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A m bien t a d v e r tisin g - th e c o n te x tu a l in flu en ce

on m essa g e p ercep tio n

A n d reea -Io a n a ROMONI-MANIU
Faculty o f Economics and Business Adm inistration, Babes-Bolyai University,
Cluj-Napoca, R om ania
M onica-M aria ZAHARIE
Faculty o f Economics an d Business A dm inistration, Babes-Bolyai University,
Cluj-Napoca, R om ania
Abstract: Through the present paper, the perspective o f the contextual influence on message perception is

added to the research on ambient advertising. The study employs theoretical support on unconventional
advertising, which helped us to conduct two studies in order to make a comparative analysis (traditional
vs. non-traditional media). The results of the study show that delivering a unique message in an
unexpected place is a key element in todays advertising strategy embraced by companies. However,
ambient advertising has a greater impact on consumersprocessing of the message than consumers
response related to an actual purchase.
Keywords: ambient advertising, ad creativity, non-traditional medium
JEL classification: M37

I n tr o d u c tio n
Advertising still remains a
controversial topic among re
searchers and practitioners. It
has become increasingly diffi
cult for companies to anticipate
changes in consumers percep
tions of the ad in attem pting to
be creative, exceptional rather
than typical (Baack et al., 2008).
Today, consumers life is as
saulted by a lot of advertising
messages in front of which they
may become either sceptical
about the purpose of advertising
or even irritated by advertis
ing clutter. No doubt, consum
ers are more sensitive when it
comes to the increasing tradi
tional media, avoiding exposure
to ads and having negative a tti
tudes on their content.
The current paper examines
the research field of ads from
the standpoint th at the devel
opment of new, unconventional
advertising formats is highly ef
fective in grabbing consumers
attention and even trust.
R R M - 2/2014

A m b ien t a d v e r tis in g - th e
p e r c e p tio n o f c r e a tiv it y
There is a long tradition on
advertising creativity research.
Recently, Reinartz & Saffert
(2013: 107) have offered an in
teresting conceptual shape of
creativity: Nothing is more
efficient than creative adver
tising. Creative advertising is
more memorable, longer lasting,
works with less media spending,
and builds a fan community...
faster. Sometimes the concept
of creativity seems to be a
m ust, a reality absolutely nec
essary for the companies, but it
could also be interpreted as a
fairy tale of the world of adver
tising, a story in which magic
things happen.
Last years have shown an ex
plosion of new, non-traditional
media ranging from aerial ad
vertising (sky w ritten messages,
balloons etc.) to graffiti, ambi
ent advertising (promotional
messages on streets, airports,

parks etc.) (Jurca et al., 2013).

Ambient advertising stems
from the word ambience th at
means surrounding (Jurca &
Madlberger, 2013) and creates
direct and contextual messages
by using or altering existing el
ements of the environment in
a way th a t is not expected and
it, therefore, surprises the ta r
get audience (Jurca, 2012). The
surprise could be effective if con
sumers are caught in their most
vulnerable moments (Kaikati &
Kaikati, 2004). In this way, the
promotional message is deliv
ered easier (Jurca et al., 2013),
due to the contrasting feelings
about environmental issues wonder, humour or intrigue.
Finding the right balance be
tween surprise and relevance is
the secret of a winning strategy
(Reyburn, 2010).
The development of new ad
vertising formats - be it dig
ital or alternative media, has
strongly marked the advertising
market. Digital and alternative

media share of total advertising

and marketing revenues world
wide reached 22.9% in 2012, up
from 13.3% in 2007, according
to recent reports in this respect.
Moreover, by comparison, tradi
tional media share shows a de
crease of 9.4% from 2007 until
2012 (PQ Media - Custom Media
Research, 2013). Based on such
statistical data, but also on the
increasing body of research in
terms of alternative media, the
question still remains as to why
is non-traditional media (which
includes ambient advertising)
perceived as being more effec
tive in generating remarkable
effects on consumers.
One of the main differences
between ambient advertising
and traditional media is the
larger ability to stand out of
the clutter and grab the atten
tion of the audience (Jurca &
Madlberger, 2013). What are
the tools that make the differ
ence possible? Firstly, ambient
advertising has to be creative so
as to produce a kind of effective
surprise (Haberland & Dacin,
1992). Ad creativity could wear
different facets, impressing
through originality and appro
priateness (Koslow et al., 2003;
Wang et al., 2013), novelty and
message usefulness (Sheinin et
al., 2011). In this context, origi
nality and ad relevance are con
sidered two important dimen
sions of ad creativity. Moreover,
when the ad is placed in an
unconventional context, both
originality and relevance are
perceived to be higher and thus,
the ad is more creative. Based
on the literature, some assump
tions can be formulated such as:
H I: A d originality is per
ceived to be higher when the ad
is placed in a non-traditional
advertising m edium rather than
in a traditional advertising
H2: A d relevance is perceived
to be higher when the ad is placed


