Business & Society Affecting Adolescence: Scrutinizing the Link between Advertising and Segmentation
Agnes Nairn and Pierre Berthon Business Society 2005; 44; 318 DOI: 10.1177/0007650305278088 The online version of this article can be found at:

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BUSINESS 10.1177/0007650305278088 Nairn, Berthon & SOCIETY / AFFECTING / September ADOLESCENCE 2005

Affecting Adolescence: Scrutinizing the Link Between Advertising and Segmentation
University of Bath

Bentley College

The ethical credentials of advertising in regard to young people have been questioned for some time. It is thus intriguing that the same scrutiny has never been directed at the concomitant practice of segmentation. Market segments are usually assumed to exist quite independently of the targeting process and are thus not considered within the same agenda as advertising. But what if advertisers influence the formation of segments? In this postulate, firms are not creating a product for a segment but instead are creating a segment for a product. Advertising and segmentation become interlinked and the ethical concerns expressed over advertising must also be applied to segmentation. The article highlights the link between advertising and segmentation and presents empirical evidence that adolescent attitude/value-based segments can be influenced by advertising. If this result can be generalized, the ethical debate on advertising needs to be widened to include the commercial practice of segmentation. Keywords: segmentation; advertising; adolescents

Segmentation has been a cornerstone of marketing for half a century (Beane & Ennis, 1987; Cohen & Ramaswamy, 1998; Haley, 1968; W. Smith, 1995; Wind, 1978). Throughout this time, market segments have been consistently considered as objective groupings of individuals that marketers identify, understand, and target with advertising messages. The process of market segmentation has therefore occupied a position of
AUTHORS’ NOTE: The authors gratefully acknowledge the Business & Society editor and anonymous reviewers for their advice and encouragement in revising this article. The authors would like to thank the staff and pupils of King Edward’s School, Bath.
BUSINESS & SOCIETY, Vol. 44 No. 3, September 2005 318-345 DOI: 10.1177/0007650305278088 © 2005 Sage Publications


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the moral credentials of advertising— an activity no less central to marketing practice—are much more ambivalent.sagepub. 2000. p.Nairn. because of the cognitive competence of humans. the commercial use of psychographic variables to explain variations in consumption behavior is presented. Fifth. the debates over the effects of advertising on society are all implicitly underpinned by consideration of whether advertising compromises autonomous choice (Arrington. and as legislation around the world becomes ever stricter. Bishop. 385) or that. on one hand. First. and the mutability of attitudes. Waide. on the other. Those arguing against note. the results are discussed and the implications for the role of the business practice of segmentation in society extrapolated. because of the commercially competitive context of advertising. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 319 moral neutrality. 1987). as advertising is enmeshed in a capitalist system. Specter. a core assumption underlying the nature of market segments is challenged and three concomitant issues explored—namely. This article examines the link between advertising and segmentation and presents an empirical exploration of the role that advertising may play in the formation of attitude/value-based segments during adolescence. the consumer has a choice over what to accept and what to reject (e. we are equipped with the necessary faculties to decide whether to be affected by adverts (Cunningham. Sneddon. Fourth. 1982. As advertising spending by cristina leovaridis on April 22. and the results reported. 1997. and lifestyle during adolescence.. the research proposition is specified. Finally. the historical context of segmentation is explicated and the societal concerns surrounding segmentation discussed. it only presents choices based on consumerist-centered reality thus limiting the exposure to nonmaterialist lifestyles (Phillips. Shiffman. On the other hand. the empirical study described. 2009 . that advertising can make us buy things we do not want or that. 1990). THE ETHICS OF ADVERTISING Arguably. 1987. opinions. the ethics of advertising have been subject to 50 years of global debate. for example. it would Downloaded from http://bas. the stability of psychographic segments. 2003. 1990. Second. The article is organized as follows. values. pertinent issues surrounding advertising ethics are reviewed. Issues surrounding advertising to young people have attracted most attention. the effect of advertising on psychographics. Those arguing for the ethical acceptability of advertising claim either that. From the accusations of subliminal manipulation of the consumer by Vance Packard (1957) in the 1950s to the banning of advertising to children in Greece and Sweden in the mid-1990s and in Italy in 2000. 2001). Crisp. Third.g.

the segmentation concept has accrued universal acceptance by marketing academics and practitioners (e. O’Regan. Wind. Haley. C.sagepub. In contrast. Smith. 1968. 65). The underlying assumption is that the existence or composition of market segments is an objective reality exogenous to the marketing process.g. he proposed that “segmentation is based upon developments on the demand side of the market and represents a rational and more precise adjustment of the product and marketing effort to consumer and user requirements” (W.. 64-65). promotion. it is established as a value-free practice. 1978). this is not to say that business has not come under social scrutiny for the way in which it has used segmentation through the targeting of specific segments. For example. Tailoring both product and communication efforts to a smaller receptive audience has many efficiency and cost benefits over mass communications. or distribution strategies to distance offerings from those of the competition to create a competitive by cristina leovaridis on April 22. Smith (1996) related the public outcry Downloaded from http://bas. THE ETHICS OF SEGMENTATION The concept of segmentation was introduced into the marketing vocabulary in 1956 by W. During the past 50 years. Beane & Ennis. 1999. p. Perhaps it is no accident that the business community (particularly in the United States) felt compelled to move away from the effective use of appealing product claims at this point in history given the pervasive influence of conspiracy theory in general and the emergence of work such as Packard’s (1957) Hidden Persuaders specifically aimed at the media industry. W. Cohen & Ramaswamy. 1995. In contrast to product differentiation. The business case for the process of segmentation is clear. Smith (1995) as an alternative to the product differentiation strategy promulgated at the time. Product differentiation is generally considered to constitute a strategy that uses differences in product design as opposed to price. 1998. However.320 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 seem that the social debate over the business of advertising will remain firmly on the global agenda. Smith defined the underlying philosophy of product differentiation as “the bending of [customer] demand to the will of supply” where “variations in the demands of individual consumers are minimized or brought into line by means of effective use of appealing product claims designed to make a satisfactory volume of demand converge upon the product or product line being promoted” (pp. Such a framing of these concepts implicitly underlines the moral neutrality of market segmentation while hinting at a manipulative role for product differentiation. 2009 . 1987.

