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The Effects of Online Advertising on Consumer Aggression - Chris Lobus

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The Effects of Online Advertising on Consumer Aggression - Chris Lobus

  1. 1. THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Dissertation presented to the Faculty of the Alliant School of Management Alliant International University San Diego In Partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Business Administration by Christopher A Lobus, M.S. 2014 Approved by: Ute Jamrozy, Ph.D., Chairperson Rachna Kumar, Ph.D. Wendy Chung, Ph.D. Martin Cary, Ph.D.
  3. 3. iiiTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Abstract Marketers continue to understand that over-exposing consumers to advertisements enhances brand and product recall, but this situation also agitates consumers. Advertisements purposefully serve as distracting agents that disrupt consumer focus and create freedom-threatening situations. According to the theory of psychological reactance, this causes people to do anything possible (even if it is violent) to restore that lost freedom; hence, the likelihood for an aggressive consumer response to an advertisement. Furthermore, while marketing exists in all countries, the United States and United Kingdom are two of the world’s richest countries. Firms in these societies advertise with some of the largest advertising budgets in the world, exposing their citizens to the highest online advertising levels possible. This study focused on: (1) how intrusive online advertisements are perceived, (2) how much reactance online ads arouse, (3) if online advertising locations and levels of animation contribute to greater levels of reactance arousal, and (4) if heightened states of reactance lead to aggressive consumers. These effects were measured amongst British and American consumers. It was found that country of origin best explains results for perceptions of ad intrusiveness. US participants experienced this to greater levels than UK subjects; however, UK subjects began the study with already higher perceptions that ads are intrusive. Fully animated ads on the right side of the page were perceived as the most intrusive. Similar results were achieved for reactance arousal. US and UK subjects both became highly reactant with US subjects experiencing it more, but UK subjects began in already higher reactant states. It was unclear which treatment combination achieved this, however. Age was also evaluated as a covariate, revealing that older US consumers perceive online ads to be more intrusive and more highly reactant to them than younger shoppers from the UK. While not clear on which advertising treatment combinations best explain it, the
  4. 4. ivTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION analysis revealed that increases in intrusive levels increase reactance arousal and, as reactance arousal increases, so does the desire to respond aggressively to the advertised brand or product as a consumer.
  5. 5. vTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Acknowledgements This dissertation could not have been completed without the support and encouragement of many friends, family, colleagues, and my dissertation committee. Regarding the support of my committee members, I am most grateful that never gave up on me and challenged me appropriately throughout my doctoral transformation process, which was essentially this dissertation. Because they served their positions on my committee well and up to the most serious of academic standards, I am a better academician for it, feeling fully confident in the reliability, validity, and robustness of my study. Dr. Cary offered a unique perspective from the field of psychology, providing me with the right amount of multi-disciplinary insight needed to appropriately contribute to behavioral knowledge. Dr. Kumar and Dr. Chung both helped me see how my study fits into Marketing’s bigger picture, enlightening me to elements I had not previously considered multiple times throughout the time it took me to complete it. They also both supported my approach and provided critical guidance when it was greatly needed. Dr. Jamroy’s unique ability to trigger self-learning among—the most important quality of teaching, in my opinion—could not have been more apparent with me during this study. This study and writing this dissertation was a transformative process for me and Dr. Jamrozy instigated like any high-quality teacher should. She challenged me appropriately so that I can conduct myself in the field of Marketing independently with authority. I cannot thank her enough. Amongst colleagues, I owe thanks to many. Dr. Matthew Wheeler, Dr. San Bolkan, Dr. Gor Sarkisyan, and Dr. Aaron Wester, who are all doctors in other fields besides Marketing, provided me with key mentorship at different times throughout my writing of this dissertation. Dr. Wheeler inspired me to even begin. Without seeing him graduate, I would likely not have thought such a feat was possibly by my doing. He offered critical encouragement and
  6. 6. viTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION confidence building in order for me to even begin the program. Dr. Bolkan helped me understand the key concepts I used early on and enlightened me on necessary aspects when I conceived my theoretical framework. Dr. Sarkisyan challenged my approach and procedures as well as provided me with insight into the process to help me understand what to expect. Dr. Wester greatly helped at the end by offering an outside perspective and helping to clarify my perspective on the results of my study. Also during my study, Dr. BangXiu Zhao and Richard Gardner (MA) spent many hours with me ensuring that I took the correct statistical approach and built my survey appropriately. Without their help I would have been lost and it would have taken me twice as long to find my way. They were crucial to the success of my study. BangXiu spent an especially lengthy amount of time with me, helping me understand the statistical context in which I was referencing as well as pointing me to appropriate sources for me to cite and from which to learn. She also helped me learn how to learn on my own in the statistical realm, which (again) makes me that much stronger and confident. Last, but not certainly least, I have many friends and family to thank. My parents and extended family always inquired enthusiastically about my study and greatly helped me think through parts of it. My friends at home, work, and in my immediately surroundings here in San Diego as well as those from previous residences and experiences continuously expressed their sincere support and encouragement. Most notably, however, was my wife, Alison Lobus. Throughout this entire doctoral program and the writing of my dissertation, she has been an intellectual sounding board as well as my chief supporter and encourager to get through it. This program was an extreme transition into a new life for me and she was just as much of a part of it as I was with the amount of time it took away from us and for the period in which it felt like it
  7. 7. viiTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION was putting our lives on hold. I can’t think of anyone else who could possibly be so patient with me other than her. For a while, I unfortunately put something before her love and I regret that this had to be done. But, it is over and to thank her for her patience and understanding is vastly understated and does not truly capture my sentiment and gratuity. My appreciation for her always, but especially during this time in our lives, is so much greater. While we will always love each other with all of our hearts, getting through this program and study and finally completing the transition to a new academic level has made us even stronger as a couple. I know that I am meant to spend the rest of my life with her, but her perseverance throughout this dissertation showed me that in such a brighter light than I was ever able to see it before. Alison, while I cannot say it enough, I still will to begin to express my love and appreciation for you: I love you and thank you for all that you have done for me to help me complete this dissertation.
  8. 8. viiiTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Table of Contents Abstract iii Acknowledgements v List of Tables xiii List of Figures xiii CHAPTER I. Introdction 1 Current State of Advertising 3 An Increasing Use of Digital Advertising 5 Marketing Reform and the Ethics of Advertising 7 Ethics of Using Sex and Violence in Ads 9 Models for Marketing Reform 10 Theory of Psychological Reactance 13 Reactance and Consumer Behavior 14 Advertising as a Possible Cause of Psychological Reactance 15 Information Processing and Overload 15 Reactance with Online Advertisements 17 Purpose of this Study 19 Scope of the Study 23 Manipulations 23 Objectives of the Study 24 Research Questions and Hypotheses 24 Definition of Terms 26 Aggression 26
  9. 9. ixTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Aggressive Consumers 27 Psychological Reactance 27 Online Advertisements 27 Online Consumers 27 Chapter I Summary 28 CHAPTER II. Literature Review 29 Chapter Introduction 29 Exploring Aggression 30 Basic Aggression: Insights from Animals 30 Human Aggression: Cultural Insights 31 Consumer Aggression toward Advertising 34 Increases in Exposures to Violence Leads to More Violence 37 How Aggressive Responses to Advertising Result in Consumer Reactance 38 The Boomerang Effect 40 In-store Experiences 42 Negative and Positive Word-of-Mouth Communication 43 Anti-Brand and -Product 46 Effects of Personality, Mood, Attitude, and Feelings on Advertising Aggression 47 Personality 47 Attitude and Mood 51 Feelings and Emotions 56 Qualities of Online Advertisements that lead to Aggression 59 Frequency of online Advertising 61
  10. 10. xTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Duration and Timing of online Advertising 62 Advertising Location 65 Advertisement Animation Levels 68 Chapter II Summary 74 CHAPTER III. Methodology 75 Research Design 75 Experimental Stimulus 78 Subjects 82 Sampling Procedures 85 Instrument 95 Data Analysis 96 Chapter III Summary 101 CHAPTER IV. Research Findings 102 Samples 102 Profile of the Respondents 103 Treatment Groups 104 Exploratory Factor Analysis 106 Data Screening and Manipulation Checks 106 Descriptive Statistics 110 Reliability and validity 112 Assumptions 112 Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) 116 Descriptive Statistics for Perceived Ad Intrusiveness 116
  11. 11. xiTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Descriptive Statistics for Reactance Arousal 116 Descriptive Statistics for Desire for Consumer Aggression 119 Multivariate Effects 119 Univariate Effects for Perceived Ad Intrusiveness 122 Univariate Effects for Reactance Arousal 126 Univariate Effects for Desire for Consumer Aggression 130 Correlation Analysis of the Dependent Variables 133 Post-Hoc Analysis 136 Additional Findings 137 Chapter IV Summary 140 CHAPTER V. Findings, Contributions, Limitations, and Future Research 143 Discussion of Findings and Conclusions 143 Contributions of This Research 149 Limitations and Future Research 153 References 157 APPENDIX A. Screenshots and Sequence of the Study 177 Introduction Page 178 Demographic Page 179 Pre-Test Page 180 Treatment Page 181 Post-Test Page 185 Incentive Page 186 Exit Page 187
  12. 12. xiiTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION APPENDIX B. Pre- and Post-Test Questionnaires 188 APPENDIX C. Treatment Groups 195
  13. 13. xiiiTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION List of Tables Table 1. Treatment Groups 77 Table 2. Treatment Combinations 82 Table 3. US and UK Participant Recruitment Websites 83 Table 4. Measurement Items and Scales Used in the Pre- and Post-Test Questionnaire 95 Table 5. Re-Distribution of Measurement Questions after Rotation 109 Table 6. Item Mean Scores for Pre- and Post-Test Responses 111 Table 7. Descriptive Statistics for Perceived Ad Intrusiveness 116 Table 8. Descriptive Statistics for Reactance Arousal 118 Table 9. Descriptive Statistics for Desire for Consumer Aggression 120 Table 10. Multivariate Results for Between Groups Effects 121 Table 11. Multivariate Results Before and After Treatments Combined with Country 122 Table 12. Between Groups Effects on Perceived Ad Intrusiveness 122 Table 13. Repeated Measures Effects on Perceived Ad Intrusiveness 123 Table 14. Between Groups Effects on Reactance Arousal 128 Table 15. Repeated Measures Effects on Reactance Arousal 128 Table 16. Repeated Measures Effects on Desire for Consumer Aggression 131 Table 17. Paired-Samples t Test of the Before and After Results for Dependent Variables 133 Table 18. Correlation Results for Post-Treatment Dependent Variables 135 Table 19. Multivariate Results of Between Groups Effects for Covariates 138 Table 20. Multivariate Results of Repeated Measures Effects for Covariates 138 Table 21. Between Groups Effects of Age 139 Table 22. Repeated Measures Effects of Age 139