in a non-traditional advertising
medium rather than in a tradi
tional advertising medium.

Although originality and rel

evance are considered the most
important determinants of ad
vertising effectiveness (White
& Smith, 2001; Koslow, et al.,
2003), being original or rel
evant is not enough - original
ity increases sales only in the
presence of additional creative
dimensions (Reinartz & Saffert,
T h e im p a c t o f a d m e d iu m
o n a m b ie n t a d v e r tis in g
e ffe c ts

The impact of ambient adver

tising and the role of creativity
in this respect are still contro
versial subjects that arouse in
tense interest among research
ers. Beside originality, the ele
ment of surprise related to the
context in which advertisements
are placed is the key of effective
ness and the priming effect in
ambient advertising. Surprising
consumers, the ambient ad cap
tures their attention through
generating a favourable discrep
ancy between what they see and
what they expect to see (Hutter
& Hoffman, 2011). In this case,
attention becomes the consum
ers first answer to the uncon
ventional medium that deter
mines him to analyse and reflect
over the advertising meaning
(Jurca, et al., 2013). Thus, an
other hypothesis reflects the
idea that ambient advertising
as a non-traditional media can
arouse more attention when it
comes to the role of creativity in
H3: The use o f an unconven
tional advertising placement
will generate more attention,
compared to a traditional place
ment o f the ad.

normally cannot be found in that

particular environment (Barnes,
1999). Consumers engage in
the medium and this further
conveys the message (Maniu &
Zaharie, 2013). Moreover, the
context creates imagery and de
termines awareness of the ad
vertised brand (Dahlen, 2005).
This context should make the
ad more credible, attractive and
H4: The use o f an unconven
tional advertising placement
will generate higher ad credibil
ity, compared to a traditional
placement o f the ad.

Creative ads should lead to

more favourable attitudes be
cause these ads are deemed as
intrinsically appealing to con
sumers (Smith & Yang, 2008).
According to empirical studies
to date, using an unconvention
al medium could be especially
efficient in creating positive ad
attitudes and increasing the re
tention of advertising messages
(Dahlen & Edenis, 2007; Baack
et al., 2008). Thus, a non-tradi
tional context should generate
more favourable advertising
effects - more positive ad atti
tudes or even a greater inten
tion to buy the promoted brand.
H5: The use o f an unconven
tional advertising placement
will generate a more favourable
ad attitude, compared to a tradi
tional placement o f the ad.
H6: The use o f an unconven
tional advertising placement
will generate more intention to
buy the brand, compared to a
traditional placement o f the ad.
R e s e a r c h m e th o d

The methodology of research

was correlated with the pro
posed objectives and hypotheses
to be tested in the following part
of the paper.

Non-traditional ads surprise

consumers by confronting them
with visual images, colours that
Andreea-loana Rom oni-M aniu, Monica-M aria Zaharie

S a m p le a n d p r o c e d u r e
The adopted research m eth
od was a self-administrated
survey based on an online ques
tionnaire. 262 participants were
recruited through social net
working web sites, being them
Romanian young students from
Babes-Bolyai University. A
convenience sample of 161 par
ticipants has been chosen for
the case of non-traditional ad
vertising, where respondents
were asked to imagine th a t they
were walking in the park and
the playground for children was

decorated with colourful images

indicating a known brand. A
second study (101 participants)
has followed the same method,
but using a traditional scenario
- a magazine in which one page
is covered with the same brand
M e a su r e m e n t to o ls
The dimensions of ad cre
ativity - originality and ad rel
evance were measured using a
semantic differential (1-7). The
items for each construct were

avereged to produce an index

(Cronbachs a = 0.915 for origi
nality and Cronbachs a = 0.834
for relevance). Attention was
measured using 4 items (Table
1). The averaged index of the
responses had a Cronbachs
a = 0.843. Three items were used
to measure ad attitude (the av
eraged index had a Cronbachs
a = 0.834 ) and other 3 items
for ad credibility (a = 0.807).
Intention was similarly mea
sured (Table 1) and the items
were averaged to produce an in
dex (Cronbachs a = 0.839).