male. p. when a vulnerable group is targeted with a harmful product. 2009 . 1975). However. then Davidson suggested that social interests will always win over the commercial interests of advertisers (2003. Kotler. 1992. Clearly. 120) summarized current thinking on the social implications of the interrelationship among these factors. There is nothing inherently wrong with targeting. Yet none of this segmentation literature has specifically looked at the role that advertising may play in the formation of segments. which attempted to correlate consumer behavior with scores obtained from standardized personality inventories such as the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (Edwards. This enduringly popular approach has been around as long as the segmentation concept (e. The specific application of types of personality theory to segmentation research began after World War II when it was felt by marketing managers at the time that segmentation variables such as demographics provided only a nodding acquaintance with consumers and that customer understanding on a much deeper level was required (Wells. Kassarjian. Cowley and Underwood (2001) discussed the ethics of the marketing of Alcopops. Likewise. 1981. Sampson. 1957) and the Thurstone Temperament Schedule (Thurstone. Until the late 1960s. In fact. 1999. p. p. the application of psychographic theory to segmentation took two directions. 1971. (b) the existence of a group of the population seen to be vulnerable. 1975). 190). those based on personality.sagepub. targeting vulnerable groups is not pernicious per se. poor. Davidson (2003. 2005. what it may have an influence over is the creation or molding of what have come to be called psychographic segments—that is. it is a less wasteful practice than mass marketing. rich. 120). and (c) the selling of harmful products. First were the studies by researchers such as Koponen (1960) and Evans (1959). 1927). 218. The second strand of research followed the Freudian-influenced motivation research of Ernst Dichter (1964) where the concepts and methods of Downloaded from http://bas. 2004.. Davidson (2003) noted the disquiet over the marketing of handguns to women. A persuasive advert cannot easily make a person Black. This is a view independently backed up by C. p. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 321 over the targeting of “Uptown” menthol cigarettes and “PowerMaster” malt liquor at Black Americans. Kassarjian & by cristina leovaridis on April 22. 1959. Evans. White.g. Smith and Cooper Martin’s (1997) and Beard’s (2003) studies on the societal perception of targeting strategies. 1975. public information advertising to teenagers about safe sex has a useful social role. However. advertising cannot create or even influence demographically based market segments. and lifestyles (Jobber. which are blatantly targeting alcoholic products at underage drinkers. Koponen. Wells. or female. O’Regan. 1960.Nairn. For example. There are three factors that frame cases of this sort: (a) the practice of targeting. values.

1971. During the 1960s. On one hand. Witness the host of agency organizations that exist offering statistical tools to identify the psychographic typology of individual customers and to profile databases. the act of Downloaded from http://bas. divides the population into actualizers. To this end. a plethora of personality. As an example of these competing interpretations. and believers (SRI. 1971. Kamakura & Novak. the activity of the firm in advertising is simply to target or appeal to a group of people who happen to have a common personality type. However. and across Europe by GfK and RISC. bon viveur psychographic traits of the surfer who will wait many hours for just one wave and the Guinness drinker who is prepared to wait 30 seconds for a pint of Guinness to be poured.guinness. marketers are searching for increasingly intricate ways of dividing up the customer base to gain competitively advantageous customer insight.K. or “value” (Kamakura & Mazzon. On the other hand. 1974).com by cristina leovaridis on April 22. 1969. values. the assumption underlying all of these psychographic segmentation systems is that the segments have an objective reality. for example. innovators. Guinness advertising campaign from the summer of 2000: “Good things come to those who wait.sagepub. This is the current accepted view. and lifestyle measures are being utilized (particularly by database marketers) as a means of differentiating customers so that they may be targeted with finely tuned messages. consider the U. personality types can be said to preexist the act of consumption. Nelson. 1972). in fact.” The multimillion-pound execution of the award-winning1 surfer TV advertising campaign (www. “activity and attitude” (Hustad & Pessemier. “psychographic” (Demby. Systems are offered in the United States by SRI. In line with general segmentation philosophy. Pernica. it is our contention that such segments can be viewed as constructed rather than preexistent. strugglers. 2009 .com) creates an association between the laid-back. 2004). There are no signs that this approach to segmentation is losing its appeal. Under these systems. Quite the contrary. fulfilleds. experiencers. Tacit approval is granted to the surfer’s values.322 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 clinical psychology were applied to aspects of marketing. 1974). achievers. a synthesis of these two traditions began to emerge. 1971. this integrative approach combined the objectivity of the quantitative personality inventory with the descriptive detail of the qualitative motivation research investigations. as technological advancements have increased the quantity of consumer data and the sophistication of analysis tools. 1992) research. This symbolic link between brand and consumer values and attitudes can be interpreted in two ways. thinkers. individuals are classified in line with their responses to a questionnaire to one of about eight psychographic types. 1991. 1971. and thus. The Vals2 system. in the United Kingdom by the Values Company. Variously called “lifestyle” (Plummer.