  14. 14. xivTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Table 23. Summary of Hypothesis Testing 140 Table C1. Number of Usable Samples by Treatment Group 196
  15. 15. xvTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION List of Figures Figure 1. Theoretical Framework. ................................................................................................22 Figure 2. Conceptual Model. ........................................................................................................73 Figure 3. Ad Location...................................................................................................................80 Figure 4. Ad Animation Levels. ...................................................................................................81 Figure 5. Advertisement Used to Recruit Participants..................................................................84 Figure 6. Number of Respondents by Age for US Subjects. ......................................................103 Figure 7. Number of Respondents by Age for UK Subjects.......................................................104 Figure 8. Number of Respondents per Treatment Group. ..........................................................106 Figure 9. Perceived Ad Intrusiveness by Country. .....................................................................124 Figure 10. Perceived Ad Intrusiveness due to Level of the Ad’s Animation. ............................125 Figure 11. Reactance Arousal by Country..................................................................................130 Figure A1. Screenshot of the Introduction Page.........................................................................179 Figure A2. Screenshot of the Demographic Page.......................................................................179 Figure A3. Screenshot of the Pre-Test Page. ..............................................................................180 Figure A4. Screenshot of the Treatment Page without Any Treatments Applied. .....................181 Figure A5. Ad Treatment: Top of the Page. ...............................................................................182 Figure A6. Ad Treatment: Left Side of the Page........................................................................183 Figure A7. Ad Treatment: Middle of the Page. ..........................................................................183 Figure A8. Ad Treatment: Right side of the Page. .....................................................................184 Figure A9. Ad Treatment: Bottom of the Page...........................................................................184 Figure A10. Screenshot of the Post-Test Page............................................................................185 Figure A11. Screenshot of the Incentive Page............................................................................186
  16. 16. xviTHE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Figure A12. Screenshot of the Exit Page....................................................................................187
  17. 17. 1THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION CHAPTER I Introduction Advertising is all around us. Rayport (2013) writes that “in this media saturated world, advertising strategies built on persuading through interruption, repetition, and brute ubiquity are increasingly ineffective” (p. 78). Common marketing industry beliefs are that the effects of advertising are long-term (Clarke, 1976; Lodish et al., 1995) and there is extensive literature to support the effectiveness of carry-over benefits and increased learning through repetition (Sawyer & Ward, 1979). Thus, advertising’s ubiquity is carried out by design and fueled through the tens of billions of dollars marketers spend on advertising throughout the world every year. Furthermore, advertising’s reach and repetition is ever-expanding through advances in technology. Fearful of marketing’s impact, many scholars continue to study the discipline in order to better understand consumer behavior and seek out appropriate methods for regulation and reform. Marketers often launch manipulative campaigns on purpose: not because they appease consumers, but because they continue to drive sales and increase revenue. Quandt (1956) conducted an experimental study, finding that consumers do not purchase products according to the features in which they find critical to their needs; rather, some consumers decide to purchase products based on features in which they previously found as irrelevant. The behavioral phenomena that are central to these conclusions are supported by the decision-making research of Zajonc (1980) many years later, who explored how humans process their inputs subconsciously and their effects on automatic recognition, concluding that such behind-the- scenes variables are major drivers of human decision making. For marketing, the implications from these two studies is that if annoying ads somehow standout and trigger an automatic
  18. 18. 2THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION cognition process, then they may affect a consumer’s behavior. To add even more validity, this line of thought is aligned with Fritz’s (1979) conclusions that annoying ads are effective because of their high memory recall. In addition to proliferating annoying ads on purpose, many marketers push hard-sell tactics through their advertising as well, leaving consumers less than pleased. Campbell (1995) finds that when ads are manipulative, consumers are not persuaded by them as much as when they are not found to be manipulative. This research is supported by previous studies on hard-sell campaigns. Saegert (1987) studied various types of coercion in advertising, showing that subliminal advertising, for instance, is not effective since it only leads to annoying consumers. Also, Singhapakdi and Vitell (1990) uncover that Machiavellian motivations influence many ethical decisions processes of marketing managers when they attempt to sell more of their company’s products and services through advertising. By these studies, it is understood that such hard-sell tactics and coercion methods lead to consumer aversion of advertising. Uncovering the aspects of advertising that lead to advertising avoidance is explained through many seminal studies that identify consumer reactions to them. Raymond and Greyser (1968), Aaker and Bruzzone (1985), and Wang et al. (2002) showcase how consumers perceive advertisements to be irritating and annoying, which leads to increases in their levels of frustration. Similar to this, Edwards, Li, and Lee (2002) found that consumers view advertisements as intrusive, which also adds to increases in levels of consumer frustration. It is also known from Speck and Elliot (1997) that consumers outright avoid advertisements when frustration levels are high. So, understanding the psychology of frustrating advertisements is necessary for this study.
  19. 19. 3THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Through his research, Aronson (2008) finds that “frustration is most pronounced when the goal is becoming palpable and drawing within reach, when expectations are high, and when the goal is blocked unjustifiably” (p. 273). Therefore, it is necessary to further investigate the psychological phenomena that address blocking one’s goals. Jack Brehm’s (1966) theory of psychological reactance continues to be the only one that accounts for a person’s autonomy. He explains that reactance is aroused when someone’s freedom is blocked or the threat of that freedom is taken away. Several authors have since applied this knowledge to advertising and agree that reactance is seen when the consumer is frustrated by an advertisement (Clee & Wicklund, 1980; Edwards, Li, and Lee, 2002; Li & Meeds, 2005, Li & Meeds, 2007) or some aspect of the advertisement (Dillard & Shen, 2005; Miller et al., 2007). Current State of Advertising Marketers have a long history of pushing advertisements to consumers in various ways throughout the world. For the past several hundred years, businesses have paid for advertising (versus achieving it through simple forms of word-of-mouth) to sell and market their brands and products. Beginning with the first print ads in London newspapers in the seventeenth century (Advertising, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010), however, the placement of advertisements began their expansion into creative new places. Also, countries like the United Kingdom and France started the development of their deep advertising history. Now, all nations throughout the world advertise in every place, format, and location imaginable with the countries home to the world’s most wealthy businesses dominating global advertising expenditures. The distribution of global advertising spending for 2013 was dominated by countries in North America (35.6%), Asia- Pacific (27.9%), and Western Europe (21%) with all other regions accounting for a comparatively small remaining amount (Statist, 2014). Within these wealthy groups, the United
  20. 20. 4THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION States is another country who displays a strong history and culture of advertising. From the rise of hundreds of successful agencies on New York’s Madison Avenue in the mid-twentieth century to internet advertising pioneers like America Online (AOL, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2010;, 2014) in the 1990s and Google in the 2000s, marketers in the US continue to pave future advertising paths that the world continues to follow. As it stands today, marketers spend billions of dollars a year on advertising throughout the world. According to Nielson, global advertising expenditures increased by 3.2 % in 2012 to $557 billion (Nielson, 2013). In the US alone, marketers spent more than half of that amount at roughly $300 billion—the top 100 firms of which accounted for nearly a third of that at $104.5 billion (Ad Age, 2013). In Europe, overall advertising expenditures decreased by 6% (Nielson, 2013) last year, but the UK actually increased the amount of money it spends on advertising by 2.3 % to over £17,176 billion (which is approximately US $26 billion according to global currency exchange rates at the time of this writing). Furthermore, the pace of advertising spending in these two countries is not expected to slow down. Both the US and the UK are forecasted to increase their advertising expenditures over the coming years. According to the analysis of several industry review groups (Nielson, 2013; Ad Age, 2013), both the US and UK are on track to increase their year-over-year advertising spending amounts by at least 3%. With such a long history of advertising and the rapid expansion of the Internet, advertisements are now seen in many formats and places. They are separated into “traditional” and “non-traditional” categories. Traditional placements are areas where consumers already expect to see advertisements, such as a commercial on TV or a printed advertisement in a newspaper. However, marketers now creatively place advertisements on cars, in the air with colored smoke, and on the jerseys of professional athletes, offering up new and unique
  21. 21. 5THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION advertisement placements in order to further reach their consumer base (Solomon, Consumer Behavior, 2009). Combined with evidence that more exposure to advertising helps get their brands and products noticed (Clarke, 1976; Lodish et al., 1995; Sawyer & Ward, 1979), marketers continue to deliver advertisements in frequent, disruptive, and invasive manners, creating a situation where pervasive advertising exists throughout society. Finally, whether it is in a traditional or non-traditional location, online advertisements are increasing contributors to this situation of pervasive advertising. While the digital space remains to be only a small portion of total advertising expenditures by marketing firms all over the world, year-over-year comparisons of marketing spending by category reveals that digital is emerging as the fastest growing advertising investment space. By 2015, analysts predict the percentage of overall advertising spending to be a quarter of total marketing budgets (Economist, 2013). This is rationalized by the following logic: Advertisers like them because they can be aimed more precisely at a target audience (with a particular demographic profile and browsing history) than, say, television or radio ads. They also get a better idea of whether anyone is actually looking at the ads they are paying for (Economist, 2013). Overall, as seen from their large budgets, marketers push advertisements to consumers in various ways, contributing to pervasive advertising situations. An Increasing Use of Digital Advertising. While television advertising continues to remain the lion’s share of total world-wide advertising expenditures at over 60% in 2013, advertisers around the world increased the amount of money they spent on Internet advertising by 9.9 % to 1.9% of global advertising expenditures in 2012 (Nielsen, 2013). Furthermore, nearly 22% of global ad spending is now on digital advertising mediums (such as the Internet, TV, and mobile
