Advertising effectiveness from a consumer perspective

Robert Aitken, Brendan Gray and Robert Lawson
University of Otago


Conventional research into how advertising works and its effects on consumers tended to focus on the importance of the advertising message and/or the executional strategy, and moderated this with concepts such as involvement, motivation and intentionality (Barry & Howard 1990; Brown & Stayman 1992; Bloom et al. 1994). This suggested that consumers actively process those advertisements that coincide with particular purchase needs, and respond to brand, product or service information according to the cognitive or affective appeals of the advertisement. However, this type of research also tended to cast the audience (actual or potential customers) as 'receivers' of commercial information, rather than as the central actors in the communication process who co-create meaning and relationships. More recent research into advertising effectiveness prioritises the dynamic nature of the relationships between audiences and the advertising information and imagery they choose to interact with (Ritson & Elliot 1999; Hackley 2001; O'Donohoe 2001; Puntoni et al. 2004). This shift in emphasis from the advertiser to the audience has coincided with increasing interest in consumer culture theory (Hirschman & Thompson 1997; Arnould & Thompson 2005), brand communities (Muniz & O'Guinn 2001; Andersen 2005) and the new service dominant logic of marketing (Vargo & Lusch 2004). Communication and media studies have also helped to cast more light on the role of the macro-media environment and the ways in which audiences are conceptualised. This paper presents an overview of key developments in reception and audience theory and provides an integrative and comprehensive contextualisation for the study of advertising effectiveness. The implications for future research are important, particularly in light of the growing interest in the service dominant logic, with its central tenet of the co-production of value (Ramirez 1999).