then three important. genetically determined makeup or subject to change over a person’s lifetime.Nairn. what is the role that advertising plays in the segment membership of the adolescent? Consideration of these three issues leads to the following reflection: If psychographic segments are not stable. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 323 Figure 1.sagepub. interrelated issues are not considered. Accepted View of the Role of Segmentation in Advertising linking a psychographic profile with an already popular brand can be said to imply social approval for particular modes of individual thought and behavior. It is our view that as long as the scenario in Figure 1 is accepted and the alternative in Figure 2 is ignored. what is the extent to which the actions of advertisers (for whom these systems exist) can influence segment membership? Third. if marketing messages can alter Downloaded from by cristina leovaridis on April 22. rather than simply creating an association between Guinness and people who are prepared to wait for good things. The difference between these two views of segmentation is depicted in Figures 1 and 2. 2009 . First is the stability of these segments over time—that is. Second is if psychographic makeup is subject to change. given that the most dynamic formative years of human development are between birth and adulthood. the surfer campaign. and popularize it. whether a person’s segment membership is a function of a hardwired. Thus. encourage. the advert would be seen not to appeal to a surfer personality but to construct. would be said to actively create an impetus for people to alter their perceptions and attitudes. disseminate.

or values) is a stable and enduring phenomenon has a very long history. particularly among adolescents? This reflection constitutes the impetus for the research reported in this article. Egyptians. and lifestyle tendencies are developed between birth and adulthood. and Greeks and more recently to a number of European philosophers. then what are the ethical implications for the role of advertising in the practice of psychographic segmentation. they quoted the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) statement that Downloaded from http://bas. p. personality.324 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 Figure 2. In Kassarjian and Sheffett’s (1981) second review. A key commentator on the use of psychographics in marketing. 409) noted in his first evaluation of the research literature that the use of the personality construct can be traced to the Ancient Chinese. values. Alternative Interpretation of the Role of Segmentation in Advertising psychographics.sagepub. ISSUE 1: THE STABILITY OF PSYCHOGRAPHIC SEGMENTS The assumption that psychographics (whether described in terms of lifestyle. and if personality. Kassarjian (1971. 2009 . attitude and by cristina leovaridis on April 22. We proceed below with a discussion of the three issues upon which the reflection hinges.

Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 325 people tend to be consistent in coping with their environment. During their first review. This consistency of response allows us to type politicians as charismatic or obnoxious. 160) It appears that the assumption has never seriously been questioned.g. and impulsiveness with alcoholic beverage consumption among 18. it is unlikely that this would be the case. and colleagues as charming or “blah. However. Supporting this is the undeniable fact that psychographic segmentation has remained a commercially viable marketing consultancy tool for at least 30 years. these generalised patterns of response or modes of coping with the world can be called personality. it is worthy of note that they observed in the course of their second evaluation of research literature that “a review of these dozens of studies and papers can be summarized in a single word—equivocal” (p. Were the perception of personality as anything other than reasonably by cristina leovaridis on April 22. Considering again the influential work of Kassarjian and Sheffet (1981). 2009 . The flurry of recent headline research on personality genes (e. evidence can be found that psychographics are not as enduring as they may seem. Goldsmith. There is considerable need for further Downloaded from http://bas.sagepub. that these rather lackluster results are derived from improper research procedures. studies by Allsop ( 21-year-old males. links between psychographics and purchase behavior continue to be made. students as aggressive or submissive. emotionalism. A large number of weak relationships have been discovered but it remains to be seen whether this approach will ever enable the majority of markets to be segmented using a purely personality approach. and Eastman (1995) found that characteristics of venturesomness and novelty seeking might account for differences in the tendency to try new products.Nairn. In the interim. empirical verification of this association is still lacking. 1986b) found positive correlations of scores on measures of extraversion. rather. they did not conclude that the construct in question is mutable but. 168).” Since individuals do react fairly consistently in a variety of environmental situations. . they had already noted that. (p. But at the same time. For example. . . psychographic y variables only accounted for between 5% and 10% of the variance in purchase behavior (Kassarjian. 1971). if the psychographic segmentation literature is examined more closely. Interestingly. the stability of psychographics continues to be noted: In spite of high hopes and prima facie evidence that aspects of consumers’ purchase behavior might be closely related to their personality traits. tough-mindedness. 1998) that suggests that personality is hard wired and therefore fixed for all time is likely to entrench the position that psychographic segments are entities that preexist targeted communications campaigns by firms. Freiden. Nash.. on average.

Goldman.) are capable of effecting this manipulation (Kernberg. 1993). 1992) and ethics (e. or personality itself. (Goldsmith et al. then. research into the influence of advertising on an individual’s attitude toward and propensity to purchase a specific brand. Wells. 215.g. 1995. ISSUE 2: THE INFLUENCE OF ADVERTISING ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF PSYCHOGRAPHICS Let us assume. p. Sen.sagepub. the role of advertising in our social system has been rather more widely discussed in other literatures. advertising research has drawn most heavily from cognitive psychology (Costa. and research into the more general effect that advertising as a cultural phenomenon has on the underlying belief systems of individuals and societies. 1972. Downloaded from http://bas. p. 1992). we believe that there is certainly enough evidence of psychographics as to warrant further research into the area. This has further fuelled the channeling of the research stream into concentration on the cognitive effects that advertising has on individuals rather than the social effects that advertising has on groups. Because advertising was conceived as a tool to sell products and not as a cultural activity. most notably culture (e.. 2009 .. church.. Similar to other types of consumer research. The consistent weakness of the association between psychographics and purchase can be interpreted simply as a function of the pliable nature of an individual’s attitudes. 1977.g. although the psychographic segmentation industry relies on the stability of the construct. lifestyle. Let us also assume that social forces (peer groups. research (in the mainstream marketing literature. 1997). that it is possible to manipulate a person’s psychographic segment membership. Mick & Buhl. at any rate) into the effect of the message far outweighs research into the phenomenon. 178) If we relax the assumption that psychographics are fixed and explore the proposition that psychographics are fluid and malleable. parents. then these observations are less puzzling. In such research circles. 1987. 1953). However. 1995. on the other.326 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 research before marketing practice benefits from these concepts. and advertising research in particular has been dominated by information processing models ( by cristina leovaridis on April 22. school. Thus. etc. on one hand. But to what extent can we consider advertising part of our social system? It may be useful to consider at this juncture that there have been two foci for mainstream advertising research: research into the effects of the explicit text of the message and research into the effects of context of the advertising—in other words. Sullivan. values. Phillips.