  22. 22. 6THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION devices) and such expenditures are expected to increase to 27% by 2017 (Vranica & Bender, 2013). Internet advertising expenses continue to grow throughout the world, achieving nearly double-digit increases year-over-year in the United States and Europe (Nielsen, 2013; Ad Age, 2013). In the US, digital marketing expenditures for 2013 exceeded analysts’ expectations (Nielsen, 2013; Vranica & Steward, 2013) by nearly $10 billion, reaching over $43 billion total (Sebastian, 2014; Johnson, 2014). In the UK, the amount of Pound-Sterling spent on digital marketing rose by nearly 16% to over £6 billion (AA/Warc, 2013; eMarketer, 2013), which is nearly $10 billion (according to global currency exchange rates at the time of this writing). Whereas earlier marketing was confined to only billboards, magazines, newspapers, radio, and television, the Internet now offers marketers an increasingly higher number of platforms and digital capabilities in which to reach their consumers. The Internet is more than one more medium—it is customizable, dynamic, interactive, and growing. Since the beginning of Web 2.0 where the Internet became even more interactive, marketers have ever increasingly unique opportunities to reach their clientele. Parise, Guinan, and Weinberg (2008) define Web 2.0 as “the set of tools that allow people to build social and business connections, share information and collaborate on projects online…[which] includes blogs, wikis, social-networking sites and other online communities, and virtual worlds” (WSJ online). According to these authors, marketers are largely behind the power curve and lend evidence to the growing need to reform the discipline, especially in this new Internet age where digital advertising is on the rise. Digital advertising potential is still largely untapped and the opportunity is ever increasing. US adult consumers will spend more time this year on digital media than they do on TV (WSJ online). As TV viewing time in the US remains flat at 4 hours and 31 minutes in 2013 and 4
  23. 23. 7THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION hours and 38 minutes in 2012, consumption of digital media surpassed these numbers for the first time in 2013 to 5 hours and 9 minutes. Addressing growing digital advertising trends are emerging in marketing academia. Parise (2008) specifically cautions marketing managers to understand the search goals of their consumers and carefully select effective search engines in which to target their campaigns. When this is not achieved, they find that consumers are easily frustrated with online advertisements because they view them as irrelevant and a waste of their time. Consumer search goals are more obtainable on digital platforms and more studies like this one need to be conducted to advance marketing knowledge in the ever changing digital arena. Marketing Reform and the Ethics of Advertising Many scholars do not feel that intentionally annoying consumers in order to increase sales is useful or helpful to society. They advocate for marketing reform. Hyman, Tansey, and Clark (1994), for instance, call on academics to “develop theoretically and psychometrically sound scales for measuring the public’s attitude about the ethicality of some advertising practices” (p. 14). In our current paradigm of expansive opportunities and endless virtual touch points, advertising is a unique sociological tool with inherent psychological risks (LaTour & Zahra, 1989; Zinkhan, 1994). Ducoffe (1995) contends that the marketing ethics will be upheld if the advertisement’s value is apparent and delivered in a meaningful way, such as through entertainment, to consumers. He writes, Were a consumer benefit measure like advertising value accepted as part of a general theory of how advertising changes attitudes, promoting its use in the design and evaluation of campaigns could help the profession defend itself against criticism that it is
  24. 24. 8THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION primarily about manipulative communication strategies limited to servicing the needs of organizations (p. 14). Since Ducoffe (1995) wrote that, marketers, through societies such as the American Marketing Association (AMA), continue to strive for industry-wide ethical best practices, but many scholars are still working hard to reform the discipline. Values of “respect” and “citizenship” as well as norms like “do not harm” and “embrace ethical values” (AMA, 2011) are credos encouraged by the AMA that protect consumers and society from damage. Marketers have an obligation, by these values, to act responsibly and not purposely harm or annoy the consumer. One such instance of adherence to these principles is when companies collectively discontinued their use of subliminal advertising in the 1950s. In addition to a defensive public reaction, Saegert (1987) proves that such tactics are only effective in extreme circumstances when consumer thought is exactly aligned to the subliminally advertised message’s content—a rare enough case that makes the effort far from fruitful. However, Saegert also admits that marketers will use whatever means will make them money (p. 119). Despite proclaiming to adhere to ethical standards, the opportunity to maliciously influence consumers is still available and in greater capacity than ever before. Additionally, the reach of marketing promotions is widening with advances in technology, allowing marketers to enjoy an even greater impact on, and reach throughout, society. Not only do advertisements reside on all consumable mediums, they stretch into applications and appear on top of programming, distracting consumers and interrupting their focus, which leads to specific consumer reactions that can be measured. When these reactions are negative, aggressive and violent occurrences are possible, which presents an ethical dilemma on society: if it is discovered that people are angered by advertisements and advertisements are encouraged to be shown even more frequently through
  25. 25. 9THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION existing market research on their positive effects of brand recall, then marketers are directly contributing to a more aggressive society. Still seeing the need to reform marketing as a discipline, but also appeal to the business of marketing, Rayport (2013) advises advertisers to: Think less about what advertising says to its targets and more about what it does for them. Rather than conceive ad campaigns with a beginning, a middle, and an end that hammer home a point, they must think about advertising—as well as the offerings it promotes—as a sustained and rewarding presence in consumers’ lives (p. 78). Goldsmith and Lafferty (2000) also found that advertising should be reevaluated and improved since marketers generally fall short of connecting their online advertising to other channels in a cross-platform study they conducted. A study by Dahlen and Lange (2005) also concluded that marketers often miss the mark with their advertisements and need to reevaluate their strategies to maintain or improve purchase intention. Ethics of Using Sex and Violence in Ads. In addition to poor marketing execution, advertisements can be very powerful and could inflict great harm on society. To garner more attention and gain the competitive edge, businesses are still quick to deploy edgy material—such as sex and violence—on purpose. This comes even after Bushman and Bonacci (2002) found over 10 years ago that sex and violence do not actually sell anything. To the contrary, they find, sex and violence impair the memory of consumers in retaining messages after seeing graphic and sexual content. To explain this, they write that “people pay attention to sex and violence, thus reducing the amount of attention they can direct toward other stimuli” (p. 561). In a later study, Bushman (2005) not only reaffirms that sex and violence on TV hinder consumers processing of commercials, but also defines the negative impacts they have on society
  26. 26. 10THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION as a hole, stating that “televised violence increases societal violence” (p. 706). This finding advances the work of Zillmann and Weaver (1999), who earlier found that too much exposure to media violence increases hostile behavior and that this is not good for society. “It appears that media violence plants concepts of hostility that can be activated by any ill feelings and can foster mean-spiritedness toward the person’s social environment at large” (p. 160). Marketers, therefore, should be obligated to carefully review their messaging in order to prevent unnecessarily inciting or instigating hostile behavior from their consumer base. Models for Marketing Reform Many studies show that businesses do not benefit from advertisements that are not well received by consumers (Greyser 1973, Hustad & Pessemier 1973, Lundstrom & Lamont 1976, Aaker & Bruzzone, 1985, Stayman & Aaker, 1988, Longman, 1997), but Singhapakdi and Vitell (1990) find that they enjoy high return when using manipulative marketing practices. So, there is little incentive for marketing managers to follow a tactic other than annoying, disruptive, and invasive advertising if it serves their ultimate sales needs. Much to Hyman, Tansey, and Clark’s (1994) advice, scholars continue to question whether or not consumers are, in turn, positively or negatively affected from an ethical standpoint (Zinkhan, 1994; Hyman, Tansey, and Clark, 1994). Pollay (1986), for instance, writes that reputable scholars from the fields of humanities and social sciences who deeply examined the moral effects of advertising on society regard it as “intrusive and environmental and its effects as inescapable and profound” as well as “reinforcing materialism, cynicism, irrationality, selfishness, anxiety, social competitiveness, sexual preoccupation, powerlessness, and/or a loss of self-respect” (p. 896). Others (LaTour & Zahra, 1989; Kohn & Smart, 1984) re-state the persuasive power of advertising and caution marketers
  27. 27. 11THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION to exercise restraint with their advertising so as not to intentionally distribute harmful consequences on society. Other scholars linked marketing ethics with ideology. Treise et al. (1994) found that the standpoint of consumers is based on their relative attachment to advertising situations versus their overall beliefs about them. They examined the ethical reactions of consumers faced with controversial advertising to children, campaigns that unfairly target poor minorities, marketing that encourages women as homemaker roles, fear appeals to teenagers, and how sexuality in advertising encourages teenage fornication. Their overall results show that “consumers believe advertising often violates broad ethical norms” (p. 59), but their ethical ideology ultimately determines how they judge advertisers. Studying the need for marketing reform is hardly a new practice in academia, but the need to continue to do so could not be more apparent with the current scenario of information overload through marketers’ use of frequent, disruptive, and invasive advertising. A compelling reason to keep the subject of marketing reform at the forefront of academic focus is marketing’s continuous expansion through technology. As digital breakthroughs occur, marketers continue to be offered more platforms and formats in which to publish their advertisements, ubiquitously replicating and transferring their all too frequent, disruptive, and annoying advertising methods. Laczniak (1983) points out the long history of studying resolutions to unethical marketing practices and offers improvements through his proposed framework of providing “marketing managers with a philosophical mnemonic which serves to remind them of their ethical responsibilities” (p. 16). Many other authors propose frameworks for evaluating marketing ethics. Before him, Kotler, Gregor and Rogers (1977) introduced managers to a valuable marketing audit process. Their findings “include detecting unclear or inappropriate marketing
