Jeffers   1         Driving With the Stars: Using Celebrity Appeal in Product Placements to                  Increase Favo...
Jeffers   2                                       Research Question       “To what extent does the product placement of au...
Jeffers     3knowledge about the source as a result of past exposures. Similarity is the perceivedresemblance between the ...
Jeffers    4sources. The model is not without its weaknesses, however. Attractiveness is verysubjective and will certainly...
Jeffers    5                                The Source Credibility Model       The Source Credibility model (as cited in S...
Jeffers   6attractiveness, in their formulation of a new construct of corporate credibility. Their studyevaluated how the ...
Jeffers   7                                   Meaning Transfer Model       In studying how consumers respond to celebrity ...
Jeffers   8       McCracken (1989) believes that consumers do not always just buy products — theyalso desire to acquire th...
Jeffers    9mismatches were so severe that they led to absolutely no change in attitude toward thebrand (Kamins, 1990) or ...
Jeffers     10derived from proven theoretical research and based on the psychology of endorserevaluation that will provide...
Jeffers   11                                          ReferencesBalasubramanian, S. K., Karrh, J. A., & Patwardhan, H. (20...
Jeffers   12McGuire, W. J. (1985). Attitudes and Attitude Change. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.),       Handbook of Soc...
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Bruce Jeffers ::: Theoretical Background for Using Celebrity Appeal in Product Placements for Automobile Brands (Spring 2008)

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This research explores theoretical reasons behind how and why product placements featuring automobile brands may affect consumer behavior, attitude and purchase intent. This study was developed throughout the course of the Spring 2008 semester in a graduate-level Advertising Theories course.

by Bruce Jeffers, copyright 2008 via The University of Texas at Austin.

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Bruce Jeffers ::: Theoretical Background for Using Celebrity Appeal in Product Placements for Automobile Brands (Spring 2008)

  1. 1. Jeffers 1 Driving With the Stars: Using Celebrity Appeal in Product Placements to Increase Favorable Attitude toward Automobile Brands Part II — Theoretical Framework Introduction Today’s consumers have learned to ignore television commercials, to tune them out,and with new technologies, even avoid them altogether. With the widespread use ofadvancements like Digital Video Recording (DVR) and the Internet, many consumers are“skipping” TV commercials or simply not watching as much television. With theseobstacles in the way of television advertising today, how can a company or brand stilldeliver an effective message to its target? Product placement is one solution. The use of product placement is quickly spreading and evolving to combat today’sindifference toward television commercials. The technique of product placement showsreal brands or products within the entertainment programming itself, rather than in acommercial during a program break. In most typical product placements, company logosare displayed on-screen for a few seconds, thereby exposing viewers to the brand withoutinterrupting the program with a commercial — the advertising message is streamlined intothe enjoyable entertainment. A previous literature review of product placement research has proven that productplacement is more effective than traditional television commercials (Balasubramanian,Karrh, & Patwardhan, 2006; Brennan, 2001; Hosea, 2007; Jin & Villegas, 2007; Patterson,2006; Stratton, 1992). This paper will further develop the study by bringing in establishedtheoretical models from communication and psychology research.