consumer researchers must accept that advertising itself is a cultural product that can. 1981. Moore and Lutz (2000) noted that “one striking result of our initial interpretive work was the extent to which children reported attending to and enjoying advertising as a form of entertainment” (p. Willis (1990. individuals in Western societies became detached from traditional sources of cultural influence and authority such as families. conduit in the process of product consumption. More recently. 2009 . and schools. ISSUE 3: THE INFLUENCE OF ADVERTISING FROM BIRTH TO ADULTHOOD Having made a case for the malleability of psychographic segments and for the role of advertising in creating changes in the self-definition of the social individual. status. evaluation.Nairn. Society had to look elsewhere for guidance. a commentator on American culture claims that “advertisements are a pervasive part of the American aural and visual environment. 48) noted from his research on British youth audiences that the question. 274) Of specific interest to the proposition that advertising plays a role in the construction of psychographic segments is Schudson’s (1984) notion of a general education in values and social roles. p. “What is your favorite ad?” has taken on a great degree of cultural significance. p. 58).” and Ritson and Elliott (1999) concluded from their study of the use of advertising by British adolescents that it may be time to elevate the concept of advertising above its status as a complex. E. the social role of advertising has begun to appear in mainstream marketing literature. Instead. It is impossible to ignore their wider role in providing people a general education in goods. styles and art” (Schudson. 1984. p. 207). social roles. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 327 it is commonly accepted that after industrialization and urbanization. through by cristina leovaridis on April 22. and advertisers stepped into the social guidance breach. interpretation. we can now move on to the third of our issues— Downloaded from http://bas. Authors such as Holbrook (1995. values. 34). For example. churches. (p. If can be shown that “it [advertising] tells us what we must do in order to become what we wish to be” (Berman. values. For example.sagepub. and lifestyle attributes that determine psychographic classification must surely be afforded serious attention and the neutrality of the segmentation process itself called into question. 15) propose advertising as “an end in itself. then the effect of advertising on the formation of the attitudes. p. but nonetheless intermediary. ritual and metaphor conspicuously confer and convey personal and group meanings.

Robertson and Rossiter (1974) noted. Vance. p. The moral debate assumes that the audience is either stupid or manipulated—I find that patronising and I think viewers have enough savvy to work it out for themselves” (The Moral Maze. 1985.K. Stutts. cognitive capacity does not necessarily imply immunity from persuasion.. & Hudleson. 82).328 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 namely. 1985. recent work by Robert Heath (2001) on a low-involvement processing model of advertising has shown that we are able to process advertising messages without paying conscious attention to the advert. The assumption underlying this major research stream is that (given sufficiently developed cognitive faculties) we can choose whether to be influenced by advertising. 190).. 1982. “Younger children (under 8) without these cognitive defenses are seen as an at risk population for being easily misled by advertising” (p. 1977). During a highlevel debate on the U. Radio 4 Moral Maze Programme in 2001. 1982. 1995. & Petrella. Barenboim. However. 1981. 1980). Indeed. John. by 7 or 8. 2001). Palmer & McDowell. For example. 1974. (1981) concluded that “young children may know they are watching something different than a programme but do not know that the intent of what they are watching is to invite purchase of a product or service” (p. This is not a new idea as witnessed by the following early20th-century quotation from Walter Dill Scott (1903): Downloaded from http://bas. Bahn. that “children’s ability to recognise persuasive intent in commercials should not be taken as implying immunity to all commercials. Butter et al.g. & Wartella. a consideration of the effects of advertising at different chronological periods between birth and adulthood. The major focus of much research has been to establish when children are able to understand rationally what an advertisement is trying to do so that those too young to understand may be protected. clearly individual commercials may be highly persuasive for children” (p. However. almost all children can tell an ad from a program (Blosser & Roberts. Rubin. As with most advertising by cristina leovaridis on April 22. Selman. this distinction is made by simple perceptual clues—that is. specifically in relation to children. Robertson & Rossiter. 1993). children are aware that ads are trying to sell them something (Bever. This is a common belief. the literature on the influence of advertising on children is steeped in cognitive and developmental psychology (Costa. Levin. Ward. Blosser & Roberts. Wackman. 1981). It seems that by 5. However. ads are shorter than programs.sagepub. 19). 1981. Claire Fox from the Institute of Ideas articulated this as follows: “I don’t think adverts are morally good or bad. 1974. 1982. 1979. Butter et al. For example John (1999) stated. The abundant research carried out in this area all concurs that interaction with advertising changes as children move through chronological stages (e. Wells. 215. & Mayer. Petros. 1999. Stephens & Stutts. 2009 .