  28. 28. 12THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION objectives, inappropriate strategies, inappropriate levels of marketing expenditures, needed improvements in organization, and needed improvements in systems for marketing information, planning, and control” (p. 596). While their model seems like a panacea for eliminating corrupt marketing practices, the need for more study on how to best reform the discipline persists since Kotler, Gregor, and Rogers’ conclusions are taken too literally. Therefore, Hunt and Vitell (1986) attempt to extend the traditional guidance of marketing ethics by offering a model that guides rather than prescribes. They base it off of two widely accepted theoretical foundations to moral philosophy—deontological and teleological theories. Ultimately, their model helps marketing managers analyze and resolve ethical marketing conflicts in the “intrafirm setting, where managers are interested in helping their personnel to identify, analyze, and (hopefully) resolve their ethical problems” (p 15). Whether this knowledge accurately advanced effective advertising sentiment to consumers since those authors wrote their studies is evidently doubtful. Through their collection of marketing reform articles, Seth and Sisodia (2006) offer that there are still many opportunities and areas in which to reform marketing. On the oversaturated nature of US-based advertising, for instance, Johansson (2006) writes that “when summed across all competitors in a product category and across all markets, the clutter and noise is annoying to most people and an embarrassment to the marketing profession” (p. 38). Next, Wind (2006) challenges the mental models of marketing and elucidates the point that “there have been dramatic changes in the environment that require us to rethink our approaches to marketing” (p. 96). He demonstrates how 30 second television commercials, for instance, are hardly viewed anymore (based on a survey of consumers who have the ability to fast forward
  29. 29. 13THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION them via their DVR-enabled cable boxes) and points out that word of mouth through social media for some of these segments are now more effective forms of advertising (p. 93). Smith (2006) blames the marketing model as the reason for resistant consumers. He writes: Indeed, more often than not, bad marketing is nothing but standard marketing practice carried to an extreme. Arrogant spammers and telemarketers employ the customary practices of interruption and intrusiveness. The only difference is that they are more aggressive in putting these principles into action (p. 17). To the points these authors address, there will always be marketing managers who are an embarrassment to the profession and break ethical rules. While Laczniak (1993) is hopeful that alternative paradigms, cross-cultural evaluations, investigations into ethical gaps, and a better informed advocacy (p. 94) are on the horizon for marketers in their efforts to further develop the practice, the need to reform marketing (especially since advertising) is still a much needed endeavor for both academics and practitioners to pursue. To further the study of marketing reform, this paper seeks to measure the effects of advertising on consumer aggression. However, to better understand aggression in marketplace exchanges, the exact situation of the consumer and his encounters with advertising is necessary to review. To do so, the theory of psychological reactance is applied in this examination. Theory of Psychological Reactance Brehm (1966) first introduced the concept of psychological reactance as the “motivational state directed toward the reestablishment of [a] threatened or eliminated freedom” (p. 15). He outlines the four main components of reactance theory as 1) freedom, 2) threat to freedom, 3) reactance, and 4) restoration of freedom. An individual must feel concrete freedom and then realize that it is lost in order to experience reactance.
  30. 30. 14THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Brehm (1989) states that that “people become motivationally aroused by a threat to or elimination of behavioral freedom” and that “impels the individual to restore the particular freedom that was threatened or taken away” (p. 72). Therefore, freedom and the threat of losing that freedom is the central element of reactance theory. Several studies show the importance of freedom as it pertains to reactance. Many authors conducted studies that show the tendency for people to gravitate towards the messaging of the very thing that is under threat of denial (Brehm et al., 1966; Hammock & Brehm, 1966, Worchel, Andreoli, & Archer, 1976). From these studies, it may be concluded that a “choice alternative which is eliminated by another person will tend to become more attractive, and a choice alternative forced by another person will tend to become less attractive” (p. 553, Hammock & Brehm, 1966). Scholars have also found that the theory of reactance applies when the original source is under suspicion or has reason to cause skepticism (Kohn & Barnes, 1977). Reactance and Consumer Behavior. Reactance is seen in consumer behavior. Brehm (1966) says that his theory may be applied to nearly every situation in which a consumer’s freedom is threatened. In an example by Brehm (1989) where the consumer’s freedom to choose a certain brand of a particular product type (in this case it is soda) is threatened he outlines the consumer’s response as it relates to reactance theory. He writes: First, the greater the number of products or services from which to choose, the more reluctant the consumer should be to select any given one. Second, the greater the number of products or services from which to choose, the greater will be the consumer’s resistance to high pressure tactics to make a particular selection (p. 74). When consumers are faced with a loss of freedom, their reaction to do anything in order to restore it is heightened. In these situations, consumers feel they must reassert their freedom.
  31. 31. 15THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION This also means that products that were not previously desired (but ones that become hard to obtain) become increasingly interesting to consumers when their freedom to choose them becomes threatened. Thus, the consumer’s freedom is the crucial aspect of reactance theory. It does not matter if the object or product is highly desired; rather, the level of freedom to choose to purchase it or not is what matters (Brehm, 1966). Clee and Wicklund (1980) write that freedom “acts as a mediator of reactance effects in a manner similar to presence versus absence of freedom: the more important the freedom, the more reactance is generated due to personal or impersonal threats” (p. 391). Their review of reactance theory applies primarily to consumer behavior. They review several areas of consumerism where reactance may be generated: promotional influence, product unavailability, pricing, political behavior, environmental protection, altruism and helping behaviors, reference groups, and self-imposed threats to freedom. They find that reactance leads to engaging in the threatened behavior (p. 401) and that it manifests itself as “aggression or hostility directed toward the source of the threat” (p. 402). The above-mentioned point is particularly relevant to the purpose of this paper, but the next step must be taken to understand how this theory applies to consumers exposed to frequent, disruptive and invasive advertising in the marketplace in order to understand the relationship between advertising and reactance. Advertising as a Possible Cause of Psychological Reactance Information Processing and Overload. Many scholars find evidence of reactance when too much information is forced upon them. Johnson and Russo (1984) point out that the overload effects of advertising negatively impact the ability of consumers to choose between product types. This is consistent with other studies (Clee &Wicklund, 1980) and draws from Brehm’s (1966) theory of reactance. Similar to this, Ha and McCann (2008) found that consumers react
  32. 32. 16THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION by avoiding advertising—an attributable behavior to reactance—when it is perceived as too cluttered in online media. Finally, Gourville and Soman (2005) and Markman and Loewenstein (2010) also attribute over-choice to consumer reactance. While this supports the notion that advertising overload leads to reactance, Rains and Turner (2007) find that the magnitude of the request in a message is the most significant variable that contributes to reactance. To their point, Stol, Baecke, and Kenning (2008) show that attractive packaging does, in fact, make a difference because it increases influence on consumers. “The external appearance of a product at the point of sale can influence the decision-making process of the consumer to a high degree” (p. 355), they write. Therefore, the need to force more impactful information onto consumers is a constant objective in advertising, but has the potential to incite reactance. Indeed, the messaging in advertisements is very important to a consumer’s freedom, which impacts their expression of reactance. Johnson and Russo (1984), in fact, prove that advertisements lead to information overload for consumers and that this impacts their ability to choose between products and learn new information. Ostensibly, this result is reactance because their freedom of choice is under threat. As previously mentioned, influential scripts also impact consumer choice by limiting their freedom to only certain communications. More recent scholars fine-tune this knowledge through their study of cognitive processing of reactance in order to affect persuasive messaging. Dillard and Shen (2005) tested reactance on four different models of reactance processes. Rains and Turner (2007) later expand upon their study to find the best fitting cognitive model in which to predict reactance processes. They conclude that the magnitude of the request in messaging is the variable that has the most significant impact on reactance. Finally, Miller et al. (2007) applied
  33. 33. 17THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION reactance theory to the lexical aspects of the messages, finding that controlling language has the most significant impact on reactance. Reactance with Online Advertisements. As this paper aims to offer uniqueness by focusing on online advertising, these concepts of reactance are explored in the virtual setting. At the height of the Internet’s boom in popularity in the 1990s when online advertising was just beginning, Ducoffe (1996) found that people were not annoyed by online advertising. Because they offered greater entertainment value when viewed online, the consumers he studied had high overall opinions of web-based advertisements. In a later study, however, Peterman et al. (1999) found that acceptance of online advertising is low, if a consumer has had a previously poor online experience. In these situations, disdain for online advertisements are high because consumers have an overall negative attitude toward online advertising. As online experiences improved, Novak, Hoffman, and Yung (2000) showed that consumers are more likely to embrace online advertisements on sites that contain the right balance of challenge, information, and entertainment. The marketing effectiveness seen on these sites are very high. They write that “the ‘interactivity metrics’ of duration time and browsing depth [that] measure marketing effectiveness on advertising sponsored websites will be highly positively correlated with compelling online customer experience” (p. 40). Similar to an offline, traditional commerce situation, positive online consumer experiences are attributable to higher consumer engagement and less reactance. By the end of the 1990s, Goldsmith and Lafferty (2002) found that Internet ads were liked less than all other channels measured (which were television, magazines, and newspapers) with the exception of radio being the least liked of them all. But, consumer recall of brands and products from online ads were
