Evidence-based advertising: an application to persuasion

J. Scott Armstrong

University of Pennsylvania

This paper is concerned with only one aspect of advertising – that being persuasion. I use a broad common-sense definition of persuasive advertising: it is the attempt to use primarily one-way communication to influence attitudes and beliefs. And by influence, I mean to either change or maintain attitudes and behaviour.

Most of the ideas about how to persuade others are due to the efforts of thousands of advertisers and others in the persuasion business who developed and implemented creative approaches. Starting in the early 1900s, advertisers began to conduct experiments to see what worked, especially on direct mail advertisements. Academic researchers then took up the task of assessing what worked. This experimental research allowed us to determine how advertising is affected by conditions. The advancement of knowledge in advertising depends on this cumulating body of research.