  2. 2. Jeffers 2 Research Question “To what extent does the product placement of automobiles in action genreprogramming (including TV, films, and video games) serve as endorser credibility andthereby affect attitude toward the respective automobile brands in the minds of young menages 18 to 34?” The following report will analyze the effectiveness of product placement in regardto attractiveness and credibility theories. This paper will also begin to explore howproduct placements can be considered celebrities or endorsers for their respective brandsand how this appeal will affect the attitude of the viewer. The Source Attractiveness Model The Source Attractiveness model (McGuire, 1985) comes from social psychologyresearch but has high relevance in communication and advertising applications as well. Infact, McGuire originally devised the model for it to be used in the study of personalcommunication (McCracken, 1989), and other researchers have recently discovered itsvalue in the study of endorsements in advertising (Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000).McGuire’s theory says that the persuasive effectiveness of a message depends heavily onthe attractiveness of the source. His research found that viewers perceive characteristicand cultural differences among sources of information. These differences led to profoundvariations in how appealing and therefore persuasive the sources were (McGuire, 1985). There are three constructs used to measure the degree of attractiveness. They are“likability”, “familiarity,” and “similarity.” Likability is defined as the affection for thesource based on the source’s physical appearance and behavior. Familiarity is the level of
  3. 3. Jeffers 3knowledge about the source as a result of past exposures. Similarity is the perceivedresemblance between the source of the message and the viewer or receiver. The sourceattractive model states that the more a source is liked by, known by, and/or similar to theviewer, the more attractive and, as a result, persuasive the source will be to that particularviewer (McCracken, 1989; McGuire, 1985). Conversely, if a source has low attractivenessor is deemed unattractive, the level of persuasion is very low or even nonexistent. Theindependent variables are the three constructs: likability, familiarity, and similarity; thedependent variables in this theory are the degree of attitude change and persuasion. Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell (2000) later applied McGuire’s theory to researchof endorsers in advertising: they incorporated source attractiveness into the creation oftheir construct of celebrity credibility. Their study will be discussed in further detail laterin this paper, but it is important to note here that they considered source attractiveness tobe one of the main determinants of a celebrity’s degree of credibility and persuasiveness. Another recent product placement study (Yang, 2007) was also influenced by thesource attractiveness theory. The results of this study showed that higher levels of productinvolvement with main characters (attractive sources) led to greater attitude changeamong viewers. Specifically, when a product was used by a main character, the audienceexpressed more positive attitudes toward the brand than when the product was just in thebackground, not used by a main character. The previous examples given are a strength of McGuire’s model: that we are able toevoke his source attractiveness theory to justify the use of endorsements in advertising.Companies use well-liked celebrities to promote their products and services; viewers aremore likely to be persuaded by these messages because they come from more attractive
  4. 4. Jeffers 4sources. The model is not without its weaknesses, however. Attractiveness is verysubjective and will certainly vary from person to person. An endorser who is attractive toone individual may be highly unattractive to another. Additionally, attractiveness is aqualitative measure, posing two problems: 1) it would be hard to quantify results, and 2)respondents may have difficulties or reservations in accurately wording and describing itsspecific effects on their attitudes. For the purposes of this research question, the source attractiveness model is againbeing transferred into advertising study. I will apply the constructs of likability, familiarity,and similarity to the product placement of automobiles. This will be evaluated in twoways: 1) the attractiveness of the actor or actress who is driving the vehicle, and 2) theattractiveness of the actual automobile; in other words, considering the vehicle itself to bea celebrity that can be deemed attractive. This research will measure how the likability,familiarity, and similarity of actors and vehicles will affect viewers’ attitude toward therespective auto brands. A recent article in a trade magazine (Hosea, 2007) highlights how some automakershave already begun featuring their cars as “celebrities” in video games, utilizing part (2) ofthe modified source attractiveness theory just discussed. Companies such as Mitsubishiand Nissan have placed their logos and sports cars in popular racing games; in this virtualenvironment, the cars themselves are the stars and the center of attention. This method ofproduct placement has increased levels of interest in these sports cars among men in thegaming audience. This article even gives a few examples of male consumers who haveactually bought sports cars after seeing and using them in the video games, showing thatsource attractiveness can even be persuasive enough to influence purchase decisions.