  34. 34. 18THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION high and ranked second, only behind TV advertisements. This indicates that online advertisements are valuable to marketers even if they increase consumer reactance. As was the case with Peterman et al. (1999), Goldsmith and Lafferty (2002) found that consumers who already like the website will have a positive response to Internet advertising and caution marketers to keep consumer sentiment in mind based off of the results of their study. “More care and attention should be devoted to creating Internet advertising to give it the qualities that make it more likable” (p. 325), they write. Cho, Lee, and Tharp (2001) agree. They found that banner ads contributed to higher opinions and more positive attitudes of Internet banner advertising. With this, they correlate banner ads to increased purchase behavior. They write: Unexpectedly, however it was found that the banner ad presented in the format of the highest forced exposure also yielded the most desirable advertising effects (i.e.: favorable attitude toward the banner ad, favorable attitude toward the brand, and high purchase intention) (p. 53). Even though banner ads were forced upon their subjects (e.g.: consumers), they favored the advertisement and brand and, thus, were much more likely to purchase the product. Later studies of Internet advertising do not find as much support from consumers and find areas where reactance is high. Li and Meeds (2005) find that consumers avoid online advertisements, for instance. Pop-up ads, in particular, they find, annoy consumers. This indicates that consumers ignore a large portion of online advertisements altogether as well as demonstrates one way in which consumer reactance is manifested in an online environment. “The occurrence of pop-up ads is believed to interrupt consumers’ cognitive processes and, therefore, should be perceived as an intrusion in individuals’ goals” (p. 44), they write. With pop-up advertisements, the consumer’s field of view is restricted and their freedom to pursue
  35. 35. 19THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION their objectives is threatened, so they seek to regain that lost freedom by avoiding the advertisement. Goal impediments by online advertisements represent a clear opportunity for consumer reactance. Ho and Cheon (2004) agree that perceived goal impediments are the most significant reason to avoid Internet advertisements. Their study also supports the notion that consumers are now conditioned to pop-up ads and easily close the window to avoid them without even seeing or engaging with the advertisement. From that study, it appears that Internet advertising only serves to pester and annoy consumers. A later study by Li and Meeds (2005) more clearly attributes online advertising to reactance. They used Brehm’s (1966) theory of reactance to test consumer responses to pop-up and interstitial web advertisements, finding that these types of Internet advertisements lead to immediate reactance situations. This is because the immediate response of consumers to Internet advertising is negative and they automatically seek to close the pop-up or interstitial in order to restore their freedom. “The overall perception of ad intrusiveness” they write, “could be considered high, which suggests Internet users tend to have a negative feeling toward [the ad]” (p. 206). Purpose of this Study This study extended the findings of Li and Meeds (2005) (as well as others who studied reactance and online advertising (Li, Edwards, & Lee, 2002)) to investigate how online advertisements arouse psychological reactance as well as how that leads to aggressive consumer reactions to them. Specifically, it aimed to undercover the link between reactance and aggression. Similar to the studies just mentioned, this one was also based on the theory of psychological reactance; however, where these authors leave off, this study sought to determine
  36. 36. 20THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION whether or not online advertisements caused people to act out aggressively to them in commerce situations. It explored this consumer tendency in both the United States and United Kingdom. By their purpose and nature of delivery, advertisements are meant to distract consumers and steal their focus, contributing to their loss of freedom to control a situation. When consumers experience such losses or threats to their freedom, it is understood that they will “raise hell” (Brehm, 1971, p. 73) in order to restore that freedom because of the theory of psychological reactance. As seen through the work of many scholars (Richins, 1983; Richins & Verhage, 1987; Harris & Reynolds, 2003 & 2004; Harris & Dumas, 2009), hell-raising consumers are aggressive and assertive, which is only enhanced through other variables like the consumer’s feelings, attitude, mood, and personality. As the literature shows, marketing managers understand that over-exposing consumers to their advertisements enhances the consumer’s memory recall for their brands and products, so they will likely continue displaying them as frequently as possible. Also, as new forms and mediums are realized, they will continue to expand their reach, generating even more ad wear- out on society. With respect to online advertisements, budgets for digital marketing campaigns are growing, insuring that the impact of online advertisements on society will grow and be realized at greater intensities going forward. While marketing exists in all countries, some countries have been doing it far longer (hence, providing deep-seated roots for the practice within the culture) as well as clearly spend more money on it than others, which results in greater exposures to advertisements. All of these trends added together create a pervasive state of online advertising to which a given society is constantly exposed. As discussed earlier in this chapter, the US and UK are two of the world’s richest countries with long histories of high advertising expenditures and home to the lion’s share of the world’s marketing firms. Hence, consumers in
  37. 37. 21THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION these two societies are exposed to pervasive advertising situations. As many marketing scholars already believe that more reform should be applied to the discipline (Hyman, Ransey, & Clark, 1994; Ducoffe, 1995; Goldsmith & Lafferty, 2000; Pollay, 1986), the digital environment allows for advertising manipulation opportunities never before realized due to expanding technological capabilities. This environment is also still largely unexplored as far as the impact on consumer aggression is concerned. Therefore, this study attempted to reveal inadvertent societal consequences that are achieved through current pervasive online marketing practices in two of the most marketing-intensive cultures in the world by closing the gap between reactance arousal and a consumer’s willingness and desire to respond aggressively to an advertised brand or product. This concept is visually depicted in Figure 1 and serves as the theoretical framework for this study.
  38. 38. 22THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Figure 1. Theoretical Framework. From top to bottom, the theory of this study is shown pictorially in this figure. Advertisements and their placements build upon each other to achieve a pervasive state, which contributes to the perception that they are intrusive and finally leads to reactance arousal and the desire for consumer aggression against the advertised brand and/or product. Traditional Advertising Pervasive state of advertising (both online & offline) in society Knowledge and proof that higher exposures to advertising leads to higher recall & awareness of them Exposure to pervasive online Advertisements Frequent, disruptive, and invasive advertising over several mediums & platforms Internet Pop-ups, Interstitials, Social Media, Video, Blogs, Banners Murals, Mobile, Magnets, T- Shirts, Aerial, Guerilla, buzz agents, Flyers, Vehicular, etc… Word-of- Mouth, Business Cards, Stationary, Brochures Radio, TV Newspapers, Magazines, Billboards, Signs Non-Traditional Advertising US Consumers UK Consumers Consumer Aggression Reactance Arousal
  39. 39. 23THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Scope of the Study This study evaluated how online advertisements contribute to reactance arousal as well as a consumer’s willingness and desire to act aggressively in commerce situations. It investigated these situations in two cultures: the United States and the United Kingdom. First, the general state of advertising is reviewed and understood as overly pervasive and distracting. Then, current schools of thought on how to reform marketing through less intrusive advertising are explored, finding unsolved ethical dilemmas associated with ads increasing consumer feelings of annoyance and offense. After understanding this need to reform marketing by altering the effects of advertising on society, this study reviewed the theory of psychological reactance as a means to better understand what the consumer experiences. It explored how reactance is aroused and reviews how aggression is seen in the marketplace. The ways in which advertisements (in particular, online ones), cause this are then reviewed. The very aspects of online advertisements, themselves, are then examined to form hypotheses about their contributions to reactance arousal and eventually aggressive consumer responses. Manipulations The manipulations in this research design were two levels of cultural background (the US and UK), five levels of advertisement location (the top of the screen, the bottom of the screen, middle of the screen, left side of the screen, and right side of the screen), and three levels of animation (no ad animation, some ad animation, and total/full ad animation). Aggressive consumer reactance arousal was based on respondents’ motivation to directly attack the advertised brand and product because of a heightened state of reactance. When manipulating the ad’s location and level of animation, consumers viewing advertisements that are fully animated and located in the middle of the screen were expected to respond with the most reactance and
  40. 40. 24THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION willingness to be aggressive. Participants from the US and UK were given varying stimuli with a total of 15 ad locations and five animation levels. These manipulations are further described in Chapter III. Objectives of the Study The objectives of this study are as follows: 1. To determine how intrusive online advertisements are perceived by British and American consumers. 2. To determine how much reactance online advertisements arouse among British and American consumers. 3. To determine if online advertising locations and levels of animation contribute to greater levels of reactance arousal among British and American consumers. 4. To determine if heightened states of reactance lead to aggressive consumer outcomes through attacks in the online marketplace. Research Questions and Hypotheses This research attempts to answer the major question of whether or not online advertisements frustrate consumers to the point where they feel compelled to act out aggressively in the marketplace. The following research questions (RQ) and associated hypotheses (H) were formulated to investigate this. RQ1: Do online advertisements lead to heightened states of perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI), reactance arousal (RA), and desire to respond to the advertised brand or product aggressively (DCA) as a consumer? • H1a: There is a difference in perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI) scores before and after the treatment
  41. 41. 25THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION • H1b: There is a difference in reactance arousal (RA) scores before and after the treatment • H1c: There is a difference in desire for consumer aggression (DCA) scores before and after the treatment RQ2: Does culture affect levels of perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI), reactance arousal (RA), and desire to respond as an aggressive consumer (DCA) when exposed to online advertisements? • H2a: Culture (Cu) has a significant effect on the difference in perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI) scores before and after the treatment • H2b: Culture (Cu) has a significant effect on the difference in reactance arousal (RA) scores before and after the treatment • H2c: Culture (Cu) has a significant effect on the difference in desire for consumer aggression (DCA) scores before and after the treatment RQ3: Does the amount of ad animation (Aa) affect levels of perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI), reactance arousal (RA), and desire to respond as an aggressive consumer (DCA) when exposed to online advertisements? • H3a: The amount of ad animation (Aa) has a significant effect on the difference in perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI) scores before and after the treatment • H3b: The amount of ad animation (Aa) has a significant effect on the difference in reactance arousal (RA) scores before and after the treatment • H3c: The amount of ad animation (Aa) has a significant effect on the difference in desire for consumer aggression (DCA) scores before and after the treatment RQ4: Does the ad location (Al) affect levels of perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI), reactance arousal (RA), and desire to respond as an aggressive consumer (DCA) when exposed to online advertisements?
