Persuasive Advertising


Scott Armstrong seeks empirical evidence for a set of principles pertaining to persuasive advertising

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Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2006 15:56:10 -0400
From: armstrong <>

In preparation of my book, Persuasive Advertising, there are a number of principles recommended by experts for which I can find little or no evidence. Do the principles help to persuade? Can you send references (or papers) with empirical evidence for or against any of these?

1.4.1. Frame the advertisement in terms of benefits to the consumer.

When possible, advertise benefits rather than features. When Ted Bates was asked to work on the Colgate toothpaste account around 1950, the tagline was: "Ribbon dental cream – it comes out like a ribbon and lays flat on your brush." This statement contained no benefits. Bates replaced it with: "Cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth."

5.14.1. Encourage customers to do something related to the product.

Consider this headline: "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz." The headline was surrounded by ample white space. The caption at the bottom read, "At your public library, they’ve got these arranged in ways that can make you cry, giggle, love, hate, wonder, ponder, and understand." This ad by Bill Bernbach got people involved as they tried to make sense of the headline.

6.5.2. Use an unrehearsed testimonial.

Hidden cameras led to higher product ratings – Hunt, Domzal & Kernan (1981) presented 150 subjects with written scenes from a mock TV commercial for a clock radio. Some subjects saw a typical purchaser spokesperson in the process of buying a clock radio, while others heard a typical purchaser being filmed by a hidden camera. Subjects who viewed the hidden camera ad gave slightly higher ratings to the sound quality and accuracy of the clock radio.

6.5.3. Match the facial expression of satisfaction to the type of product.

Poffenberger (1925, p. 287-289) presented evidence from studies of five products classified as high-involvement and five classified as low-involvement. He concluded that facial expressions of the typical consumer should show high satisfaction for low-involvement products, but should be less expressive for high-involvement products.

6.17.6. Ask for an action step at the end of the ad.

In most cases, the time to act is after the person has read the ad. However, you might want them to start thinking about an action step early in the ad. In such a case, however, you could introduce the need for action early on, then repeat the action step at the end. [what are the conditions?]

7.1.1. Use positive arguments.

Advertising experts favor positive arguments. In 1921, Harry Tipper advised against Postum’s current slogan, "Don’t drink coffee," suggesting the more positive approach, "Drink Postum." It worked, according to Tipper.

7.11.4. Use high brightness to increase liking. (In the section on colors in illustrations).

This principle is most relevant for hedonic products.

High chroma was exciting – Gorn, et al. (1997) found that high chroma and high value colors elicited greater feelings of excitement

J. Scott Armstrong
Professor of Marketing, 747 Huntsman, The Wharton School, U. of PA, Phila, PA 19104
home phone 610 622 6480
Home address: 645 Harper Ave., Drexel Hill, PA 19026
Fax at school: 215 898 2534

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