The effects of embarrassment on the emotional and rational processing of socially sensitive advertising

Date of Completion

January 2001


Business Administration, Marketing|Mass Communications




This dissertation examines the effects of product involvement, viewing context, and ad-induced embarrassment on reactions to socially sensitive advertising. This study proposes an integrative model of advertising effects with a primary focus on the impact of sexually explicit contraceptive advertising on positive and negative affective reactions as well as cognitive evaluations, and the impact such reactions have on attitudinal judgments, purchase intentions, and immediate recall. ^ Empirical analysis of the integrative model yields significant positive product involvement, viewing context, and advertising appeal effects, such that the more involving the product category, and the more embarrassing the advertising appeal, the more positive the evaluations of ad-effectiveness, especially for individuals viewing in groups. ^ The moderating effects of individual difference variables such as embarrassability and attachment styles were also tested within the framework of the study. Moderator analyses indicate that other-evoked embarrassability (OEE) had a significant positive effect on ad-induced embarrassment, and avoidant attachment styles had a significant negative effect on ad-induced embarrassment. ^ Overall, positive emotions such as excitement and sexual arousal evoked by the sexually explicit contraceptive advertisement seemed to be the strongest predictor of advertising effectiveness. More importantly however, in the case of embarrassing advertisements, the effects of attitude towards advertisement on attitude towards brand were strongly mediated by the social value and usefulness of the message. The important conceptual, practical, and managerial implications of these findings are discussed, and the application to advertising practices is addressed with the goal to create better advertising for socially sensitive products. ^