  42. 42. 26THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION • H4a: Ad location (Al) has a significant effect on the difference in perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI) scores before and after the treatment • H4b: Ad location (Al) has a significant effect on the difference in reactance arousal (RA) scores before and after the treatment • H4c: Ad location (Al) has a significant effect on the difference in desire for consumer aggression (DCA) scores before and after the treatment RQ5: Do consumers experience heightened states of reactance arousal (RA) when ads are perceived as intrusive (PAI)? • H5: There is a correlation between post-treatment levels of perceived ad intrusiveness (PAI) and post-treatment levels of reactance arousal (RA) RQ6: Do consumers desire to respond to the advertised brand or product aggressively (DCA) in the marketplace when ads arouse reactance (RA)? • H6: There is a correlation between post-treatment levels of reactance arousal (RA) levels and post-treatment levels of desire for consumer aggression (DCA) Definition of Terms The following conceptual and operational definitions of research are provided to explain how terms are used in this study. Aggression. Aggression is defined as hostile or violent behavior. While it is trigged by many variables, scholars—such as Gilmore (1990); Cohen and Nisbett (1994); De Mooij (2003); Richins and Verhage (1987); Rojas-Mendez, Davies, and Madran (2009); Chan et al. (2007); and, Akram et al. (2011)— provide strong evidence for exploring its cultural influences, which is the primary focus of this psychological trait in this study. Aggression is measured using Richins’
  43. 43. 27THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Aggression scale (1983), but updated to fit the variables of this study. This scale is scored on a 5 point Likert scale with response categories ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Aggressive Consumers. Aggressive consumers are people who exhibit deviant and malfeasant behavior in commerce situations, no matter the medium or location of the marketplace (Harris & Reynolds, 2003 & 2004; Harris & Dumas, 2009; Groth & Grandey, 2012). These types of consumers are people who act out against commerce in a way that negatively impacts business. Examples of this include boycotting products and services or spreading negative word-of-mouth to social networks. Psychological Reactance. Psychological Reactance is the “motivational state directed toward the reestablishment of [a] threatened or eliminated freedom” (Brehm, 1996, p. 15). Brehm (1989) states that that “people become motivationally aroused by a threat to or elimination of behavioral freedom” and that “impels the individual to restore the particular freedom that was threatened or taken away” (p. 72). Freedom and the perceived loss of (or threat of loss to) it is the central element of reactance theory. Reactance is measured on a 9 item scale that is based off of Hong’s Psychological Reactance Scale (Hong & Faedda, 1996), but updated to fit the variables of this study. This scale is scored on a 5 point Likert scale with response categories ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Online Advertisements. Online advertisements are static or animated advertisements displayed on Internet websites. All advertisement type names, dimensions, and characteristics used in this study are consistent with the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Guidelines for Digital Advertising (IAB, 2012). Online Consumers. Online consumers are people old enough to own and operate a credit card and capable of purchasing goods and/or services through online transactions. Various
  44. 44. 28THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION cultural backgrounds are measured by virtue of the country in which they are involved in eCommerce. Chapter I Summary The purpose of this paper is to study the effects of online advertising on consumer aggression. This study is unique because it focuses on how the locations and levels of animation associated with online advertisements arouse reactance in British and American consumers and then measures their willingness to act out aggressively as consumers. With the technological advances of the Internet, this format is yet another advertising medium that represents a continuously growing and dynamic field where marketers are rapidly reinventing their approaches as well as continuing to block the goals of consumers when not executed morally or ethically. Hence, it is important to study the triggers of consumer aggression so that the business’ bottom line does not suffer from unintentional negative reactions to advertisements. With the theoretical framework just presented in this chapter, it is appropriate to review the relationship between consumer reactance and aggression and then seek to understand how it is affected by advertising. These relationships and concepts are explored in the next chapter by first looking at the fundamental causes of aggression and the various ways in which advertising reproduces them. Next, several external variables related to human behavior—such as personality type, mood, attitude, and feelings—are reviewed as possible instigators of consumer aggression. Then, consumer reactance as a result of frequent, disruptive, and invasive advertising is examined in marketplace exchanges to illustrate the various ways in which this psychological theory is observed. Finally, hypotheses are formed in chapter III based on how the various aspects of online advertising lead to consumer reactance.
  45. 45. 29THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION CHAPTER II Literature Review Chapter Introduction When looking at advertisements themselves, Aaker and Bruzzone (1985) found that consumers respond negatively to them when they contain irritating qualities. They tested the advertisements of sixteen different products (through 524 commercials) in order to measure consumer irritation levels in three areas: product class, market segmentation, and copy execution. From this, they found that many factors increase irritation. Their study uncovers that consumers are annoyed by advertisements when a sensitive product is involved, the situation in the commercial is obviously fake, someone in the ad is disrespected, relationships are threatened, graphic physical discomfort is seen, uncomfortable tension is shown, an unsympathetic character is portrayed, there is a suggestive scene, or the advertisement is generally not executed well (p. 55-56). Furthermore, it supports the evidence gathered in the previous section that marketing needs to be reformed to limit the amount of aggression it causes. Marketers should not purposely create ads that contain irritating and annoying qualities, as Anker and Bruzzone (1985) point out, because they lead to higher levels of annoyance levels amongst consumers. When consumers are annoyed, they have the tendency to act defiantly and with malfeasance (Harris & Reynolds, 2003; 2004), lending toward aggressive behavior in the marketplace. Therefore, this section will start by exploring the very nature of aggression and then investigate reasons why it occurs amongst consumers. Next, it will review how advertising, in particular, is an instigator of aggression in the marketplace. The theory of psychological reactance will be explained as the basis of the reason for such aggressive consumer reactions to advertisements. Finally, this section will further investigate the various qualities of the
  46. 46. 30THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION advertisements themselves in order to provide validity for the research questions and hypotheses proposed in this study. Exploring Aggression To study aggressive consumer reactance in the marketplace, this study first examined aggression in its most basic, primal forms. Then, it reviewed cultural reasons as causes of aggression. Next, aggression in commerce situations where flourishing advertising scenarios dominate the focus of consumers was explored. Basic Aggression: Insights from Animals. Many scholars believe that aggression is instinctual and used by humans when it is convenient. Zing Yang Kuo’s (1961) experiment with cats and mice and long-term observations made on chimps and bonobos demonstrate that aggression in animals is “modified by experience” and “does not need to be learned” (p. 24). He also expresses that “Aggression is an optional strategy” which is “determined by the animal’s previous social experiences, as well as by the specific social context in which the animal finds itself” (p. 24). This suggests that aggression is not learned and is a tool that may be used to affect a desired response. As Darwin (1861) writes that only the strongest and fittest survive, Lorenz (1966) points out how animals purposely act aggressively as a means of survival. He writes about the utility of aggression through several species. With rats, for instance, larger clans dominate aggressively through numbers. Also, sexual competition among some pheasant species leads to eradicating members unnecessarily. Therefore, there is a clear natural utility of aggression in animals, which is to, among several other things, raise their young in the wild and reveal the best leaders and pack masters to ensure the longevity of the group.
