Viewer Processing of Archetypal Imagery in Advertising: Effects of Symbolic Content on Topic and Message Evaluations

Date of Completion

January 2011


Business Administration, Marketing|Mass Communications




This dissertation attempts to explain the mechanisms of persuasion that governs the processing of the archetypal messages. The present study integrates the Phase Interfaced Omnistructure (PIO) and the general emotion model to test the model of symbolic content processing. It extends previous work on archetypal structures by substituting symbolic images used in earlier research for real life advertisements. It applies the archetypal symbolic inventory (ASI) to investigate the effect of archetypal images on viewer's evaluations of content and message. ^ A total of 586 undergraduates at a large eastern university were randomly exposed to 16 questionnaires with archetypal imagery. Using exploratory then confirmatory factor analysis, responses to 52 evaluative items are reduced to eight archetypes, a factor-structure which replicated across 16 ads. Two second-order factors, event and spatial, are created. Data from 16 conditions were pooled together in order to run the path analysis. The resulting model exhibits an excellent fit. Second-order factors increased emotional involvement with the product, the ad and message clarity. The results support multiple sequence processing and the hierarchy of effects. ^ The findings of this dissertation provide support for the PIO model and the general emotion model. The results expand our knowledge of the way the viewers process archetypes. The findings are of interest to researchers in that the study investigates the unique effect of the symbolic imagery on the emotional and cognitive processing. ^ Marketers can find interesting ways of communicating with their consumers at a new level that provides faster understanding and deeper impact. Practitioners can find it useful to learn about the effect of archetypal symbols on people's memory and associations, providing a new means of leveraging the impact of archetypes to create better advertisements. Finally, this dissertation forges a stronger bond between advertisers and consumers, helping them to become more educated in the use and understanding of the archetypes. ^