however. RESEARCH PROPOSITION The purpose of the research was to provide an empirical exploration of the role that advertising may play in influencing the formation of psychographic segments during adolescence. . (Heath. then it is extremely unlikely that the stronger proposition would hold true. 203). Shapiro & Krishnan. . and that the goods advertised had won her highest esteem. values. Second. As neither the strong nor the weak proposition has yet been investigated in the literature on advertising to children. it appeared that she knew by heart every advertisement appearing on the line . If. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 329 One young lady asserted that she had never looked at any of the cards in the cars (tram cars) in which she had been riding for years. The strong proposition would be that advertising has the power to create. the strong Downloaded from http://bas. 2001). Shapiro. First of all. the effect of an abundant research literature devoted to establishing an age at which persuasive intent can be recognized has had two effects of direct relevance to this article.Nairn. the research reported in this article could have concentrated on either. or personality traits. it has led to research being concentrated on children younger than 12 years of age (p. attitudes. 1999. Two research propositions suggested themselves—one strong and one weak. ab initio. She was not aware of the fact that she had been studying the advertisements and flatly resented the suggestion that she had been influenced by them. 2009 .sagepub. 2001. The debate over whether cognition protects from persuasion aside. p. an examination of adolescents and advertising. When questioned further. The weak proposition. on the other hand. 2002. If the weak proposition could not be by cristina leovaridis on April 22. the social role that advertising plays at different phases of childhood and adolescence has largely been ignored in favor of effects on individuals. as noted by John (1999) in her review of a quarter of a century of research into the consumer socialization children. would be that advertising cannot necessarily be responsible for the creation of psychographic groupings but that an individual’s classification can change as a result of exposure to advertising. It was decided to focus the research on the weak proposition for the following reasons. as with other aspects of advertising research. groups of people with shared lifestyles. 6) Furthermore. The research reported here thus not only examines psychographic segmentation in a new light but also serves to fill a gap in the literature— namely. the stream of research on implicit memory currently appearing in the marketing literature suggests that the dominant role that cognition plays in advertising effectiveness will continue to be challenged (Lee.

g. imaginative. 1962. and Year 9 (ages 13 and 14). “The romantic mode is primarily inspirational. Osborne. Holbrook & Corfman. Holbrook & Olney. As Phaedrus. Holbrook & Olney. Malhotra & Birks. If it could be demonstrated that advertising can alter an individual’s psychographic classification (weak proposition). Downloaded from http://bas. Year 8 (ages 12 and 13). 1984. The objective was to determine if exposure to different advertising treatments could cause variation in a participants’s psychographic type. The classic mode . The participants were 274 pupils from a U.. The research proposition was thus formally stated as follows: Advertising communications can create changes in adolescent psychographic segments. Nozick. 2009 . intuitive. 1995). . This index is a semantic differential scale that measures the extent to which an individual can be classified as romantic or classicist. by cristina leovaridis on April 22. this would be an important finding in its own right and would also provide good grounds for recommending future research to test the strong proposition. Jenkins. 1984. The split between the romantic and classicist is a familiar theme in the study philosophy in general and aesthetics in particular (Brinton. one could not be sure whether the weak proposition could have been supported. creative. 1970).330 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 proposition could not be supported through research. RESEARCH DESIGN As the research proposition suggests a causal relationship between advertising and psychographic classification.K.sagepub. 1986. 1981. There were roughly equal numbers from Year 7 (ages 11 and 12). is straightforward. 1967. an experimental design was utilized with a posttest-only control group design (e. Holbrook & Corfman. . 1995). Holbrook and colleagues have used the RC Index in three separate studies of the effect of the mode of thinking on consumer behavior (Holbrook. 2000). Feelings rather than facts predominate. DEPENDENT VARIABLE: ROMANTIC-CLASSICIST (RC) INDEX The dependent variable was the score derived from completion of the RC Index developed and refined by Holbrook and colleagues (Holbrook. coeducational senior school (high school). the hero of the book noted. The impetus for them to develop an index to measure romanticism and classicism came from distinction drawn between these two types by Pirsig (1974) in his 1970s popular classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Its purpose is not to inspire emotionally. It was also felt that adolescents could relate well to holidays. to daydream a lot” (romantic). whereas brochure consultation constitutes the primary element in consumer holiday decisions. The character assumes that these traits are fixed. pp. p. Thus. Holbrook & Olney. 1999. 1986. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 331 unadorned. unemotional. It was thus decided to use two different brochure treatments rather than TV advertising treatments. 1995). the more romantic a person is. 1974. 1998) revealed that brochure production accounts for the largest share of the industry’s promotional expenditure. four Downloaded from http://bas. noting that “persons tend to think and feel exclusively in one mode or the other” (Pirsig. The index has been shown to be both reliable and valid (Holbrook. Additionally. It was decided that a number of different pages would be needed for each construct to cover all 36 attributes of the construct domain. Holbrook and Corfman (1984) had drawn together 36 word pairs that defined the two constructs (see Table 1). The RC Index consists of 55 statements that individuals are asked to rate on a 7-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). economical and carefully proportioned. An RC score is then computed for each participant. and in this research. a consumer’s involvement with a holiday brochure does not usually consist of a fleeting viewing of pages. it involves a lengthy consideration of the pictures and text. These word pairs were taken as a starting point for the design of two distinctive sets of advertising brochure pages: one set romantic and the other classicist. the score was calculated as the average of the 55 items with a potential range of 1 to by cristina leovaridis on April 22. 2009 . it was decided that the treatments should consist of both a stimulus (brochure pages) and an involving task. 66-67). INDEPENDENT VARIABLES Treatment: Advertising Stimuli and Task As Holbrook and Olney (1995) had already studied the relationship between the RC score and holiday preference.Nairn.K. Secondary research conducted on advertising and consumer behavior trends in the holiday industry (Keynote Ltd. unlike a fairly transitory 30-second TV advertising experience. All members of the family tend to look at brochures in some detail before making holiday choices. The items consist of statements such as. but to bring order out of chaos” (Pirsig. “I am a practical person” (classicist) or “It’s O. To reproduce this experience. holiday advertising was selected as the independent variable. Instead.sagepub. In creating the RC Index. The higher the score on the RC Index.. 1974. Mintel International Group. 67).

