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Advertising as persuasion may be defined as intentional, commercial communication aimed at convincing consumers of the value of the product or brand advertised. It focuses on the impact of advertising stimuli on cognitive, affective, and behavioral consumer responses (Fennis & Stroebe 2010). As a classic approach, the so called “Yale studies” (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley 1953) produced the message-learning approach to persuasion stating that persuasion involves a four-stage process: attention, comprehension, yielding, and retention. Hence, persuasive ads are those that are attention-grabbing, easy to comprehend, convincing, and memorable (see Fennis & Stroebe 2010).
The elaboration likelihood model (ELM; Petty & Cacioppo 1986) and the heuristic systematic processing model (hSM; Chaiken 1980) represent more contemporary approaches and assume that persuasion is a function of two distinct modes of processing that anchor a controlled–automatic continuum. When consumer motivation and/or ability are high, persuasion is the result of careful scrutiny of the true merits of the product that is advertised in the message. In contrast, when motivation and/or ability is low, persuasion comes about via less effortful means, with consumers basing their evaluations on message elements that offer shortcuts for inferring something about product quality.
While these frameworks rely on conscious information processing to understand persuasion effects, recent developments have centered on studying unconscious influences of advertising spurred, by work on automatic construct activation (i.e., ‘priming’; Bargh 2002).
- Bargh, J. A. (2002). Losing consciousness: Automatic influences on consumer judgment, behavior, and motivation. Journal of Consumer Research, 29, 280–285.
- Chaiken, S. (1980). Heuristic versus systematic information processing and the use of source versus message cues in persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 752–766.
- Fennis, B. M., & Stroebe, W. (2010). The psychology of advertising. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
- Hovland, I., Janis, I. L., & Kelley, H. H. (1953). Communication and persuasion: Psychological studies of opinion change. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Petty, R. E. & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer.