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Review of Related Literature Argumentative

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This chapter reviews the related literature and some previous research about the compliance-gaining theory and how it is related to advertising towards men.


As a communication theory, compliance-gaining is concerned with the relationship between power and persuasion. French and Raven (1959) identified five primary power bases: legitimate power (derived from holding recognized positions of authority); reward power (derived from the capacity, for example, to increase remuneration); coercive power (derived from the capacity to punish); expert power (derived from having special knowledge or ability) and referent power (derived from appearing to share values).

The more usual term used is “persuasion”, which is concerned with changing beliefs, attitudes, intentions, motivations, and behaviors. The term “compliance” is more restrictive, typically referring only to changes in a person’s overt behavior. Compliance-gaining is persuasion aimed at getting others to do something and act in a particular way. It is important to note that compliance-gaining differs from more traditional notions of persuasion in a number of important ways.

For the most part, studies of compliance-gaining have concentrated on influence in interpersonal, face-to-face contexts rather than in one-to many contexts. Moreover, the emphasis in interpersonal research has primarily been on “senders” rather than “receivers.” That is, while traditional persuasion research has concerned itself with identifying which strategies are most effective, studies of compliance-gaining have attempted to identify those strategies that are most likely to be used by a persuader. In other words, compliance-gaining research focuses on what people do when they want to get something (Toon, 2002).

Compliance-gaining research, concerned mainly with interpersonal communication, is concerned with taxonomies of compliance-gaining attempts, the reasons people use certain types of compliance-gaining strategies, or the messages that they use. A great deal of this research looks at the settings in which people use compliance-gaining, and the personal factors and individual differences that lead people to use certain compliance-gaining measures.

Compliance-gaining Taxonomies

Compliance addresses issues related to the user changing behavioral patterns and not the recipient changing an attitude. “[Compliance] . . . does not require the target to agree with the advocacy—just simply perform the behavior.” This is why the study of compliance-gaining, described as “communicative behavior in which an agent engages so as to elicit from a target some agent-selected behavior” (Wheeless, Barraclough, & Stewart, 1982, p. 111), captured the attention of scholars nearly half a century ago. Thus, in the dissertation of Toon (2002) she mentioned that researchers repeatedly attempted taxonomies of compliance-gaining strategies that would cover all situations. (c.f. Cialdini, 1987; Clark, 1979; Falbo, 1977; Falbo & Peplau, 1980; Kipnis, 1984; Kipnis & Schmidt, 1988; Kipnis, Schmidt, & Wilkinson, 1980; Marwell & Schmitt, 1967; Miller, Boster, Roloff, & Seibold, 1977; Riccillo & Trenholm, 1983; Rule & Bisanz, 1987; Rule, Bisanz, & Kohn, 1985; Schank & Abelson, 1977; Schenck-Hamlin, Wiseman, & Georgacarakos, 1982; Wheeless et al., 1982; Wiseman & Schenck-Hamlin, 1981). Examinations of several of these taxonomies follow.

It was Marwell and Schmitt (1967) who first believed that throughout life “people spend a good deal of time trying to get others to act in ways they desire” (p. 350). In an attempt at a compliance-gaining taxonomy, the authors sought to reduce the multitude of possible compliance-gaining behaviors into meaningful strategies. They arrived at sixteen compliance-gaining techniques by gathering what they called “applicable dimensions” from the works of others, specifically Parsons, French and Raven, Etzioni, Kelman, Skinner, Thibaut and Kelley, and Weinstein and Deutchberger. Table 1 lists these techniques with examples.

Table 1

Marwell and Schmitt’s (1967) Compliance-Gaining Tactics with Examples of How

You Might Get Your Teenager to Study.

Tactic Example







If you comply I will reward you. For example, you offer to increase Dick’s allowance if he studies more.


If you do not comply I will punish you. For example, you threaten to forbid Dick to use the car if he doesn’t start studying more.

Tactic Example
Expertise (positive)





Expertise (negative)















If you comply you will be rewarded because of “the nature of things.” For example, you tell Dick that if he gets good grades he will be able to get into college and get a good job.


If you do not comply you will be punished because of “the nature of things.” For example, you tell Dick that if he does not get good grades he will not be able to get into a good college or get a good job.


Act friendly and helpful to get the person in a “good frame of mind” so that he or she will comply with the request. For example, you try to be as friendly and pleasant as possible to put Dick in a good mood before asking him to study.


Reward the person before requesting his or her compliance. For example, you raise Dick’s allowance and tell him you now expect him to study.

Tactic Example
Aversive Stimulation











Moral Appeal





Self-Feeling (Positive)




Continuously punish the person, making cessation contingent on his or her compliance. For example, you forbid Dick the use of the car and tell him he will not be able to drive until he studies more.


You owe me compliance because of past favors. For example, you point out that you have sacrificed and saved for Dick’s education and that he owes it to you to get good enough grades to get into a good college.


You are immoral if you do not comply. For example, you tell Dick that it is morally wrong for anyone to not get as good grades as possible and that he should study more.


You will feel better about yourself if you comply. For example, you tell Dick that he will feel proud if he gets himself to study more.

Tactic Example
Self-Feeling (Negative)




Altercasting (Positive)





Altercasting (Negative)










You will feel worse about yourself if you do not comply. For example, you tell Dick that he will feel ashamed of himself if he gets bad grades.


A person with “good” qualities would comply. For example, you tell Dick that because he is a mature and intelligent person he naturally will want to study more and get good grades.


Only a person with “bad” qualities would not comply. For example, you tell Dick that he should study because only someone very childish does not study.


I need your compliance very badly, so do it for me. For example, you tell Dick that you really want very badly for him to get into a good college and that you wish he would study more as a personal favor to you.

Tactic Example
Esteem (Positive)





Esteem (Negative)




People you value will think better of you if you comply. For example, you tell Dick that the whole family will be very proud of him if he gets good grades.


People you value will think worse of you if you do not comply. For example, you tell Dick that the whole family will be very disappointed in him if he gets poor grades.

Note. From “Dimensions of Compliance-Gaining Behavior: An Empirical Analysis.” by

  1. Marwell and D. R. Schmitt, 1967, Sociometry, 30, p. 357. Copyright 1967 by publisher.

Pioneering in this area of study, Marwell and Schmitt are cited in all compliance-gaining literature for providing “a starting point with which to compare future results and an empirically-grounded taxonomy which may prove useful for a variety of purposes” (Marwell & Schmitt, 1967, p. 364). Scholars and researchers continue to elaborate on and further develop this initial classification.

In 1977, Miller, Boster, Roloff, and Seibold studied the interpersonal factors related to compliance-gaining, they attempted to develop a “smaller, more abstract typology of compliance-gaining strategies that could be employed by persuasion researchers and which could replace the rather cumbersome set of sixteen strategies developed by Marwell and Schmitt” (p. 48). The authors looked at four types of situations: noninterpersonal situations with short-term consequences; noninterpersonal situations with long-term consequences; interpersonal situations with short-term consequences; and interpersonal situations with long-term consequences. They found that in noninterpersonal situations more strategies had a high likelihood of use, perhaps because of the uncertainty as to what type of strategy to employ. Although the authors were unable to develop a new taxonomy, they did underscore, perhaps for the first time, the importance of the type of situation on the choice of compliance-gaining strategies used.

 However, it was Falbo (1977) who studied the predisposition toward the use of Machiavellian power strategies, susceptibility to social influence and other-perception, which also attempted to develop a new taxonomy. She found that 91% of the total strategies generated by asking subjects to write essays on “How I get my way” could be classified under 16 strategies. Going beyond the taxonomy, Falbo subjected these strategies to a multidimensional scaling analysis, and obtained a simple two-dimensional solution, labeling the poles “direct-indirect” and “rational-emotional.” “A direct-rational strategy employed references to one’s superior knowledge or skill, whereas an indirect-emotional strategy employed attempts to alter feelings of the target” (Bradac, Schneider, Hemphill, & Tardy, 1980, p. 72). Falbo found that reported use of rational strategies was associated with positive peer ratings and reported use of indirect and emotional strategies was associated with Machiavellianism.

Falbo and Peplau (1980), in their study of power strategies in intimate relationships, conducted a study intended “to generate (a) a model of power strategies used in intimate relationships and (b) information regarding the associations between gender, sexual orientation, egalitarianism, and power strategy use” (p. 618). Similar to the previous study, subjects wrote open-ended essays on “How I get (got) (___) to do what I want (wanted).” From this study, the authors (Falbo & Peplau, 1980) developed the taxonomy of 13 power strategies very similar to those in the first Falbo study. These strategies differ because the subjects in the present study reflected on a specific intimate partner, where in the previous study they wrote about the more general “How I get my way.” Schenck-Hamlin, Wiseman, and Georgacarakos (1982), in their study of the properties that unify and distinguish compliance-gaining strategies, developed a new taxonomy to overcome the problem of Marwell and Schmitt’s deriving their strategies from previous theory. The researchers presented people with persuasive situations and asked them to generate lists of strategies they would use in the situations. The result was a different taxonomy, which distinguished 14 compliance-gaining strategies, many of which differed from Marwell and Schmitt’s original typology (Toon, 2001).

Wiseman and Schenck-Hamlin (1981) revisited the Schenck-Hamlin, Wiseman, and Georgacarakos taxonomy, published later than the current study, but conducted earlier. In their study of situational effects on subjects’ representations of compliance-gaining strategies, they found four properties that could “logically distinguish the fourteen types of compliance-gaining strategies they found in subjects’ message constructions” (p. 268). These four properties, themselves an attempt at the taxonomy, are (a) explicitness of persuader’s intent, (b) manipulation of rewards, (c) locus of control, and (d) explicitness of rationale.

Coming at the compliance-gaining taxonomy debate from a different perspective are Wheeless, Barraclough, and Stewart (1982). They looked at compliance-gaining through the lens of power, without which, they maintained, compliance does not happen. “Interpersonal power,” they stated, “may be regarded as the perceived bases of control that a person has over another person’s behavior that would not have otherwise occurred” (p. 120). Implementation of this interpersonal power, they asserted, may be considered compliance-gaining. Looking through the literature on power, they found French and Raven’s (1960) set of power types to be useful. Their types included (a) reward power, (b) coercive power, (c) legitimate power, (d) referent power, and (e) expert power. Wheeless, Barraclough, and Stewart went on to discuss Etzioni (1961), Kelman (1961, 1974), Parsons (1963), and Kelley and Thibaut (1978) as others who described general kinds of power used to elicit compliance. While each of these descriptions had its merits, “the forced interfacing of the different schemata simply does not work well: They really are not quite talking about the same thing” (Wheeless et al., 1982, p. 124). The authors felt that “What is needed, then, is not to choose from among them or to crunch them together, but to find some higher-order system that subsumes all of the power types previously discussed” (Wheeless et al., 1982, p. 124). In looking at the above-mentioned discussions of power with a broader view, Wheeless, Barraclough, and Stewart (1982) found three broad classes represented. Table 2 summarizes these classes of power and presents examples of each:

Table 2

Wheeless, Barraclough, and Stewart’s Bases of Power

Class of Power Examples
Expectancies or Consequences

Interpersonal Relationships or


Values or Obligations


Rewards, Punishments

Following Examples, Winning

Acceptance, Expertise

Summoning Duty, Moral Nature of


Note. From “Compliance-Gaining and Power in Persuasion” by L. R. Wheeless, R.

Barraclough and R. Stewart, 1982, Communication Yearbook #7, p. 125. Copyright 1982 by publisher.

In stepping back a level and looking at the literature of power, because “the gaining of compliance does not happen in the absence of power,” (p. 121) Wheeless, Barraclough, and Stewart fit French and Raven, Etzioni, and the others into this “preliminary taxonomy” (p. 128) illustrating that the structure provided by using the bases of power schema could be useful as a basis for “reconceptualizing compliance-gaining mechanisms” (p. 128).

Rule and Bisanz (1987), in their study of the nature and organization of knowledge about those tactics which people believe to be the most effective for achieving persuasion goals, found several things: that the nature of the goals themselves was similar across targets; that there is a standard set of methods associated with those goals that appear to be ordered; and that social desirability of methods as well as potency may influence the order. Moreover, they found that both men and women reported virtually identical ordering along these dimensions.

Levine and Wheeless (1990), in their study of situational consistency and use and nonuse patterns of compliance-gaining tactics, derived a list of 53 tactics from previous research. Armed with this list, they asked subjects to imagine situations in which they tried to gain the compliance of another: some to think of high intimacy targets (e.g., lover, mother/father, best friend), and some to think of low intimacy targets (e.g., neighbor, disliked person, worst enemy).

Researchers then asked participants to write a brief account of the situation they referenced and to rate the list of 53 tactics as to whether or not they used them. Subjects repeated the above process, referencing a target with a counterbalanced level of intimacy. Levine and Wheeless found that people reported using different tactics in different situations, but that individuals’ selections in one situation are positively related to their selections in other situations. Furthermore, the tendency is for individuals to use positive tactics consistently while they use negative tactics inconsistently across situations.

Two approaches towards the development of compliance-gaining research can be distinguished. The first and most prevalent approach focuses on deriving the different compliance-gaining strategies from various theories of social influence already in existence. This is known as the deductive approach. The second approach examines compliance-gaining strategies through the process of induction. These strategies are generated by subjects for a particular persuasive situation.

Communication Contexts

A communication context is a “type of situation in which communication occurs” (Infante, Rancer, & Womack, 1993, p. 12). The characteristics will be different in each context. A summary of the contexts appears in Table 3

Table 3

Communication Contexts

Communication Context Definition

Small Group








Communication between two people

Communication involving several people

Communication within and between organizations

A speaker addressing a large audience

Communication which is mediated  by electronic or print media

Communication between people of different cultures

Note. From Building Communication Theory by D. A. Infante, A. S. Rancer and D. F.

Womack, 1993, p. 13. Copyright 1993 by Waveland.

Various communication contexts appear throughout the compliance-gaining literature, with the interpersonal context being the most investigated (c.f. Clark, 1979; Falbo, 1977; Falbo & Peplau, 1980; Marwell & Schmitt, 1967; Rule & Bisanz, 1987; Rule et al., 1985; Schank & Abelson, 1977; Schenck-Hamlin et al., 1982; Wiseman & Schenck-Hamlin, 1981).

Cialdini’s Concepts

Cialdini, in his study of practitioners in compliance settings, attempted to answer the question, “Just what are the factors that affect the likelihood that one person will say yes to another’s request?” (Cialdini, 1980, p. 32). He observed real-world compliance situations to find the tactics and procedures that practitioners (merchandisers, fund raisers, con artists, negotiators, advertisers, and so on) thought were effective compliance inducers. Because their economic livelihoods are at stake, “compliance professionals who use powerful compliance procedures will survive, flourish, and consequently pass these procedures on . . . to succeeding generations” (Cialdini, 1987, p. 166).

Cialdini looked for and found “six principles on which compliance professionals appeared to base most of their psychological influence attempts” (Cialdini, 1994, p. 259). In addition to enlarging on these principles, the following discussion illustrates ways in which compliance professionals might use each principle. “The drive to be (and look) consistent constitutes a highly potent weapon of social influence” (Cialdini, 1993, p. 52). People associate a high degree of consistency with personal and intellectual strength and value it in most instances. Inconsistency, on the other hand, often indicates such undesirable characteristics as indecisiveness, confusion, weakness of will, or even mental illness.

This is the core of the Commitment/Consistency Principle. “By being consistent with earlier decisions, one reduces the need to process all the relevant information in future situations; instead, one merely needs to recall the earlier decision and to respond consistently with it” (Cialdini, 1993, p. 91). When people take a stand on an issue, they tend to act in ways that fit what they have already done or said. The low-ball technique used in automobile sales is an example of the Commitment/Consistency Principle.

In order to induce the customer to agree initially to the purchase, the salesperson quotes the customer a price substantially below that of the competition. Once the customer makes the decision for a specific car and even begins completing the appropriate forms, the salesperson deftly removes the price advantage. This removes the reason the customer made a favorable purchase decision and makes the performance of the desired behavior more costly. Further, the increased cost is such that the final price is equivalent to, and often somewhat above, that of the dealer’s competitors.

Cialdini, observing this technique, found that “more customers remained with their decision to purchase the automobile, even at the adjusted figure, than would have bought it had the final price been disclosed before a purchase decision had been obtained” (Cialdini, 1980, p. 33). While this sales method may seem underhanded, the customers are actually victims of their own attempts to remain consistent (Cialdini, 1987, p. 12). In fact, they are free to withdraw from the transaction at any time. People generally feel obligated to repay, in kind, what they receive. Therefore, when they have done someone a favor, that person will naturally want to comply with a request from them simply because of a desire to repay the earlier favor (Cialdini, 1996, p. 54). This is the Reciprocity Principle. Examples of this principle abound, from the free, unsolicited address labels sent by the American Disabled Veterans to the free offers, free catalogs, free shipping, and “Buy One/Get One Free” offers that inundate consumers every day.

According to the Social Validation Principle, the tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it normally works. As a rule, we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accord with social evidence than contrary to it. Usually when many people are doing something, it is the right thing to do. Advertisers use this principle in showing crowds of people waiting for the big sale, telling us that people like us use certain products or buy certain insurance policies, and illustrating how a cancer sufferer is a mother, a patient, a wife. If people like us are doing something, perhaps we should be, too.

People first experienced the Authority Principle when, as children, they found that taking the advice of our teachers and parents proved beneficial, partly because of their greater wisdom and partly because they controlled our rewards and punishments.

Although the authority figures change as people mature, the benefits of taking employers’, judges’, and police officers’ advice remains. Compliance professionals take advantage of our tendency to obey authority by showing us people dressed in the trappings of authority recommending everything from headache medicine to instant coffee. People tend to listen to an expert’s advice if they believe the person is knowledgeable and trustworthy (Cialdini & Rhoads, 2001). However, proving honesty is not easy. To demonstrate their trustworthiness, advertisers will occasionally say negative things about their products before mentioning the positive attributes. By first informing people of the drawbacks, advertisers make people much more likely to believe all the favorable things they say afterward. For example, one of the most effective advertising campaigns in American history was the Avis car rental commercial that went as follows: “We’re No. 2, but we try harder.” In a similar fashion, Snapple ran a commercial stating it was No. 3–which meant it was free to offer customers what they really wanted (Cialdini, 1996, p. 56).

The Scarcity Principle is all about freedom. According to Cialdini, people love freedom, and when that freedom is threatened or limited, people experience what is called psychological reactance. For example, a person in a store may decide she likes a certain dress. If a salesperson explains to the customer that there is only one more dress like that in her size (i.e., the dress is scarce), the woman, who might have thought that she was free to buy the dress at any time, may now react psychologically by wanting the dress more than she did in the first place. Persuaders also attempt to use psychological reactance in their favor by making time scarce. For instance, by telling us that we must “act now” or that this is a “limited time offer,” advertisers are relying on the principle of scarcity. By limiting our time, they hope to make us more likely to purchase their product or service.

People prefer to comply with requests of people they know and like. So, in the context of friendship, people tend to say “yes” more often. This is at the heart of the Friendship/Liking Principle. Consider Tupperware parties, for instance. Research shows that when it comes to deciding how much to buy, party-goers’ feelings about the host are three times more powerful than their feelings about the products. It is partially upon Cialdini’s principles that this research was based. Table 2 summarizes Cialdini’s six compliance-gaining principles and the heuristics that define them.

Table 2

Cialdini’s Compliance Principles

Principle Heuristic
The Commitment/Consistency Principle



The Reciprocity Principle



The Social Validation Principle



The Authority Principle (Credibility)



The Scarcity Principle


The Friendship/Liking Principle



After committing oneself to a position, one should be more willing to comply with requests for behaviors that are consistent with that position. (p. 170)

One should be more willing to comply with a request to the extent that the compliance constitutes a reciprocation of behavior. (p. 172)

One should be more willing to comply with a request for behavior to the degree that similar others are or have been performing it. (p. 174)

One should be more willing to follow the suggestions of an individual who is a legitimate authority. (p. 175)

One should want to try to secure those opportunities that are scarce. (p. 177)

One should be more willing to comply with the requests of friends or other liked individuals. (p. 178)

Note. From “Compliance Principles of Compliance Professionals: Psychologists of

Necessity” by R. B. Cialdini, 1987, Social Influence: The Ontario symposium, 5, p. 170-

  1. Copyright 1987 by Erlbaum.

Because scarcity inductions may be the most prevalent compliance-gaining appeal, Brannon and Brock (2001) expounded the increased understanding of how scarcity works may provide a fresh conceptual approach to the entire array of compliance-gaining tactics.

However, as compelling as Cialdini’s (1993) description and documentation of enormous force may be (e.g., the compliance pressure that led to the mass suicide of Jonestown), he did not provide a theoretical rationale from which it was possible to derive moderators–namely, conditions under which the compliance principles would either fail to operate or operate in an opposite way. Instead, Cialdini (e.g., 1993, p. 8; Cialdini & Trost, 1998, p. 172) simply, and repeatedly, underscored the heuristic-cue value of compliance appeals–namely, their ability to instigate relatively thoughtless, automatic, responding. . Compliance-gaining situations may become conflicts when the target believes that the source’s request is not legitimate or when the source and target hold different perceptions about whether the target “should” comply. In sum, differences in individualistic and collectivistic views of in-group and out-group suggest that individuals from Japan and the U.S. are likely to manage face goals differently depending on the relationship the source has to the person they are trying to persuade (Cai & Wilson, 2000).

Furthermore, Cialdini (1993) may be recalled for his use of a “click-whirr” metaphor to characterize the automatic, mechanical responding of both animals (turkey hens) and humans (Langer, Blank, & Chanowitz, 1978) to certain messages (“cheep-cheep” of hapless turkey chicks; “because I have to make some copies” of impatient would-be copier users). Click refers to the onset of a particular tape and whirr to the rolling out of a standard sequence of behaviors. Cialdini suggested that people respond automatically (without detailed thought) to a request that resembles a reasonable request whether the reason given is weak or strong.

Throughout Cialdini’s analysis of compliance tactics, their mind-blocking character has been emphasized. For example, with respect to scarcity (one of the six major compliance appeals), Cialdini (1993) wrote:  Scarcity hinders our ability to think. When we watch as something we want becomes less available.., the blood comes up, the focus narrows … the cognitive, rational side retreats … brain-clouding arousal [ensues]. The advantage of… shortcut responding lies in its efficiency and economy; by reacting automatically to a… trigger feature, an individual preserves crucial time, energy, and mental capacity. (p. 16 and pp. 216-217)

Cialdini (1993) emphasized that we “need shortcuts” (p. 6) because we exist in such an extraordinarily complicated environment that we cannot be expected to analyze each situation we encounter in even one day. Instead, we very often use rules of thumb and then respond without thinking.

Revision of Compliance-Gaining Theories

With the wide scope of studies regarding compliance-gaining, the principal contribution here has been to question the prevailing heuristic-cue understanding of compliance appeals’ effectiveness. Since 1968, a convergence of several domains of inquiry has been researched: on the psychology of scarcity (e.g., Brock, 1968; Lynn, 1991); since 1967 (Marwell & Schmitt, 1967) on the psychology of compliance (e.g., Cialdini, 1993; Miller et al., 1977); and since 1972 (e.g., J. W. Brehm et at., 1983) on perceived difficulty and cognitive performance. The convergence then utilized the psychology of persuasion (e.g., Petty & Wegener, 1998). By capitalizing on the latter domain’s techniques for gauging evaluative scrutiny without direct measurement, a case has been made for thoughtful responsiveness to time restriction and, therefore, for the potential of such restriction to push recipients either for or against the focal request or advocacy.

Our understanding is, therefore, an advance from the prevalent view of unidirectional responding to compliance tactics and the consequent neglect (e.g., Cialdini, 1993, 1995; Cialdini & Trost, 1998) of the possibility of such tactics having an effect opposite from that intended. Heightened scrutiny, stemming from real-life time constraint and bidirectional responding to appeals, was demonstrated here. These demonstrations were carried out, not using the antiseptic environment and extreme independent variable levels of laboratory experiments, but rather using mundane time restrictions in the kind of natural compliance situation (e.g., pressure to buy a cinnamon twist) that Cialdini (1995, pp. 258-259; Cialdini & Trost, 1998, pp. 169-170) found so informative: observation of the behaviors of commercial compliance professionals.

Compliance-Gaining in Advertisements

There is a large body of evidence regarding the utility and value of persuasive strategies in advertising. In the paper of Arsenault & Fawzy (1999) they mentioned that Tom and Eves (1999) compared the effectiveness of advertisements with and without rhetorical devices, and found that memorial recall and persuasion were enhanced when rhetorical devices were used. Mehta (1999) found that congruence between consumer self-image and perceived brand image resulted in higher recall, brand rating, and purchase intent. Curlo and Chamblee (1998) tested a model that integrated attitudinal and learning responses toward different advertisements and discovered that ads facilitating brand recognition appeared more credible and yielded enhanced persuasiveness.

Finally, Wang, Bristol, Mowen, and Chakraborty (2000) examined connectedness-separateness dimensions of male and female Chinese and US college students, and they found that advertisements appealing to interdependence and togetherness appealed to more positive brand attitudes by Chinese and women students, whereas advertisements stressing independence and autonomy were more appealing to US and male consumers. The results of these studies indicate that recognition of brands and adherence to their message content results in increased persuasiveness of consumers. In essence, this research indicates the merits of marketing.

As we all know, Television is the most popular medium for advertising. Over 98% of American households have at least one television set, the average household has a television turned on for over 30 hr each week, and about one fifth of every broadcast hour consists of commercials (Bretl & Cantor, 1988; Kellner, 1990, Signorelli, 1991). Broadcast television receives virtually all its income from advertising. In 1993 (the middle year in our sample of commercials), advertisers spent about $26.6 billion in support of network and local television broadcasting, and another $2.5 billion on cable television (Coltrane & Messineo, 2001).

With the growth of cable, VCRs, and other new technologies in the 1980s and 1990s, a complex and shifting set of exchange relations developed among the advertising industry, television ratings firms, and broadcast and cable companies (Comstock, 1991; Jhally, 1987; Maxwell, 1991). Before the 1980s, most television advertising was mass marketed to a broadly diverse audience through a relatively small number of media outlets. Since then, advertisers and media firms have emphasized divisions between subpopulations, borrowing techniques from direct mailing, consumer tracking, and relationship marketing, leading to competing claims about the social impact of such practices.

According to Turow (1997, p. 126), these developments in advertising and marketing led even the largest media companies to separate audiences into different worlds and to highlight distinctions that advertising agencies said would make people feel more comfortable. By partitioning consumers and speaking to them differently, advertisers hoped more efficiently to market their products. Products, in turn, began to take on a more direct association with what marketers like to call ‘‘lifestyle’’ differences. This new marketing strategy emphasized social class differences, as marketers eagerly subdivided groups of ‘‘upscale’’ consumers with substantial disposable income, but it also promoted differentiation on the basis of ethnic and cultural differences (Wilson & Gutierrez, 1995, p. 252). Although segmented markets can engender a tight sense of community among people who share similar backgrounds, such differentiation can also promote suspicion of others. Wilson & Gutierrez (1995, p. 261) suggest that whereas television once acted to bring people together, it now works to reinforce the differences that keep them apart.

            Thus, it is not unknown that advertisements shape society by using stereotypical images to establish shared experiences among consumers, and advertisements mirror society by promoting stereotypes, biases, and the dominant values of patriarchal society (Cortese, 1999; Entman & Rojecki, 2000; Wiles, Wiles, & Tjernlund, 1995). Advertising images are often assimilated into people’s learned expectations of individuals comprising various groups, and therefore have the ability to influence individuals’ perceptions of and interactions with others. In particular, advertising images can reflect, reinforce, and perpetuate sexist and racist attitudes, opinions, and behaviors already ingrained within a given society.

Advertising towards Men

In his book Television Culture (1987), John Fiske discusses “gendered television,” explaining that the television industry successfully designs some programs for men and others for women. Clearly, program producers and schedulers must consider the target audience needs of their clients (the advertisers) in creating a television program line up. The gendering of programming allows the industry to provide the proper audience for advertisers by constructing shows pleasurable for the target audience to watch, and one aspect of this construction is in the gender portrayals of characters.

In U.S. society, hegemonic masculinity and femininity are thoroughly embedded in both society and the mass media. The culturally sanctioned form of masculinity is constructed as dominating, unemotional, and work-place oriented, whereas femininity is constructed as compliant, nurturing, empathetic, and directly linked with home life (Connell, 1987). Traditionally, the masculinity gender identity has been associated with the family and home life only in terms of how well men provide for their families. However, Gerson (1993) maintained that the male role in regard to family and home is changing as a result of the increasing number of women in the labor force. With this, Fiske provides the following example about portrayal of roles in society:

Women’s view of masculinity, as evidenced in soap operas differs markedly from that produced from the masculine audience. The “good” male in the daytime soaps is caring, nurturing, and verbal. He is prone to making comments like “I don’t care about material wealth or professional success, all I care about is us and our relationship.” He will talk about feelings and people and rarely express his masculinity in direct action. Of course, he is still decisive, he still has masculine power, but that power is given a “feminine” inflection . . . . The “macho” characteristics of goal centeredness, assertiveness, and the morality of the strongest that identify the hero in masculine television, tend here to be characteristics of the villain. (p. 186)

However, if the programming manipulates gender portrayals to please the audience, then surely so must the commercials that are the programs’ reason for being. Craig (1990, December) supports the argument that advertisers also structure the gender images in their commercials to match the expectations and fantasies of their intended audience. Thus, commercials portraying adult women with children were nearly four times more likely to appear during daytime soap operas than during weekend sports (p. 50). Daytime advertisers exploit the image of women as mothers to sell products to mothers. Likewise, during the weekend sports broadcasts, only 18% of the primary male characters were shown at home, while during the daytime ads, 40% of them were (p. 42). For the woman at home, men are far more likely to be portrayed as being around the house than they are in commercials aimed at men on weekends.

Thus, Craig (1993) explained that gendered TV commercials are designed to give pleasure to the target audience, since it is the association of the product with a pleasurable experience that forms the basis for much American television advertising. Yet patriarchy conditions males and females to seek their pleasure differently. Advertisers therefore portray different images to men and women in order to exploit the different deep-seated motivations and anxieties connected to gender identity. I would now like to turn to a close analysis of four television commercials to illustrate some of these differing portrayals. Variations in how men and women are portrayed are especially apparent when comparing weekend and daytime commercials, since ads during these day parts almost completely focus on a target audience of men or women respectively.

“Masculinity” as presented to a predominately male audience of sports viewers is quite a different thing. The physically aggressive brand of “maleness” stereotypically acted out on the basketball court or football field may help explain why sports programs are so popular with men and correspondingly unpopular with women. Messner (1978) even suggests that sports give men a chance to escape from what they see as the growing ambiguity of masculinity in daily life.

Craig (1993) further elaborates that both on a personal/existential level for athletes and on a symbolic/ideological level for spectators and fans, sport has become one of the ‘last bastions’ of male power and superiority over — and separation from — the ‘feminization’ of society. The rise of football as “America’s number-one game” is likely the result of the comforting clarity it provides between the polarities of traditional male power, strength, and violence and the contemporary fears of social feminization (p. 54).

The idea that images of masculinity found in ads during sports broadcasts are quite different than those found in daytime TV commercials. Women in sports ads were depicted either as sex kittens or as attendants to men’s needs (i.e. waitresses, stewardesses, etc.) The men were usually portrayed away from home, having fun, and not infrequently in some sort of fantasized escapist adventure (Craig, 1992).

In arguing about the issue of difference in gender portrayal, Craig (1993) noted that this is better illustrated than in beer commercials. It was discussed earlier how beer ads are nearly exclusively restricted to times when the audience is predominantly male. They also promote a product that, by its very nature, engenders an alteration of reality. As a result, beer ads are often couched as narratives of playful escapades away from home and family. Women often appear as sexual objects, often as fantasy creatures made available only through the intervention of product. Although the sexual innuendo is often quite subtle, women in beer commercials always appear to be eager for male companionship. Of course the men appearing in beer ads are also idealized constructs. The obese drunk is nowhere to be found in TV bars; in his place are young, virile men, almost always slim and white. They drink beer only in groups, as a “natural” part of male camaraderie and bonding, and often in conjunction with the participation in some sport.

Craig (1993) continues that “softer” male characters, so-called “reconstructed males,” also began appearing in prime time a few years ago, coincidental with the general “feminization” of prime time programming. Although some may have seen this as evidence that television had its gender consciousness raised, television economics offers a better explanation.

The appearance of more women-centered programming in prime time coincides historically with the departure of large numbers of women viewers from the daytime television audience to enter the away-from-home workforce. The “enlightened” gender portrayals of prime time are more the result of the economic motivations of the producers, networks, and advertisers to reach (and please) working women rather than any morally-driven social consciousness. Adding to the complexity of analyzing television gender portrayals, many programs are constructed with varying masculinities and femininities portrayed within the same program. This is especially true in prime time network television, where advertisers need programs that will attract both men and women.

Research on gender imagery in television programming and advertising has been more prevalent, reflecting the medium’s preoccupation with sex and female beauty (Jhally, 1987). Studies of both programs and commercials show that men characters are likely to be more developed and complex than their female counterparts, outnumbering them by two or three to one, with male voices narrating almost 10 times more frequently than female ones. In general, women characters have been more likely to be shown in the home, with men more likely to be shown outside or in occupational roles. Research consistently documents how television commercials present conventional gender stereotypes, with women shown as young, thin, sexy, smiling, acquiescent, provocative, and available. Men characters, in contrast, tend to be shown as knowledgeable, independent, powerful, successful, and tough. A few researchers suggest that commercial gender imagery became less sexist during the 1980s (e.g., Bretl & Cantor, 1988), whereas others suggest that conventional gender portrayals continued, albeit in slightly modified forms (e.g., Coltrane & Allan, 1994).

On the other hand, Hupfer (2002) divulged the confounding of sex with aspects of gender identity also has important marketing implications, one of which concerns the maintenance and perpetuation of stereotypes in advertising. They said the sex-specific communication strategies prescribed by the selectivity hypothesis function at a much more subtle level than those that revolve around female preoccupation with white wash and clean floors. Nevertheless, selectivity hypothesis recommendations make it clear that marketers should make use of what are essentially longstanding stereotypes that attribute independence to men and affiliation to women. As Bonelli (1989) argues with regard to sex-role stereotyping in fragrance advertising, women are depicted as “externally or ‘other’ oriented”.

To reach men, advertisers use “simple, ego gratification emotional appeals. These appeals stereotype men as internally or ‘self’ oriented, concerned primarily with themselves” (p. 268). In a similar vein, the recent Platinum MasterCard print ad campaign targeted females with a communal message and males with an agentic theme. The communal appeal features a woman and her mother seated in a pub, with the following copy: “plane tickets to the town where she was born: $1,200…train to the house where she grew up: $63…pints at the pub where she met your dad: $8…finally understanding where your mother was coming from: priceless”. In contrast, the agentic ad depicts a narrow gravel road in the Italian countryside over which is superimposed the shadow of a man holding a bicycle. The copy reads: “18 speed bike: $1,225…shipping bike to Italy: $235…map of Tuscany: 9,000 lira…seven days without e-mail: priceless”.

With the close correspondence between commercial imagery and program content, many researchers make the assumption that television advertising is representative of the stereotypes promoted by the medium. Putting aside questions about the extent of such correspondence, it is suggested that because television advertising is so widespread, and because it pays for the production of programming, it deserves to be studied in its own right. As noted above, television advertising contributes to widespread social perceptions through its framing of fantasy romantic and domestic fulfillment (Craig, 1993).

At present, men have become the major target customers for a variety of consumer products including cosmetics, alcohol and fashion. According to a study released by AC Nielsen, advertising expenditure grew by 20% to RMB 143.4 billion in China in the first half of 2005. In particular, advertising relating to professional service, health food products were most frequently seen. Most of the advertising, four-fifth of them, were done via television (Indiantelevision.com).

The advertising expenditure spent on men cosmetic and beauty products increased by 60% compared to the same period last year. Most notable increases were seen on advertising on men fashion and accessories, which increased by 80%. On the contrary, advertising on ladies’ cosmetic and beauty products, which had reached saturation, only had a growth of 10%. In fact, the advertising revenues on ladies’ clothing and accessories even dropped by 50%.

In addition, the advertisements related to other men products such as whiskey and brandy also increased by 350% and 152% respectively. Major brands such as Chivas, Hennessey, Johnny Walker, V.S.O.P. are gaining increasing popularity in China. They are using TV commercial to make a presence in the Chinese market.

            Advertising is one of the most pervasive and privileged forms of discourse in contemporary Western society (Leiss et al., 1988), and is arguably the most powerful indicator and manipulator of values and ideals (Bunce, 1994). Consequently, promotional representations of people and places impact upon the cultural geographies of our everyday lives. Studies thus far may be loosely grouped into three overlapping categories: place promotion; representations of gender, race and sexuality; and the advertising industry itself.

Selectivity Interpretation

To process gender differences, it is helpful to tackle the Selectivity Hypothesis. This hypothesis gathers that gender differences in information processing emerge because, under certain conditions, men are more likely to be driven by overall message themes and women are more likely to engage in detailed elaboration of messages, especially in advertisements.

Meyers-Levy proposed that sex differences in judgments could be explained by gender roles (1988). As first described, the selectivity hypothesis was grounded on the assumption that the male agentic role was characterized by concern for the self, while the female communal role typically embraced concern for both the self and others (Meyers-Levy 1988). Males were described as selective and heuristic information processors who relied on cues made highly available through salience or reference to the self. Research consistent with that of Meyers-Levy began to appear in the 1960s, with recent work proposing that males and females differ in the extent to which they develop self-concepts that are separate from or connected with others (e.g., Markus and Oyserman 1989).

Hupfer (2002) specified that men are ‘selective processors’ who often rely on a subset of highly available and salient cues in place of detailed message elaboration. Women are ‘comprehensive processors’ who attempt to assimilate all available information before rendering judgment. This model also suggests that women have a lower threshold for elaborative processing than men. While the model enjoys some empirical support, some of its predictions have not been borne out in recent research suggesting that there might be an alternative explanation for the observed gender differences.

Item-Specific versus Relational Processing: An Alternative Explanation

There are two types of elaboration that facilitate comprehension in alternative ways that research has tackled in the area of cognitive psychology. One type of elaboration, relational processing, emphasizes similarities or shared themes among disparate pieces of information. The second type of elaboration, item-specific processing, stresses attributes that are unique or distinctive to a particular message. Most of the observed gender differences such as male superiority in spatial skills and female superiority in verbal skills; male use of self-generated information and female use of self- as well as other-generated information; male focus on few salient attributes and female focus on intricate interrelationships etc. can be explained by such a processing dichotomy (Hupfer, 2002).

Implications for Advertisers

Several broad advertising implications follow from the observed gender differences. The specialized hemispheric processing by males suggests that they might benefit from nonverbal reinforcement (e.g., pictures, music etc.) of the verbal product information contained in an advertisement. On the other hand, the more integrated and symmetrical processing by females suggests that verbally descriptive messages might be more useful for such an audience. The rather strongly held gender identities suggest that appropriately targeted gendered advertisements might be quite effective, especially in cultures where there is a strong gender role prescription. While the use of gendered ads is highly recommended, how such messages should be executed depends on whether future empirical research supports the Selectivity Hypothesis or the Item-Specific versus Relational dichotomy. The Selectivity Hypothesis suggests that ads directed at men should be simple and focus on a single theme and ads directed at women should contain a lot of product information. The Item-specific versus Relational Processing dichotomy suggests that men as item-specific processors would value attribute-based messages and women as relational processors would favor category-based messages.

More recently, Schäfer (2005) reported that there have been studies being made on how emotions, memories, herd instincts and other intangibles all influence our buying decisions. And none of these factors involves the classic cost-benefit analysis: that we won’t buy something unless what we get seems worth what we must pay. Companies spend billions on marketing campaigns, but neuroscientists have determined which ads best capture consumers’ attention.

Currently, neuroscientists around the world are assessing why we respond to certain product advertising. Early investigations have examined traditional beliefs such as the one that macho imagery sells cars to men. Henrik Walter, a neurologist and psychiatrist at University Hospital in Ulm, Germany, showed 66 black-and-white photographs of sports cars, sedans and small cars to 12 young males while mapping their brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The scans showed that a brain structure called the nucleus accumbens was significantly more active when the men viewed the sports cars. This tiny region is a center for self-reward. It is activated by the signaling molecule dopamine and releases endogenous opiates — substances linked to lust and pleasure.

Walter’s study, part of work he is doing for DaimlerChrysler, is just one of a growing number designed to probe how we react to advertising and therefore how marketers might tailor their ads to target buyers. In the future, carmakers could ostensibly test which models or design variations within a model prompt the strongest emotional response.


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