  47. 47. 31THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION By these studies, aggression is instinctual and necessary for survival. The next section will contrast the need to be aggressive in humans and review the specific variables that directly contribute towards it, which possibly reveals a distinction in willingness to respond aggressively to advertisements when reactance is aroused. Human Aggression: Cultural Insights. Beyond animals, Berkowitz (1993) finds that humans are ingrained to respond aggressively to certain types of attacks. Many authors cite various cultural aspects as the causes for sociological change in stances on aggression. Gilmore (1990), for instance, explores the way masculinity affects a culture and finds that it contributes to the warrior culture, which continues to reinvent itself around the world and throughout history. He writes: This cultural hypostasis of the male image, which I believe exists to a degree in many societies, led me to believe that the manhood ideal is not purely psychogenetic in origin but is also a culturally imposed ideal to which men must conform whether or not they find it psychological congenial. That is, it is not simply a reflection of individual psychology but a part of public culture, a collective representation (p. 5). The Iroquois Native American tribe is a culture in which scholars continue to study the sociological changes for their drastic turn toward violence. These people changed their long- standing peaceful behavior to a highly aggressive one after seventeenth-century Europeans introduced competition in the expanding fur trade industry. This pitted the Iroquois against neighboring tribes and ultimately resulted in many bloody wars of which the Iroquois won through their transition to aggressive combat. On their shift toward this violent stance, Anker (unknown year) writes that “warfare was not for territorial gain but for the no less real but more
  48. 48. 32THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION ephemeral goals of revenge, retribution, and establishment of manhood” (p. 10). Here, aggression was instigated by many outside variables, one major reason being cultural influence. Cohen and Nisbett (1994) further explore cultural attitudes towards aggression by comparing various indicators of violence between southern and non-southern US citizens. They actually find varying levels of testosterone in people from that region (compared to people from northern and western states) when they are frustrated or threatened. This is encapsulated in the “cultural of honor” phenomenon, which is widely seen in the south and a possible differentiator of aggressive motivation between southern and non-southern cultures. On this, these authors write: If individuals believe that they must own and even carry weapons for protection, and if they respond to insults with sufficient anger to occasionally cause them to use those weapons, this will tend to affect the entire local community. Its members may respond with heightened consciousness of the need for protection, more vigilance concerning threats, and a consequent greater likelihood of violence (p. 449). By this research, it is clear that aggression is intrinsically motivated and then enhanced through obligation to conform to omnipresent cultural motifs as well as external pressure from society. When reviewing the impact of culture on aggression towards advertising, several authors find that marketing opinions differ throughout the world despite advances in globalization and technology. In fact, De Mooij (2003) reviews universal advertising approaches around the world to find that cultural variables impact consumer purchasing behavior and responses to advertising. The author writes, “Global advertising…does not appeal to universal values because there are no universal values” (p. 196). This illustrates that marketers should customize their campaigns across the globe to achieve greater advertising effectiveness. Rojas-Mendez, Davies, and Madran (2009) agree. They compared advertising avoidance behaviors in different countries and
  49. 49. 33THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION found that culture is a significant predictor of overall attitude towards advertising and explains behavioral avoidance. Earlier research on marketplace assertiveness and aggression also supports the notion that culture impacts the consumer’s level of aggression in marketplace exchanges (Richins & Verhage, 1987) and international perceptions of advertising (Chan et al., 2007). Despite this evidence for marketers to deploy culturally-focused and locally-sensitive advertising, other authors explore the effects of acculturation (the process of cultural and psychological change that results from the meeting of two cultures) from globalization and the emergence of global brands and global consumers. Akram, Merunka, and Akram (2011) accounted for consumer ethnocentrism in their review of how consumers perceive global products, yet still uncover a preference for global marketing approaches by consumers of all nations. They found that “Consumers tend to prefer global brands because of higher perceived quality and higher prestige and fundamentally because of brand globalness which is defined as the degree to which the brand is perceived as having multimarket reach and thus is believed to be globally available, desirable and demanded” (p. 293). At the same time, Douglas and Craig (2011) review new global trends with consumers. They find that new segments of global consumers are warm to common marketing approaches that span borders when heterogeneous economic and cultural exchanges exist. In their study, they review concepts such as global brands and global consumers, noting the advertising utility therein. The advancing communications capabilities of the Internet offer an even further chance for this type of convergence to flourish, bringing somewhat different conclusions to earlier research on common advertising approaches to different cultures throughout the world; therefore, cultural differences and their various views on advertising must be understood.
  50. 50. 34THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION Geert Hofstede’s (1984) theory of cultural dimensions categorizes people in various societies from one another in four distinct ways: individualism/collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity/femininity. In his later work, Hofstede (1991) also includes long- /short-term orientation as a fifth category. These dimensions are the basis of many cross cultural studies, including ones where aggression towards advertising is measured. In their reactions to advertising, Chan et al. (2007) states that and individualist cultures, where societal beliefs are not as commonly shared, such as case in the United States and United Kingdom, are more liberal in their acceptance of offensive advertisements (Fam et al., 2013). Here society is more reliant on laws and regulations, versus social norms in high-context societies, in order to restrict offensive qualities of advertisements. As many authors (Richins & Verhage, 1987; Chan et al., 2007) reveal that assertiveness and aggression vary between cultures of different dimensions, few (if any) authors effectively measure advertising levels across similar countries as instigators of aggression. It is still necessary to investigate consumer aggression in order to understand other likely causes. The next section will explore the ways in which consumers demonstrate aggression as a result of advertising. This is based off of the theory of reactance, so aggressive reactance to advertising is also reviewed. Consumer Aggression toward Advertising Harris and Reynolds (2003) explored the consequences of dysfunctional consumer activity from the firm’s point of view. Through their study, they determined that the customer is not always right, contrary to the ostensible Western corporate slogan for improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. In fact, they outline several negative consequences on employees who must deal with deviant customers, other customers exposed to the deviant behavior, and the
  51. 51. 35THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION organization receiving the consumer’s aggressive actions. They write, “not only are customers ‘not always right’, in fact, they can frequently lie, cheat, act abusively, and even physically or psychologically harm customer-contact employees” (p. 157). In a later study, these two authors (Harris & Reynolds, 2004) state, “the majority (and not the minority) of customers exhibit jaycustomer behaviors” (p. 351)—which means that customer deviance and malfeasance is highly likely in the marketplace, no matter the medium or location. Harris and Dumas (2009) look at this behavior in an online environment. They find that consumers justify and rationalize online misbehavior when they are sharing content in a peer-to- peer fashion. Rather than paying for software online, for example, people view themselves as victims of commerce and do not claim any injury or responsibility for the legal ramifications of pirating such goods. Other techniques studied are when consumers claim normalcy, relative acceptability, justification by comparison, and appeals to higher loyalties (p. 384-385). Nevertheless, these are deviant, dysfunctional, and selfish characteristics that have serious business consequences. Groth and Grandey (2012) also found that aggressive consumer encounters lead to negative consequences. They reviewed such encounters from both the employee’s and customer’s perspectives to find linkages between the two. When the situation starts bad and continues to escalate, they call them “negative exchange spirals” and describe them as open-loop scenarios where each exchange feeds the other (p. 210). The only end, they write, is a “dyadic” model, which is an exchange spiral where one party (either the customer or the employee) breaks the negative back-and-forth (p. 210). To learn from them, such encounters must be studied as they occur and all of them seem to differ slightly (p. 225).