Table 1. M easurem ent tools

V ariab le

Item s

The ad is unexpected/
The ad is innovative/ new.

The ad is different/ distinctive.

The ad is unique.

The ad is out of the ordinary.

The ad is original.

The ad is memorable.
The ad is interesting.
The ad is atypical.
The ad is commonplace (recoded).
The ad is imaginative.
The ad is unusual.
The ad is ingenious.
The ad is surprising.
The ad is exciting.

R R M - 2 /2 0 1 4

S cales

R eferen ce

R e lia b ility

Kim et al., 2010

Altsech, 1996 ; MercantiGuerin, 2008; Kim et al.,
Altsech, 1996; MercantiGuerin, 2008; Kim et al.,
Haberland & Dacin, 1992;
Altsech, 1996; Smith et al.,
2007; Mercanti-Guerin, 2008;
Kim et al., 2010
Haberland & Dacin, 1992;
Altsech, 1996; Smith et al.,
2007; Mercanti-Guerin, 2008
Altsech, 1996; MercantiTotally disagree / Guerin, 2008; Sheinin et al.,
Totally agree
Altsech, 1996; Sheinin et al.,
Altsech, 1996; Sheinin et al.,
Altsech, 1996; MercantiGuerin, 2008
Altsech, 1996; MercantiGuerin, 2008
Haberland & Dacin, 1992;
Altsech, 1996; MercantiGuerin, 2008
Altsech, 1996; Smith et al.,
2007; Mercanti-Guerin, 2008
Haberland & Dacin, 1992
Haberland & Dacin, 1992
Haberland & Dacin, 1992





The ad is meaningful to me.

The ad is appropriate to me.
The ad is useful to me.
The ad is valuable to me.
The ad demanded my attention.
I examined the ad very carefully.
I tried to carefully evaluate the
brand provided in the ad.
I spent considerable time
analysing the ads message.


The ad painted on the playground

for children is...


The ad painted on the playground

for children is...

It is possible to buy the promoted

Intention to If I have the opportunity, I
probably buy the promoted brand.
I will certainly buy the promoted
Source: table created by the authors

R esu lts
H aving established th e valid
ity and the reliability of the con
structs, the next step is to te st
the proposed hypotheses. To do
this, we compare th e resu lts for
traditional and non-traditional
m edium s, having in m ind the
significance of th e differences
betw een these two contexts.

Com parative analysis

- trad ition al/ nontrad ition al ad vertisin g
The analyses started by
sim ultaneously
MANOVAs (m ultivariate analy
sis of variance) on all dependent
variables (originality, ad rel
evance, attention, ad credibility,
ad attitu d es and intention). The
m edium was considered to be a

Totally disagree /
Smith et al., 2007
Totally agree


Totally disagree /
Smith et al., 2007
Totally agree


BadJ Good (1-7)

Favourable (1-7)
Unbiased/ Biased

MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989,

citat n Dahlen, 2007


MacKenzie & Lutz (1989),

citat n Dahlen, 2007


Totally disagree /
Smith et al., 2007
Totally agree

fixed factor. The purpose of th e

cu rren t study was to te st th e in
fluence of th e m edium in which
the ad is placed over ad creativ
ity, attention, credibility, a tti
tude and intention. The results
showed th a t th e m edium had
a significant effect on four out
of th e six dependent variables
(F (6,255) = 15,318, W ilks k =
0.735, p < 0.001).
In order to te st m edium im
pact on each dependent variable
separately (Table 2), we have
found th a t although th e differ
ences between th e two groups
(traditional/ non-traditional m e
dia) are not too large, they are
all significant, except th e case
of ad relevance and intention
to buy the promoted brand. An
explanation of these resu lts m ay
be th e fact th a t ad relevance is
not necessary to be determ ined