  5. 5. Jeffers 5 The Source Credibility Model The Source Credibility model (as cited in Severin & Tankard, 2001) was developedby Hovland and Weiss in 1951 as a result of a communication experiment that observed theeffects of a source’s credibility on the acceptance of the content of a message. In theirexperiment, identical messages were presented to two groups. One message came from alow-credibility source (one held in low esteem at that time), the other from a high-credibility source (one held in high esteem at that time). Even though the messages were identical, the researchers found a greater attitudechange and degree of persuasion among those who received the message from the high-credibility source (as cited in Severin & Tankard, 2001). This led Hovland and Weiss to theconclusion that became their theory: the higher a source’s credibility is perceived to be, themore likely the receiver is to be persuaded by the message and the greater the receiver’schange in attitude will be. Essentially, higher source credibility signifies a more effectivemessage (as cited in McCracken, 1989). The source credibility model employs two main constructs: “trustworthiness” and“expertise.” Trustworthiness is measured by the honesty and believability of the source.Expertise is defined by the knowledge of and experience with the subject (as cited inGoldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000). The independent variables are those two constructs;the dependent variables are the amount of attitude change and persuasion. A source’sperceived degree of trustworthiness and expertise determine its level of credibility. Corporate Credibility Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell (2000) included the source credibility constructs oftrustworthiness and expertise, as well as McGuire’s (1985) concept of source
  6. 6. Jeffers 6attractiveness, in their formulation of a new construct of corporate credibility. Their studyevaluated how the credibility of celebrities and the credibility of the brand or companyaffected viewers’ attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the brand, and purchase intentionof the advertised product. Their findings show that both types of credibility — endorserand corporation —influence attitude change and purchase intention, but corporatecredibility had a much stronger impact on these responses (Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell,2000). In application to product placement, this study suggests that the reputation of thebrand will affect the placement’s persuasiveness more profoundly than will the credibilityof the celebrity who uses the product. Similar to the source attractiveness model discussed earlier, a strength of Hovland’sand Weiss’s source credibility theory is that we are able to use it as a measurement ofendorser effectiveness in advertising. Through their research and other subsequentstudies, we have learned that viewers are more likely to be persuaded by celebrities andcorporations who possess higher levels of perceived credibility. Their model has itweaknesses too, however. Perceptions of credibility are very subjective and will certainlyvary among viewers. An endorser who appears credible to one individual may not seem ascredible to another. Secondly, credibility is a qualitative statistic that poses problems inquantifying results and in getting accurate verbal answers from respondents. As done with source attractiveness, the source credibility model will also betransferred into further advertising study. For the purposes of this research question, I willapply the constructs of trustworthiness and expertise to the product placement ofautomobiles. This will provide models for how both endorser and corporate credibility willaffect viewers’ attitudes toward auto brands seen in product placements.
  7. 7. Jeffers 7 Meaning Transfer Model In studying how consumers respond to celebrity endorsements, McCracken (1989)felt the earlier theories of source attractiveness (McGuire, 1985) and source credibility(Hovland & Weiss, 1951) did not completely capture the factors by which endorsers areevaluated in the human psyche. He argues that celebrity influence is “richer and morecomplicated than just attractive or credible individuals” (p. 313). Celebrities have a distinctpersonality and their own lifestyle and cultural meanings attached to them, all of whichaffect how consumers receive and are persuaded by celebrity endorsements. These deepermeanings cannot be represented merely by the labels of attractiveness or credibility. Forexample, he notes that Audrey Hepburn and Cher are two very different women, owningtwo very different identities. While they are both attractive and credible sources to manyviewers, they possess two entirely separate types of attractiveness and credibility(McCracken, 1989). The Meaning Transfer model accounts for this distinction in meaningswhile still incorporating the initial constructs of source attractiveness and credibility. McCracken’s model has three phases in which meaning is transferred. It starts withthe “Culture” phase: objects, persons, and situations all contain significant culturalmeanings. These meanings are first passed from popular culture to celebrities based onroles they are in or have previously played. In the second phase, labeled the“Endorsement,” the meanings are transferred from the celebrity to the product he/she isendorsing. The meanings are again shifted in the final step, the “Consumption” stage, fromthe product to the consumer who buys that product. Thus, at the end of the process, theconstructs of attractiveness, credibility, and cultural meanings have all influenced theconsumer’s purchase decision (McCracken, 1989).
