How Products and Advertising Offend Consumers

A growing research literature suggests when and why audiences will be offended by advertisements. The content analysis reported in this article tests hypotheses derived from the literature using actual consumer complaints about advertisements delivered via the mass media.

How Products and Advertising Offend Consumers

Fred K. BeardUniversity of Oklahoma

Advertisers, industry observers, and social critics have long been interested in public attitudes toward advertising's characteristics, effects, and ethical practice. Large-scale attitude and opinion studies were first conducted in the 1930s-a period during which advertisers often turned to off-putting themes and appeals-and increased during the 1960s and 1970s (for reviews of this literature, see Lowrey, Shavitt, and Haefner, 1998; Mittal, 1994; O'Donohoe, 1995; Pollay and Mittal, 1993; Zanot, 1981). As Beard (2003) notes, studies were chiefly...

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