surely agree=7): boring (rev), irritating (reversed), disturbing (reversed),
credible, good, interesting. Moreover we have added the item used by MacKenzie, Lutz, and Belch (1986): “To
what extent do you like or dislike this ad: (7-point Osgood scale with Like=7/not like=1)” for the experimental
ads and the four real ads.
Experiment
In first step, we have administrated the first part of the questionnaire to measure AG and ASG.
In a second step, we have separated respondents from each country in two groups: one exposed to an ad
for a new brand of mobile phone which used soft-sell argumentation and one exposed to an ad for the same new
brand of mobile phone which used hard-sell argumentation. The billboard ad (soft-sell for one group and hard-
sell for another group in each country) was projected on the wall during all the duration of the second part of the
questionnaire. The two ads were the same in each country, except for the language used; we translated and back-
translated all content. After exposition, we asked them to complete a follow-up questionnaire.
Finally during the third step, we projected on the wall four ads (10 seconds each) to all the participants
(two with soft-sell arguments for L’Oréal and Bic and two with hard-sell arguments for Audi and Nikon). The

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billboard ads were in English because we wanted to keep the same ads in both countries. After exposition, we
asked them to complete the final part of the questionnaire (measures of Aad for the four ads).
All items originally in English were translated into Czech and French using the procedure suggested by
Brislin (1976). We finalized the items by asking three experts in each country to respond.

Results and discussion

As Dianoux, Linhart, and Ognajov (2010) observed in their paper, we observe the same trend in this
survey: French people like advertising in general more than Czech people.

Table 2: AG and ASG depending on the country


N Mean F Sig.
AG P&M CZ 96 4,7257 4,919 0,028
(Pollay & Mittal, 1993) Fr 81 5,1152
Total 177 4,904
AG P&M billboard CZ 97 2,8729 95,634 0,000
Fr 82 4,7724
Total 179 3,743
ASG Hard-sell appeal CZ 93 4,1048 17,686 0,000
Fr 81 4,7901
Total 174 4,4239
ASG Soft-sell appeal CZ 94 5,0071 40,069 0,000
Fr 82 5,9431
Total 176 5,4432
Table 1 show us that all variables are converging with the idea of French people have a more positive
attitude toward advertising in general or toward specific ads.
The second main result that we can observed in table 1 is that soft-sell is preferred to hard-sell whatever
the country which is congruent with Okazaki et al.’s (2010) results (the soft-sell arguments are more frequently
used in international advertising than hard-sell arguments).
About the correlation between AG/Aad and ASG/Aad, we can observe that our assessment (it is
possible to find situations where we have a link between ASG and Aad and no link between AG and Aad) is
observed with these data as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Correlation between AG or ASG and Aad (ad with soft-sell argument)
Aad
Boring Irritating Disturb. Credible Good Interest. Aad Liking
(rev) (rev) (rev) (abdef)1
AG r -0,09 -0,17 -0,05 0,12 -0,19 0,01 -0,10 -0,17
P&M p. 0,40 0,12 0,67 0,26 0,07 0,92 0,33 0,11
N 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90
AGbilb r 0,20 0,04 0,16 0,20 0,23 0,29 0,27 0,09
P&M p. 0,06 0,69 0,14 0,06 0,03 0,00 0,01 0,43
N 90 90 90 90 90 90 90 90
Hard- r 0,17 -0,10 -0,04 0,04 0,04 0,03 0,05 -0,08
sell p. 0,11 0,34 0,68 0,70 0,69 0,81 0,67 0,45
appeal
N 86 86 86 86 86 86 86 86
Soft-sell r -0,01 0,15 0,18 -0,02 0,03 0,23 0,11 0,08
appeal p. 0,95 0,17 0,09 0,85 0,79 0,03 0,30 0,44
N 89 89 89 89 89 89 89 89
Item C (disturbing have been deleted because of lower alpha) - Grey cases: p.<0.05

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We can see in table 3 that the ASG which have the most important links with Aad is Attitude toward
billboard advertising in general. Paradoxically, attitude toward soft-sell advertising in general (ASGsoft-sell), has
only one significant positive correlation with the item “this ad is interesting”.
We don’t show the same results for the ad with hard-sell argument because there is no significant
correlation.
Another result about the real ads and real brands (second part of our survey) is interesting to illustrate in
Table 4.

Table 4: Correlation between ASGHard-sell and Aad of real ads and brands
L’Oréal ad Audi ad Bic ad Nikon ad
(soft-sell) (hard-sell) (soft-sell) (hard-sell)
Liking Liking Liking Liking
General (CZ and Fr)
r 0,05 0,05 0,06 0,12
p. 0,52 0,53 0,47 0,13
N 174,00 167,00 171,00 173,00
CZ
r 0,00 0,03 0,07 0,21
p. 0,99 0,81 0,49 0,04
N 93,00 89,00 91,00 92,00
Fr
r 0,08 0,02 -0,10 0,28
p. 0,49 0,84 0,39 0,01
N 81,00 78,00 80,00 81,00
Grey cases: p.<0.05
The only ad which is significantly correlates between Aad and ASGhard-sell is the ad for Nikon which
used a typical hard-sell argument (information about the characteristics, the price, and a basic image of the
camera). The second ad with hard-sell argument (Audi) does not present any correlation with ASGhard-sell.
Paradoxically, we can see in Table 5, that there is a correlation for this ad with ASGsoft-sell.

Table 5: correlation between ASGSoft-sell and Aad of real ads and brands
L’Oréal ad Audi ad Bic ad Nikon ad
(soft-sell) (hard-sell) (soft-sell) (hard-sell)
Liking Liking Liking Liking
General (CZ and Fr)
r 0,20 0,17 0,00 -0,15
p. 0,01 0,03 0,98 0,05
N 176,00 169,00 173,00 175,00
CZ
r 0,19 0,19 -0,06 0,04
p. 0,07 0,07 0,54 0,74
N 94,00 90,00 92,00 93,00
Fr
r 0,17 0,04 -0,08 -0,12
p. 0,13 0,70 0,47 0,28
N 82,00 79,00 81,00 82,00
Grey cases: p.<0.05
In the case of ASGSoft-sell we have a positive correlation with Aad for the L’Oréal ad (soft-sell) and the
Audi ad (hard sell) and a negative correlation with Nikon ad. These correlations are significant only for the
complete sample and not for Czech and France separated.
An explanation that we can advance is that Audi ad contains a hard-sell argument (comparison with
BMW) but also a beautiful image of the car and the items which have a high weight in the scale of soft-sell
appeal are “visually oriented” and “emotional”.

Conclusion

If the aim of this research is reached, we have shown it is possible to find situations with an influence of
ASG on Aad and no influence of AG on Aad thanks to a selection of soft-sell and hard-sell advertising, a lot of
complementary research is needed.

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Indeed, the actual results authorize us to advance that our assessment is possible but not very strongly
confirmed.
If we want to better understand the role of AG in the persuasion, complementary and new researches are
necessary on:
-the measures of ASG
-the variety of ads
-the variety of countries
-the analysis and statistics treatments
We launch a call to researchers we would work on this topic.

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