  52. 52. 36THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION By these studies, it is obvious that aggressive consumer situations vary and must be dealt with in a manner that is issue-specific. To understand this, Richins (1983) measured consumer responses to dissatisfaction by looking at the nature of dissatisfaction, perceptions of blame, and perceptions of the retailer’s responsiveness as variables for spreading negative opinions and information. She discovered that firms are most likely to turn a bad situation around when it has not escalated too far where heightened levels of dissatisfaction are realized. From this study, it is understood that consumer aggression is mostly seen from increases in frustration and dissatisfaction. On frustration and dissatisfaction, Aronson (2008) distinguishes between hope and deprivation, similar to Brehm’s (1966) theory of psychological reactance to explain how these two aggressive-producing feelings may be reduced. He writes, that “frustration is most pronounced when the goal is becoming palpable and drawing within reach, when expectations are high, and when the goal is blocked unjustifiably” (p. 273). A child who has never seen a certain type of toy before will not respond aggressively if he does not get a chance to play with it. But, if the child expects to play with the toy at a certain time, then he (as seen through the theory of reactance) will aggress if that freedom to do so is denied. As this applies to commerce, if a consumer understands that a product is not for sale in a store or from a website, she will feel as though her freedom to choose that product is under threat and, therefore, arouse reactance. Consistent with the theory of reactance, Harris (1974) studied the timing of aggressive provocations. She analyzed the frustration levels of patrons who were standing in line waiting for tickets and then cut off by rowdy teenagers, finding that frustration levels increased the closer the patron was to the front of the line. This is another study on aggression that is consistent with Brehm’s (1966) theory of psychological reactance: the higher the threat to removing freedom,
  53. 53. 37THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION the likelier a consumer is to demonstrate reactance. This is supported by Twenge et al. (2001) who reviewed the effects of rejection on frustration, only to find that it undoubtedly increases a person’s hostility. Increases in Exposures to Violence Leads to More Violence. Marketers constantly seek new opportunities to interact with consumers and architect specific emotional responses aimed at generating high interest and awareness of their products and services. Lutz, MacKenzie, and Belch (1982) found that the consumer’s mood has a significant effect on his attitude toward advertising and Aaker, Staymann, and Hagerty (1986) found that ads evoking positive feelings generate more positive impressions of advertising. Therefore, marketers aim to incite positive feelings like happiness, enthusiasm, excitement, and love in their advertising because sales opportunities are then at their ripest. While this logic seems sound from a business standpoint, it is appropriate to further explore the psychological effects of aggressive feelings in order to determine the utility (or lack thereof) in aggression-inducing advertisements. Many studies look into the effects on aggressive tendencies due to prolonged exposure to aggressive situations and encounters. Liebert & Baron (1972) find that watching violence on TV increases one’s violent tendencies in their real life actions. Josophson (1987) then finds that TV violence, in particular, is the greatest predictor of a child’s tendency to act violently. Shrum (1999) expands on these previous studies by reviewing the desensitizing effects of TV through several existing memory recall models. For both positive and negative programming, he found that people are more tolerant of the mood the TV program aims to achieve. For instance, people tolerate violence more after having just viewed it on TV. Johnson et al. (2002) finds that the more exposure to television during adolescence, the more prone someone is to act
  54. 54. 38THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION aggressively. These correlational studies lend support to the notion that when people are exposed to higher amounts of violence and frustration, they are more likely to become aggressive, even if they were not originally prone to violence to begin with. Hence, the bottom line implication is that their tendency to act violently is increased when the violence is viewed on a desensitizing medium, such as TV is increased. Rose and Neidermeyer (1999) similarly find that when an encounter prevents consumers from achieving their shopping goals or violates their normal activity, then they are more likely to respond aggressively, which is another manifestation of psychological reactance. They find that goal-blocking and norm violations are the biggest cause to consumer aggression. Therefore, consciousness of aggressive stimuli in advertising should be understood by marketers so as not to provoke it amongst their audience and cause them to engage in psychological reactance. How Aggressive Responses to Advertising Result in Consumer Reactance. Consumers respond to freedom threatening advertising aggressively. They do this through two means: either by ignoring the advertisements passively (Clancy, 1994; Krugman & Johnson, 1991) or by actively acting out against them (Abernethy, 1991). Speck and Elliot (1997), for instance, find clear predictors of overt ad avoidance by consumers. Therefore, it is necessary to review the relationship between frustration and aggression and Brehm’s (1966) theory of Psychological Reactance in order to better understand how aggression manifests itself in a consumer setting when reactance is high. Aronson (2008) writes that “frustration is increased when a goal is near and your progress toward it is interrupted” (p. 273). This is even further enhanced when the interruption to the goal is unexpected. When a goal seems attainable and the expectations to achieve it are high, blocking it or distracting someone from it results in the emotion of extreme frustration, which
  55. 55. 39THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION leads to a greater need to act aggressively. This is demonstrated by Worchel (1974) who shows that when authority figures block the goals of their subjects, the subjects respond by derogating them since their freedom is restricted. Clee and Wicklund (1980) describe this as “aggression, or hostility directed toward the source of the threat” (p. 402). To further explain the frustration and aggression theories behind this, Aronson (2008) writes, “Thus, frustration is not the result of simple deprivation; it is the result of relative deprivation” (p. 273). Therefore, it is also the perception of someone’s freedom being threated or the goal that is blocked (which is the definition of reactance) that also leads to anger and frustration. In line with Aronson’s implication just mentioned, the opportunity for consumers to experience reactance theory is abundant when their freedom is threatened, or perceived to be threatened. Clee and Wicklund’s (1980) explanation of this is an accurate portrayal of how consumers experience reactance: Reactance theory is applicable to any situation in which the following elements are present. First, a consumer must expect a measure of freedom to act in a given situation. Second, some threat must arise that infringes upon that freedom….the sources of such threats are varied; they may stem from social influence attempts by other people, from impersonal barriers to action, such as product unavailability, or may even be self- imposed. As long as the basic two elements are present—expectation of freedom and threat of freedom—the stage is set for a reactance theory interpretation of resultant behavior. Reactance is then manifested [and]…moderated by such variables as the a priori importance of the threatened freedom (p. 403).
  56. 56. 40THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION By this explanation, consumers respond in aggressive and assertive ways when they experience reactance. Therefore, it is necessary to review the nature of those two behaviors in commerce situations. Previous research on market place exchanges examined assertiveness and aggression together (Fornell & Westbrook, 1979; Westbrook, 1981), but later ones classified the two interaction styles separately (Chiazzi, Heimberg & Doty, 1982). Westbrook (1981) found no relationship at all between aggressiveness and assertiveness when a consumer is dissatisfied. Hollandsworth’s (1977) research suggests that assertive responses are more adaptive than aggressive ones in handling anger and interpersonal conflict, whereas Richins (1983) develops an entire scale to measure aggressiveness on its own. As they relate to reactance, assertive and aggressive behaviors preserve the consumer’s right to choose, but in different ways. Richins and Verhage (1987) write that “Assertiveness involves standing up for one’s rights without infringing upon those of others, whereas aggression involves the use of noxious stimuli to maintain rights” (p. 94). The Boomerang Effect. These notions in the previous section are consistent with Brehm’s (1966) research on threats to consumer freedom and are better explained through the Boomerang Effect. This is a term born out of psychological reactance and formalized by Clee and Wicklund (1980). They write: If all potentially informative features of the communication could be deleted (i.e., all persuasive arguments), and if the communicator was not a source of reference group opinion, then the introduction of pressure-laden statements should indeed produce an absolute boomerang effect (p. 402).
  57. 57. 41THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION The Boomerang Effect refers to when a consumer is coerced and he responds with an equal, but opposite reaction in order to restore his freedom. As the term implies, this could mean that the consumer purposely behaves in the specific way that is under threat of loss. For instance, if a consumer is presented with an overabundance of advertising for a product and experiences reactance arousal, he may choose not to buy it because his freedom is blocked by the invasive ads. Furthermore, these authors specify that if the consumer does not change his behavior, then it could be that he, at least, changes in attitude. To provide further detail and background, the Boomerang Effect is a part of psychological reactance that refers to a person’s tendency to engage in behavior that is associated with a threatened freedom in order to restore that freedom (Brehm & Sensenig, 1966). It contributes to the many reasons consumers reject messaging seen in advertising and is seen in several ways. First, while not calling it as such, Wicklund and Brehm (1968) found a significant evidence of the Boomerang Effect in their experiments regarding attitudinal freedom among highly competent people. Then, when attitude toward a position is high, Worchel and Brehm (1970) found that reactance is carried out. In their study, subjects were exposed to speeches containing freedom threatening communication and moved away from the promoted position because of reactance. Next, Heilman and Toffler (1976) found the level of intensity is a determinant on the amount of reactance with which people are motivated to respond when their freedom is threatened. The more intense attempts to restrict her subjects’ freedoms, the more vehemently they wanted to engage in what was being threatened, they found. Finally, Clee and Wicklund (1980) coin the term “Boomerang Effect” when heavily loaded “pressure” statements are introduced under circumstances where the communicator is not the source of the reference group. They write that “threats to freedom that emanate from social-influence attempts increase
  58. 58. 42THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION strength as the externally-imposed pressure to change increases” (p. 390). This explains the motivation for how the consumer wishes to respond with an equal, but opposite reaction to the initial encounter of coercion. In-store Experiences. Consumer frustration is caused by a variety of marketing and advertising sources that, as Brehm (1966) postulates, limit their freedom or threaten to take it away. Rose and Neidermeyer (1999), for instance, identify specific precursors to consumer aggression as a result of their research on negative in-store experiences. They find the following-freedom inhibiting reasons as causes of consumer frustration: • Blocking the goal. This is when a product is out of stock, excessive wait times are experienced, or stores fail to perform somehow. • Disagreement or Misinformation. When the marketer and the customer disagree or when the consumer realizes that the information he is reviewing is incorrect, they become confused or experience a sense of misunderstanding. During these times, consumers also feel deceived. • Violation of Norms. This occurs when someone’s expectations are inhibited, such as another patron cutting in, experiencing poor personal hygiene while shopping, and deviations in behavior are observed. Similar to reactance, violating the consumer’s norms is a form of threatening her freedom to choose according to her expectations. • Proactive aggression. This is when someone acts with direct aggression (p. 14). These authors observed that the consequences of frustrating shopping situations are changes in emotional states and expressions, use of verbal aggression, and direct or indirect physical aggression (indirect physical aggression is seen through passive-aggressive acts, such as littering, defacement, or stealing). They determine that the majority of aggressive marketer-to-consumer
  59. 59. 43THE EFFECTS OF ONLINE ADVERTISING ON CONSUMER AGGRESSION acts occur during a service encounter or shopping experience. Therefore, they conclude that marketers should understand the antecedents of aggression to identify how it is instigated and then correct marketplace designs to “minimize aggression triggers” (p. 14). Yi and Gong (2008) extend the understanding of in-store aggression by proving that customer satisfaction is an important link between what a consumer learns from an employee through his behavior and how customers behave as a result. They use a comprehensive framework to investigate the relationship between employee and customer behaviors as they relate to acts of citizenship and dysfunction. They prove that service employees teach consumers behavior through their interaction, which results in a level (which could be high or low, depending on the employee’s behavior) of customer satisfaction. This in turn generates an equivalent level of customer response (p. 977). As it relates to aggression, customers act with a similar level of hostility as what they learn from their interaction with employees. Negative and Positive Word-of-Mouth Communication. Given the importance of analyzing consumer frustration from Rose and Neidermeyer’s (1999) findings, it is then important to understand how they will react aggressively. Wetzer, Zeelendberg, and Pieters (2007) analyze the goals of consumers when they socialize negative-word-of-mouth (N-WOM) communication and the business effects it has on firms. They found that anger, irritation, disappointment, dissatisfaction, frustration, indignation, and hate are the emotions felt after a negative consumption experience, which causes people to act aggressively via N-WOM communication for the purposes of venting or seeking revenge. They prove that these emotions result in N-WOM communication about a firm and advise marketers to “pay attention to the specific emotion that is felt by a consumer who communicates about a negative experience” (p. 675).