  8. 8. Jeffers 8 McCracken (1989) believes that consumers do not always just buy products — theyalso desire to acquire the cultural meanings that have been transferred from the celebrityendorsers to the products. Using this insight, movie product placements are excellent,entertaining ways to seamlessly attach cultural meaning to celebrities and products. A strength of the meaning transfer process is that it ties together all the theories andconstructs previously discussed in this paper: source attractiveness, source credibility, andcultural meanings. The new model that I will construct for measuring product placementeffectiveness will be strongly influenced by McCracken’s (1989) initial work. However, themeaning transfer process only moves in one direction: meanings move from phase one totwo to three only in that order. It does not consider the ways in which consumers (thethird phase) can influence culture and cultural meanings (the first phase). This is one ofthe model’s weaknesses. Match-Up Hypothesis One additional concept that has bears on the effectiveness of endorsements andproduct placement is the match-up hypothesis (Kahle & Homer, 1985). This hypothesiscontends that the celebrity or endorser must fit or “match” the product for theendorsement to be most effective. Several research studies (Kamins, 1990; Patterson,2006; Premeaux, 2005) have confirmed the necessity of celebrity to product congruencediscussed in this hypothesis. The findings essentially show that if consumers do notperceive an endorser to fit well with the brand or product, the credibility andpersuasiveness of that endorsement is very low. In some instances, these celebrity
  9. 9. Jeffers 9mismatches were so severe that they led to absolutely no change in attitude toward thebrand (Kamins, 1990) or to viewer skepticism toward the message (Premeaux, 2005). One strength of the match-up hypothesis is that it provides helpful and morespecific guidelines for the popular advertising trend of using celebrity endorsers. However,many factors influence how viewers perceive a celebrity’s appeal, including thosediscussed earlier such as attractiveness, credibility, expertise, and trustworthiness. Aweakness of this hypothesis is that it does not specifically define how such qualities areconsidered in determining how well celebrities match the products they endorse. To marketers in product placement, this hypothesis suggests that automobilesshould be placed in scenes that are considered relevant or appropriate to the vehicle’s useand image. For example, a fast sports car “matches” a high-speed, intensely-paced actionscene; an off-road vehicle “matches” a scene set in the woods or mountains. Thesematching placements will greatly improve the likelihood of viewer attitude change. Moving Forward As stated earlier in this paper, the next step in this research will be to construct anew theoretical model of how product placement affects viewers’ attitudes based onattractiveness and credibility appeals. Since none of the existing models discussed canindividually answer the inquiry about automobile product placement, a new one will bedesigned. The new model will incorporate constructs from McGuire’s (1985) sourceattractiveness theory, Hovland’s and Weiss’s (1951) source credibility theory, McCracken’s(1989) meaning transfer process, and it will also factor in celebrity relevance from thematch-up hypothesis (Kahle & Homer, 1985). The goal is to create a realistic model
  10. 10. Jeffers 10derived from proven theoretical research and based on the psychology of endorserevaluation that will provide guidelines for how product placement can be designed mosteffectively. Such a model can be used by marketing practitioners to maximize the appealand persuasiveness of automobile product placements in entertainment programming,providing a viable solution to the growing indifference toward today’s TV commercials.
  11. 11. Jeffers 11 ReferencesBalasubramanian, S. K., Karrh, J. A., & Patwardhan, H. (2006). Audience Response to Product Placements: An Integrative Framework and Future Research Agenda. Journal of Advertising, 35 (3), 115–141.Ball, J. (2008, February). Theories of Persuasion. Paper handout presented to ADV382J— Theories of Persuasive Communication class at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.Brennan, J. I. (2001). Movie magic is elusive. Advertising Age, 72 (15), 24.Goldsmith, R. E., Lafferty, B. A., & Newell, S. J. (2000). The Impact of Corporate Credibility and Celebrity Credibility on Consumer Reaction to Advertisements and Brands. Journal of Advertising, 29 (3), 43–54.Hosea, M. (2007). Reverse product placement: Fantasy brands on a reality check. Brand Strategy, 212, 24–29.Jin, C., & Villegas, J. (2007). The effect of the placement of the product in film: Consumers emotional responses to humorous stimuli and prior brand evaluation. Journal of Targeting, Measurement & Analysis for Marketing, 15 (4), 244–255.Kahle, L. R., & Homer, P. M. (1985). Physical Attractiveness of the Celebrity Endorser: A Social Adaptation Perspective. The Journal of Consumer Research, 11 (4), 954–961.Kamins, M. A. (1990). An Investigation into the Match-Up Hypothesis in Celebrity Advertising: When Beauty May Be Only Skin Deep. Journal of Advertising, 19 (1), 4–14.McCracken, G. (1989). Who Is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process. Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 310–321.
  12. 12. Jeffers 12McGuire, W. J. (1985). Attitudes and Attitude Change. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, 3rd Edition (233–346). New York: Random House.Patterson, N. (2006). Being in the right place at the right time. B&T Weekly, 56 (2593), 9.Premeaux, S. R. (2005). The Attitudes of Middle Class Male and Female Consumers Regarding the Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsers. Journal of Promotion Management, 11 (4), 33–48.Severin, W. J., & Tankard, J. W. (2001). Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, and Uses in the Mass Media. New York: Longman.Stratton, D. C. (1992). Product Placement in Motion Pictures: Measuring Its Impact as an Advertising Medium. (Dissertation, University of Texas, 1992).Yang, M., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R. (2007). The Effectiveness of Brand Placements in the Movies: Levels of Placements, Explicit and Implicit Memory, and Brand-Choice Behavior. Journal of Communication, 57 (3), 469–489.

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