Technology or Tradition: Exploring Relative Persuasive Appeals of Animation, Endorser Credibility, and Argument Strength in Web Advertising
 
Student Researcher

Sriram Kalyanaraman (PhD Student)
This paper is based on a graduate Independent Study.

Faculty supervisor

Dr. Mary Beth Oliver

For a complete report of this research, see:

Kalyanaraman, S., & Oliver, M. B. (2001, August). Technology or tradition: Exploring relative persuasive appeals of animation, endorser credibility, and argument strength in Web advertising. Paper presented to the Communication Technology and Policy Division at the 84th annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), Washington, DC.

Introduction

Recent developments suggest that even as the novelty effect of the Web is wearing off, technological variables unique to the new medium need to be studied in conjunction with more traditional variables. That is, even though variables like animation may serve to increase attention, they do not offer any specific informational content. For instance, advertisers can offer more information on their product/service by including strong arguments for their product. In a similar vein, they can try and attract attention toward their ad by having it endorsed by, say, a credible source. This paper explored the relative persuasive appeals of animation, endorser credibility, and argument strength in online advertisements by employing a completely balanced, mixed-design experiment.

Hypothesis

Based on the additivity hypothesis of the Heuristic Systematic Model (HSM), we made the following hypothesis:

H1: Additivity effects are expected to be strongest in the presence of both peripheral cues (endorser credibility and animation) and strong arguments.

Method

Sixty-two participants in a completely balanced, 2 (Endorser Credibility) X 2 (Animation) X 2 (Argument Strength) mixed-factorial experiment were randomly assigned to two of eight experimental conditions. Each condition was manipulated to feature an online advertisement embedded in a news site, with endorser credibility (high, low) and animation (animated, static) serving as between-participants factors, and argument strength (strong, weak) serving as the within-participants factor. After participants were exposed to each site, they filled out a paper-and-pencil questionnaire eliciting their evaluation of the advertisement and the brand, and their behavioral intention.

Results

Hypothesis: Not supported. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not observe any additivity effects in the presence of both peripheral cues and strong arguments.

Although we did not observe any interaction effects, both animation and argument strength exhibited significant main effects on the dependent measures (attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the brand, and behavioral intention).

Conclusion

It appears that in this study, endorser credibility functioned as another argument (and not as a cue at all), perhaps underscoring the reason why we did not observe any significant effect of credibility on any of the dependent measures. The findings also validate recent suppositions that technological elements must be presented in conjunction with traditional variables in order to increase the persuasiveness of online messages, especially as they are typically encountered. Future research may examine different combinations of different types of variables in the online context (sound, video, source attractiveness, argument strength).

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. Mary Beth Oliver by e-mail at mbo@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 863-5552

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University