analytic. 45). p.332 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 Table 1 Holbrook and Corfman’s Word Pairs Classicist Logical Literal Controlled Rational Conservative Factual Neat Orderly Precise Restrained Normal Mechanical Disciplined Clear headed Organized Punctilious Technical Discreet Timid Scientific Practical Analytic Theoretic Intellectual Masculine Definite Appolonian Conventional Confined Familiar Drab Formal Restricted Cultivated Reasonable Mannered Romantic Emotional Poetic Impulsive Intuitive Unpredictable Feelingful Messy Disorderly Vague Adventurous Eccentric Visionary Intemperate Moody Chaotic Slightly evil Dreamy Chivalrous Heroic Artistic Impractical Holistic Esthetic Passionate Feminine Mystical Dionysian Individualistic Transcendental Exotic Colorful Natural Spontaneous Passionate Sentimental Free Source: Holbrook and Corfman (1984. adventurous. by cristina leovaridis on April 22.sagepub. different classicist advertising brochure pages were designed to convey an impression of something logical. and exotic. spontaneous. and cultivated. neat. The first phase was the Downloaded from http://bas. and four romantic advertising brochure pages were designed to convey an impression of something passionate. 2009 . The design process went through three phases.

sagepub. (b) the content and presentation were suitable for the adolescent audience. The third phase was a quantitative measurement of the perceived difference between the two sets of stimuli. The second phase was a qualitative testing process to ascertain that (a) the two sets of stimuli really were distinct. and (c) four stimuli was a suitable number. 2009 . Romantic Pages actual creation of two distinct sets of by cristina leovaridis on April 22. Downloaded from http://bas. reliable. The final pages were shown to be valid and reliable in terms of their ratings as distinct RC stimuli. Thus.Nairn. school year. the designs were refined and a decision made to remove two of the pages (one romantic and one classicist) from the experiment. their major purpose here is to help reduce statistical noise due to bias from omitted variables. Classicist Pages Figure 4. As a result of the test phases. although not of primary theoretical interest in the present study. Control Variables The literature suggested that gender. and valid. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 333 Figure 3. and product experience were potentially important control variables.

School year. Holbrook and Olney (1995) pointed out that gender exerts important consequences for a variety of consumption preferences (Bernard. Given the developmental psychology literature that shows beyond doubt that children’s psychological makeup alters between birth and adulthood (Bever et al. Product experience was evaluated on a 5-point. Specifically. Rubin. 1995) have shown that the consumer’s mind is not a blank sheet awaiting advertising but already contains unconscious memories of product purchasing and usage. Treatment Group 1 was given a task involving exposure to the romantic adverts. could affect the RC score. Ward et al. and some of the differences may be explained by the different parts of the brain between the sexes that deal with speech (Moir & Jessel. 1985. p. Blosser & Roberts. in Holbrook’s (1986. 189). Wright & Lynch. Moore. Marks & Kamins. Gilligan. Miller. Thus. the processing of advertising messages feeds back to experience. 1982. business uses this distinction widely. and people oriented (S.. 1994). According to Vakratsas and Ambler’s (1999) taxonomy of advertising effectiveness. Product experience. interval-level scale. 2005. 1988. 1981.. It was therefore theoretically possible that adolescent experience of the types of holiday shown on the brochure pages could affect the way in which they processed the stimulus information and. with General Motors specifically targeting women with their Corsa range (Jobber.sagepub. 1986. 1976). It was thus essential that the experiment controlled for the effects of gender. 2009 . Robertson & Rossiter. Indeed.334 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 Gender. 1995) latter two studies of the effects of romanticism and classicism. Women are commonly accepted as being more intuitive. 1974. 1974. EXPERIMENT AND HYPOTHESES Participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups. 1998). 222) and the emergence of women’s online communities such as iVillage (Kotler. it seemed prudent to test for effects between each of the three school years. Group 3 was a control group that was not exposed to Downloaded from http://bas. 1977). it was discovered that men and women differed significantly in their RC score and that gender interacted with the determinants of preference toward travel by cristina leovaridis on April 22. Treatment Group 2 was given a task involving exposure to the classicist adverts. product experience constitutes a major intermediate effect in the processing of advertising stimuli. in turn. 1982. 2004. p. A number of studies (Hoch & Ha. emotionally oriented.

p = .sagepub. To reduce the possibility of Type I errors. p = . All three groups completed the RC Index (after exposure to the experimental stimuli in the case of the Groups 1 and 2). product experience (ω2 = .056) had a greater effect on the RC score than the control variables of gender (ω2 = . 233) = 6. 233) = 8.023). The results of the ANCOVA appear in Table 2. RESULTS We tested the overall influence of experimental treatment (advertising stimuli and associated task) while controlling for gender. p = . more demanding hypothesis is as follows: Hypothesis 2: µ1 > µ3 > µ2.001. µ3 is the control population RC mean. The proposition tested was that treatment (advertising stimuli and task) would influence a person’s score on the RC Index. product experience. p = . 1996) were calculated for significant terms. Specifically.055. p = . and school year (ω2 = Downloaded from http://bas. where µ1 is the mean RC score of the romantic treatment population and µ2 is the mean RC score of the classicist treatment population.000. F(7. were both significant. where µ1 is the romantic treatment population RC mean. This was formalized in terms of two hypotheses: The first is as follows: Hypothesis 1: µ1 > µ2. and F(1. The two-way interaction term Treatment Group × Gender was not significant. To ascertain a factor’s relative importance in explaining the variance in the independent variable(s). F( by cristina leovaridis on April 22. The covariates. and gender. 2009 . a second-order interaction effect between the fixed factors of treatment and gender was included.896. product experience and school year. and school year using a univariate analysis of variance procedure. and µ2 is the classicist treatment population RC mean. The overall model proved significant.369. 233) = 8.Nairn.137.426. with both main fixed effects having a significant impact on the RC score: treatment group.035). Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 335 either advert set. a one-way ANCOVA was run with treatment and gender entered as fixed factors and product experience and school year entered as a covariate. A second. From the ω2 statistics. The RC score constituted the dependent variable.004.021.001. respectively. F(1. 233) = 5. F(2. ω2 statistics (Fern & Monroe. we can conclude that treatment group (ω2 = . 233) = 6.

