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origin, distinctiness and skepticim toward advertising

origin, distinctiness and skepticim toward advertising

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Published by: kashif salman on Jun 11, 2009
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Marketing Letters 11:4 (2000): 311\u00b1322
#2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Manufactured in The Netherlands
On the Origin and Distinctness of Skepticism toward
Albers School of Business, Seattle University, Seattle, WA 98122-4340
E-mail: carlo@seattleu.edu
Department of Marketing, College of Business and Economics, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164

Two studies were conducted to investigate the origin and distinctness of consumer skepticism toward advertising, de\u00aened as a tendency to disbelieve advertising claims by Obermiller and Spangenberg (1998). The \u00aerst study examined the role of socialization in the family by comparing levels of ad skepticism across generations. Signi\u00aecant associations were strongest for female children with their fathers; less strong but apparent for male children with their mothers. Further, the associations diminished with age, which was considered a surrogate for time away from home. The second study explored the relationship between skepticism toward advertising and skepticism toward other sources of product information. The results indicated some overlap between skeptical beliefs about advertising and salespeople, but, otherwise, ad skepticism appeared to be a separate construct from skepticism toward other sources of product information. Moreover, advertising was viewed as the least believable of the \u00aeve sources of product information that were considered.

Key words:skepticism, advertising, intergenerational

A free and healthy marketplace relies on easy consumer access to information. To the extent that advertising provides information, consumers must not only have access to it, but they must believe it to be informative. No doubt information from marketers has always been regarded warily (caveat emptor), but recent research has focused on the issue of consumer skepticism toward advertising. Calfee and Ford (1988) proposed that the effects of advertising can best be understood if we assume that consumers do not trust ad claims unless they have speci\u00aec reasons to trust them. Calfee and Ringold (1994) found persistent evidence over time that a wide majority of consumers tend to disbelieve advertising claims. And, Obermiller and Spangenberg (1998) developed and tested a multi-item scale (SKEP) to assess skepticism toward advertising. The extent and nature of consumers' skepticism toward advertising is relevant to marketers who invest heavily in efforts to communicate to consumers and in\u00afuence demand through advertising and to

policy makers who assume some level of reliance on advertising as the basis of their efforts to regulate it. Both marketers and policy makers might bene\u00aet from insights into which consumers are most skeptical and why.

1. Background

Obermiller and Spangenberg (1998) de\u00aened ad skepticism as the tendency toward disbelief in advertising claims. They argued that ad skepticism is a stable characteristic of consumers that plays a role in responses to advertising. Virtually all advertising includes claims that are subject to some degree of disbelief. Certain kinds of claims are presumed to be widely accepted (for example, price information and retail location), but, consistent with information economics theory, we should expect consumers to have some skepticism about experience or credence type claims (such as quality, durability, or performance) (Darby and Karni 1973; Nelson 1974). Ford, Smith, and Swasy (1988) reported that 65% of ad clams were either experience or credence type.

Skepticism toward advertising is an important component of consumer persuasion knowledge (Friestad and Wright 1994) and a generalizable belief about the way the marketplace operates (Duncan 1990). In two studies we further examined the construct by addressing questions of intergenerational in\u00afuence on ad skepticism and the overlap between skepticism toward advertising and other sources of product information.

2. Study 1

In the \u00aerst study we examined one possible source of skepticism toward advertising. Obermiller and Spangenberg (1998) proposed personality traits, marketplace experience, education, and consumer socialization as antecedents to ad skepticism and found evidence of association with the \u00aerst three. In this study we examined the role of socialization in the family by comparing levels of ad skepticism across generations.

There is compelling evidence and argument that consumer socialization occurs in the family (Moschis 1987). Parents in\u00afuence children through modeling, explicit instructions, and controlled experiences (Ward, Wackman, and Wartella 1977), and numerous studies show intergenerational associations, including beliefs about advertising (Moschis 1987). Moore-Shay and Lutz (1988), in particular, found evidence for intergenerational in\u00afuence on marketplace beliefs, including the usefulness and value of advertising. Several studies have shown intergenerational in\u00afuence on brand and store choice (Childers and Rao 1992, Moore-Shay and Lutz 1988, Woodson, Childers, and Winn 1976). The evidence therefore suggests that skepticism toward advertising is likely modeled by parents and may be a salient manifestation of consumer socialization in the family. Skeptical parents should produce skeptical children.

The intergenerational transfer of ad skepticism may differ by gender. Buss and Schaninger (1987) identi\u00aeed `gender de\u00aened behaviors' in family consumption\u00d0beha- viors that are not sex-linked but are a function of socialization experiences related to


gender. Considerable research has identi\u00aeed gender differences within the family, and, although sex roles are changing, evidence suggests that females continue to do the vast majority of household chores, including shopping, even when they are employed (Robinson 1988; Solomon 1996, p. 402). In their analysis of Christmas shopping gender differences, Fischer and Arnold (1990) argued that women are still much more involved in shopping and that girl children, by observing their mothers, will learn that such behavior is appropriate for women. Thus, research on family roles suggests a stronger relationship between child and parent ad skepticism for female (relative to male) children.

Other research also suggests different gender intergenerational in\u00afuence for ad skepti- cism. Meyers-Levy and Sternthal (1991) speculated about the source of gender differences, concluding that genders differ in elaboration thresholds. They suggested that gender differences in processing and subsequent judgment re\u00afect unique motivations that evolve during socialization. That is, females' lower threshold for elaboration may be a manifesta- tion of females' general mode of processing information\u00d0a result of their assignment to relatively subordinate societal roles and their corresponding adoption of a communal orientation (Bakan 1966; Hall 1986). Indeed, Moschis and Churchill (1979) found that girls showed a stronger early orientation toward advertising. Additionally, Moschis and Churchill (1978) and Moschis and Moore (1979) found that girls were more likely to seek information from parents before making purchases, and Moschis (1987) concluded that females rely more on parents and on advertising for product information. More directly to the point, Cateora (1963) found that girls not only interacted more with family regarding shopping, but, speci\u00aecally, they were more likely to model themselves after parents than were boys. Finally, gender differences in speci\u00aec consumer socialization are consistent with more general theory in adolescent socialization, which proposes that our society puts greater pressures toward autonomy and identity on boys (Elder 1968).

Bakan (1966) and Meyers-Levy (1988) characterized gender differences in consumer socialization along an agency-communion dimension. An agency orientation is associated with males and suggests a self-focused perspective marked by self-assertive concerns. By contrast, females' adherence to a communal role emphasizes a broader concern with both self and others. Hall (1984) suggested that such gender differences develop because of traditional submissive and subordinate female roles in our culture in relation to dominant male roles. Eagly (1986) elaborated, arguing that females have stronger needs to under- stand interpersonal cues and foster harmony within self and among others. Meyers-Levy and Sternthal (1991) observed that women give greater consideration to advertising cues than do men. We believe that difference may result from different socialization with respect to skepticism toward advertising. This sex role theorizing led us to predict gender differences in the intergenerational transfer of ad skepticism.

2.1. Procedure

The data were responses to the 9-item skepticism toward advertising scale (SKEP) designed to assess a general tendency toward disbelief in advertising claims (Obermiller and Spangenberg 1998). Subjects were a convenience sample of 99 undergraduate students


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