by th e context in which th e ad
is placed. Moreover, th e im por
tance of a well-known brand
m ight have a stronger influence
on consum ers intention to buy
th is b rand th a n th e b ran d s ex
posure itself.
Employing P allan ts (2010)
procedure, we tested th e influ
ence of th e context in which
the ad is placed. The m edium
h as the strongest influence on
attention. Testing H3 (Table
2), we compared th e m ean val
ues for attention using a nontraditional m edia (M = 4.4554)
and then, the trad itio n al m edia
th a t received a significantly
lower score (M = 3.2106). The
results suggest th a t consum ers
paid more attention to th e u n
conventional m edium in which
th e ad is placed. Moreover, a
non-traditional ad is perceived

Andreea-loana Romoni-Maniu, Monica-Maria Zaharie

to be more original (HI is con

firmed), but not necessarily
more relevant (H2 is not con
firmed). Furthermore, the use
of an unconventional advertis
ing placement will generate a
more favourable ad attitude

(M = 5.5837), compared to a
traditional placement of the ad
(M = 5.1373). Based on these
findings, a mean comparison
t-test for ad credibility also
supported the hypothesis H4
(Table 2). The differences in

the mean scores of intention be

tween traditional and non-traditional contexts were not signifi
cant. Table 2 reveals th at the
exposure medium of an ad does
not influence consumers inten
tion to buy the brand.

Table 2. T raditional/ non-traditional advertising

V ariab le

M ean values
C on ven tion al
U n co n v en tio n a l
m ed ia
m ed ia

O riginality
A ttention
A ttitude
N otes: p < 0,05*; p < 0,01**; p < 0,001***; ns = not significant
F (6,255) = 15,318, Wilks X = 0.735, p < 0.001
Source: table created by the authors

C o n c lu s io n s a n d
D is c u s s io n s
Advertising creativity is an
im portant element in the pro
cess of communication to con
sumers, helping the message to
break through clutter and leav
ing a lasting impression in the
consumers mind (Lehnert et al.,
2013). Having the ability to find
unusual and non-obvious solu
tions to a problem (Reinartz &
Saffert, 2013), companies might
have the opportunity to move
away from the commonplace
and the traditional routine that
classical ads are giving to con
sumers. Creative or not, tradi
tional advertising has become
too familiar and truly annoying
to consumers (Maniu & Zaharie,
The results of the current
paper show th a t a creative me
dia choice using an ambient ad
vertising as an unconventional
method to send a message has
a positive impact on consumers
response. To deliver a unique

R R M - 2/2014

M ean


0.246 ns
0.010 ns


1.506 ns
0.050 ns

message in an unexpected place

(Reyburn, 2010) could be the
key element in todays adver
tising strategy of companies.
Thus, ad originality is highly
effective in non-traditional con
texts comparing to traditional
ones. Moreover, consumers pay
more attention to the ad when it
is placed in an unconventional
medium and the attitude and
credibility toward advertising
are more favourable. However,
the intention to buy the pro
moted brand is not influenced
by the exposure medium of the
ad. Therefore, we may conclude
th at consumers response to am
bient media is an effective one
in terms of increasing attention,
brand recall, positive attitudes
or a higher credibility of both ad
and the brand, but not necessar
ily in terms of the intention of
buying. The main point here is
th at ambient advertising has a
more im portant impact on con
sumers process of the message
than consumers response relat
ed to an actual purchase.

L im ita tio n s a n d
s u g g e s tio n s fo r fu tu r e
A sample of students could
be considered inconvenient for
generalizing the results. In or
der to break this barrier of rep
resentativeness, we suggest for
consideration a larger sample
th at may capture a better image
of the effectiveness of ambient
Another limitation could be
related to the brand th a t was
considered for this research. On
the one hand, it is a well-known
brand and this fact could influ
ence the consumers perception
and on the other hand, the study
used ju st one ad for each medi
um - traditional and non-tradi
tional. In this context, the per
spective of other brands could be
considered for future research.



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Andreea-loana Romoni-Maniu, Monica-Maria Zaharie

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