1991). 1991).400 0.004 .030 2. 2009 .426 2.056 .001 .156 . as it provides greater control over family-wise error (cf. We chose the LSD tests in preference to the perhaps more familiar tests such as Duncan’s multiple range test.192 F 6.137 1467. the LSD and Tukey classifications appear to the right of the group cell means.033).801 44. we supplemented the LSD test with the Tukey honestly significant difference (HSD) test. An examination of the cell means in Table 3 reveals the following with respect to the RC score.130.035 Note: R2 = . the cell means are set out in Table 3. .896 8.369 6. 1975).005 . gender.000 . school year.616 0.030 1.023 . by cristina leovaridis on April 22.336 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 Table 2 ANCOVA: Romantic-Classicist Dependent Variable Source Corrected model Intercept Covariates School year Experience Main effects Group Gender Treatment Group × Gender Error Total Corrected total Type III Sum of Squares 8.021 . and school year all have a small to medium effect on the RC score with treatment group having the largest effect followed in descending order by gender. as it is exact for unequal group sizes and is the most powerful of the commonly used a posteriori contrast tests (Winer.126 ω 2 . To inspect differences between group categories. In addition.15. As a further precaution. adjusted R2 = .156.927 df 7 1 1 1 2 1 2 233 241 240 Mean Square 1. The mean RC score for the romantic treatment Downloaded from http://bas.537 8. Malhotra and Birks (2000) suggested that as a guide to interpreting ω2.01. a posteriori contrast least significant difference (LSD) tests were employed to test differences between the perceptiontype categories (Winer.000 . we can conclude that group. Thus.sagepub. and a small effect produces an index of ≈ . 1991). a large experimental effect produces an ω2 of ≈ .459 1.687 4592.616 0. a medium effect produces an index of ≈ .05. and experience.177 281. In Table 3.038 52.459 1.087 p . LSD is a systematic procedure for comparing all possible pairs of group means and essentially equates to a Student’s t test on the dependent variable for each category pair that takes into account the number in each case (Kim & Kohout.645 1.545 1.545 1.033 .055 5. experience.240 281.323 1.

p < . the control group an intermediary score. and classicist treatment score = 4.000 .sagepub.5258.e.42394 by cristina leovaridis on April 22.011 ..3171 –0..e.000 . Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 337 Table 3 Treatment Group Means and Post Hoc Tests: Romantic-Classicist Dependent Variable Treatment Group Control (1) Romantic (2) Classicist (3) (I) Group 1 2 3 (J) Group 2 3 1 3 1 2 M Least Difference Significant Tukey (I – J) Difference (p) (p) –0.ns . more romantic) than the control group..000 . the classicist treatment did not produce an RC score significantly lower (i. The LSD and HSD tests concurred that there were significant (i. 4.45539 group was 4.ns . more demanding hypothesis produces a more ambiguous picture.. the LSD tests indicated that although the romantic treatment produced a score significantly higher (i.2087 for the classicist group.004 . DISCUSSION The experiment has produced two interesting insights into the effect of advertising on the scores derived from adolescents’ self-report psychographic measures. The second.1032 –0.3119.5258 0.Nairn.004 .47542 4. control group score = 4.2139 0.ns . However.05) differences between the romantic and classicist groups and between the romantic and control groups. First. it appears that romantic advertising stimuli can have a significant impact on the psychographic score in situations where corresponding Downloaded from http://bas.2087 0. This in itself is a major finding that lends some support to the postulate that firms may be able to create segments of adolescents as opposed to simply appealing to preexistent segments.5258.011 .2139 0. Thus.3119 for the control group.e. On visual inspection.2087). we can accept the first hypothesis: The romantic treatment produced a significantly (p < .3171 .3119 SD . Second. advertising stimuli can have a direct effect on the classification of adolescents.ns . more classicist) than the control group. and 4. 2009 .2087). the hypothesis held true: The romantic treatment produced the highest RC score. The difference between the classicist and the control group was not significant.05) higher (i.5258) than the classicist treatment (4. and the classicist treatment the lowest RC score (romantic treatment score = 4.000 M 4.e.1032 0. formally. more romantic) RC score (4.

