Date of Award

Fall 2000

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Pokrywczynski, James V.

Second Advisor

Andrews, J. C.

Third Advisor

Crowley, John H.


Advertising has been the subject of ethical inquiry from a number of perspectives. One such venue of criticism concerns advertising content, seen by researchers to consist of two content types: factual, verifiable content that enables consumers to make clear, logical buying decisions; and non-factual, emotionally-based content that may cloud, hinder or otherwise render buying decisions irrational. Debate on this dichotomy has occupied numerous texts. Despite this body of research, however, little research has been done that provides a useful theoretical foundation for assessing the dichotomy, addresses the ethical nature of the dichotomy from a consumer's perspective, or discovers how moderating variables may affect consumer perceptions of informative and emotional advertising content. One important goal of this research is to contribute to the literature by applying the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) to the problem of predicting the effects of advertising content. The ELM claims that individuals may take different paths toward attitude change when internalizing persuasive messages. When individuals are motivated to think about the issues raised in a persuasive message and have the ability to do so, they take a central route toward attitude change. Conversely, individuals who take the peripheral route toward attitude change avoid thinking about an issue or lack sufficient motivation to process a persuasive message, thus relying on peripheral cues. Since the literature suggests that central processing may be more likely for informative advertising content and peripheral message processing more likely for persuasive or emotional advertising content, the ELM may prove beneficial in contributing to the advertising content debate. Another goal of this study is to contribute to the literature by discovering consumer ethical perceptions of informative and emotional advertising content and the degree to which moderating variables might affect ethical evaluations of ads. According to the literature, consumers are quite capable of making ethical evaluations of ads featuring sexual (LaTour and Henthorne 1994; Treise, Weigold, Conna, and Garrison 1994) and fear appeals (Treise et al. 1994). Additionally, some researchers offer empirical evidence that consumers can distinguish between informative and emotional ad content and are often deceived by the latter (Shimp 1983). What is not known, however, is whether consumers are capable of making ethical distinctions between informative or emotional advertising content as discussed in the wider advertising content debate...



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