interrelated issues were put forward for consideration. Had this experiment been carried out across a number of different schools in different parts of the United Kingdom by cristina leovaridis on April 22. However. or adults. 2009 . indeed. on the other. and which formats do not? LIMITATIONS OF THE EXPERIMENT Experiments of this nature are subject to limitations. and as such. This is an unexpected and additional insight. The first limitation was that only one set of romantic and classicist stimuli was used. The research is therefore exploratory in nature. The third limitation was the use of only one set of participants. its role within the literature is not conclusive but rather highly suggestive. The fourth limitation was that only adolescents were used. IMPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESS AND SOCIETY The purpose of this article was to put the established concept and practice of market segmentation under ethical scrutiny. namely. the RC score. Moreover. it provides a new direction for future research. this research has also opened up an intriguing new area of research. It is not possible to say with confidence as a result of this experiment that advertising can affect other psychographic measures. in different parts of the world. The primary line of inquiry consisted of examining the link between advertising (the ethics of which have always been questioned) and psychographic segmentation (a hitherto value-free practice). Which advertising formats have the power to change psychographic scores. this research appears to represent the first attempt to design an experiment to test whether advertising plays a part in the construction of the adolescent psychographic type. further experiments using alternative romantic and classicist stimuli would enhance the generalizability of the findings.338 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 classicist advertising stimuli do not. on one hand. both in terms of findings and methodology. The second limitation is that only one psychographic measure was tested. Thus. Although the validity of the stimuli was thoroughly tested both qualitatively and quantitatively. which indicates that the persuasive impact of advertising depends to some extent on the format of the advertising treatment. Are market segments mutable? Can Downloaded from http://bas. despite the limitations. It is thus not possible to say from this study whether adolescents are more or less affected by advertising than children. Three specific.sagepub. in addition to confirming the major hypothesis of the experiment. generalizability would have been improved.

Phillips. much of the research on advertising and children has centered on establishing an age at which cognitive defenses are in place. 2009 . the social implications are more profound than those attributed to advertising effects alone. 1990) examining the social role of the advertising process. 1992. In many ways. in fact. This treatment contained pictures rather than words: emotive images and bright colors. As noted above. this research implies that “working” does not just imply the encouragement to purchase but. This. Both marketers and consumers must appreciate that segmentation and targeting are not objective processes of identifying preexistent groups for receipt of advertising messages but that the messages themselves play a part in the creation of those segments. in fact. 1999. This research has thus made a contribution to the growing literature (Berman. then segmentation must surely come under the same scrutiny as advertising. It follows then that exposure to advertising is likely to affect the segment to which a young person is assigned by marketers. it is hard to see how cognition can somehow stop advertising working.Nairn. If persuasion is. classicist treatment reported scores that (although significantly lower than the romantic group) were not significantly lower than the control group. Those subjected to the romantic treatment had significantly higher (more romantic) scores than both the control group and the classicist group. Ritson & Elliott. Schudson. 1997. This implies that advertisers using emotion-based advertising are more likely to be able to influence segment membership or even create segments for the purchase of their products. wordbased. Advertising treatments did alter RC scores reported by 11. implies that segments are malleable constructs rather than objective. in turn. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 339 advertising messages alter self-report psychographic classification? Is psychographic classification malleable in adolescence? Within the confines of the limitations identified above. fixed phenomena. Consequent to this are important ethical implications. 1984. it is clearly very much less desirable for the values of whole groupings of young people to be influenced by commercially motivated 14-year-olds. Downloaded from http://bas. taking place on an emotional rather than a rational level. the formation of social value groups. 1981. Goldman. If segment membership can be influenced by advertisers. Willis. An unexpected finding from this research was that the nature of the advertising to which the participants were exposed affected the report of their own personality.sagepub. Those exposed to the rational. This finding has even further reaching implications for the social role of market by cristina leovaridis on April 22. Indeed. For although it is clearly undesirable for individual consumers to be persuaded to purchase unwanted goods. the experiment reported in this article has produced an affirmative answer to all of these questions.

340 BUSINESS & SOCIETY / September 2005 CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH The experiment reported in this article has provided some evidence to suggest that it may well be time to reexamine the ethical credentials of a practice that has been the cornerstone of marketing for half a century and that continues to sustain thriving commercial enterprise. F. L. The distribution of on-licence beer and cider consumption and its personality determinants among young men. 129-144. NOTE 1. Voted the “Best Advert of All Time” by viewers and readers in a competition held by The U. (1981). Channel 4 in May 2000. REFERENCES Allsop. Advertising and behavior control. Barenboim. European Journal of Marketing. 2009 . given the social role of advertising among adolescent groups (Ritson & Elliott. Personality as a determinant of beer and cider consumption among young men.sagepub. Child Development. J. (1982). Journal of Business Ethics. (1986a). The development of person perception in childhood and adolesence: from behavioral comparisons to psychological constructs to psychological comparisons. Sunday Times and U. It is clear from this study that being of an age to know that an advert is trying to sell something does not guarantee immunity from the effect of the message or its contextual implications. by cristina leovaridis on April 22.K. R. Downloaded from http://bas. 341-347. 52. First. Arrington. 3-12. (1986b). Adolescents aged 11 to 14 appear to be just as vulnerable to advertising as younger children.K. J. 1999. 1990). Second. a time lag could be introduced to this experiment to ascertain how long the effects of advertising exposure last and whether during a particular period of time scores reported by the romantic group would return to those of the control group. F. it would be interesting to explore if peer group discussions of adverts might have an even more dramatic effect on scores than the private consumption of the treatments. 20(3/4). C. Willis. Third and perhaps most importantly for the role of business in society. Allsop. A number of intriguing research streams are opened up. the role of advertising among adolescents (as opposed to smaller children) should be studied in greater depth. 44-62. Personality and Individual Differences. 1. It may be time to reconsider the current research focus on establishing an age of immunity from advertising and open up the ethics debate beyond consideration of those younger than 12.

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United by cristina leovaridis on April 22. University of Bath. Pierre Berthon is a professor of marketing at Bentley College in Massachusetts. Downloaded from http://bas.Nairn. 2009 . A number of his articles have won awards in the United States and in the United Kingdom. and the International Journal of Market Research. Berthon / AFFECTING ADOLESCENCE 345 Agnes Nairn is a senior lecturer at the School of Management. and management decision making.sagepub. She has published in the Journal of Business Ethics. organization and strategy. the International Journal of Advertising. His research interests are marketing information processing. Her major research interests are marketing to young people including advertising ethics and the obesity issue. He has written more than 70 academic articles.

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