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Sejung Marina Choi and Nora J. Rifon

ABSTRACT: Rapid growth in online advertising revenues indicates the viability of World Wide Web advertising as an alternative
to that of traditional media. Practitioners and academicians recognize that building credibility is important in this relatively new
environment. To date, no academic research has explored the interplay of vehicle and advertiser source credibility in determining
advertising effects on the web. The present study explores antecedents and consequences of online advertising credibility and
examines the effects of (1) website credibility, (2) ad relevance (the advertised product's relevance to website content), and (3)
advertiser credibility on ad credibility, ad and brand attitudes, and product purchase intentions. Structural equation modeling
systematically tested and refined a model representing interrelated relationships among the relevant variables. The results suggest
that source credibility is vital to understanding web advertising effectiveness. Managerial implications and directions for future
research are provided.

The Internet has become a part of everyday life. Over 160 concern for the risks of doing business online may be assuaged
million people are estimated to use the Internet (Nielsen by trust for an established, credible brand or company. Thus,
NetRatings 2002) for a variety of tasks including information online consumers are likely to seek out and purchase brands
search and entertainment. Since 1994 when the first Internet they trust (Moran 1999). Although marketers are still not sure
banner ads were sold, advertisers have been quick to develop how to develop and maintain their credibility or trust (Moran
the medium and reach their audiences. Internet advertising 1999; Smith 2000), dot-com companies spent a considerable
revenue in the United States marked $1.55 billion for the first amount of money on advertising in traditional media (Diaz
quarter of 2002 (IAB 2002), and although its revenues declined 2000; Fitzgerald 2000; Webster 2000) to achieve initial brand
18% from the same period in 2001 due to the slowing recognition and direct consumers to their websites.
economy and the subsequent downward slope in the overall
Practitioners and academics both have acknowledged that the
advertising market, Internet advertising is expected to
website credibility, and the Internet at-large, should be put
continue. In fact, advertising on the Internet is predicted to
into an equation of its message effectiveness (Johnson and
grow to $11.5 billion in 2003, exceeding advertising spending
Kaye 1998; Moran 1999; Rieh 2002; Smith 2000). However, the
in some traditional media such as magazines and radio (IAB
sources and effects of website and banner advertising
2000). Considering Internet advertising's growth, there is little
credibility have not been fully examined; indeed, it is not yet
doubt that the Internet is a powerful and viable alternative to
known if present theories of advertising effects can
traditional media advertising.
accommodate the medium.
With abundant information available to consumers from
The study presented in this article explores the role of source
ostensibly unlimited and often unfamiliar sources, building
credibility in determining Web advertising effectiveness.
credibility and recognition is an essential challenge to Internet
Using traditional advertising effects theories, the study goes
marketers (Elliott 1999; Moran 1999; Smith 2000).
beyond recent investigations of vehicle effects on consumer
Conventional wisdom is that credibility or trust is vital to
response to banner ads. Specifically, the study examined the
successful electronic businesses. However, the credibility of
effects of website credibility and advertising credibility on ad
information presented on the Internet has been questioned
credibility, ad and brand attitude, and product purchase
(Rieh 2002; Wathen and Burkell 2002). Although many
intention. The effects of banner ad relevance (i.e., product
consumers use it, the Internet is still a relatively new and
category advertised to website editorial content) on consumer
sometimes disorientating place for them. Consumers rarely
perceptions of the ad and brand are conceptually developed
find the face-to-face or voice-to-voice interpersonal
based on studies of the matching of celebrity sources to
reassurance provided by sales representatives. Nor are they
products (Kamins and Gupta 1994; Misra and Beatty 1990; Till
likely to find firsthand, physical or tactile experiences that are
and Busler 2000). A structural equation model of the variables
available through brick and mortar stores. For some, the

13 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

supports the use of traditional effects models; source often will intentionally seek information thought to be useful
credibility and website content/advertised product relevance for achieving their search objectives (Wathern and Burkell
significantly influence banner ad outcomes. The results 2002); perhaps not an easy task in the new environment where
contribute to the development of a theory of source credibility central control over information is absent. With no
and advertising effectiveness on the Web and provide practical overarching quality control or editing process, anyone can
insights into advertising media strategies. author or provide information on the Internet. Accordingly,
understanding consumer judgments of web information
credibility is an essential issue for the development of ad
Web Advertising effects models.
Web advertising has diverse formats. Sponsorships, classifieds, Consumers have been found to use cues available at the site to
and interstitials are among various formats of advertising on filter information on the Web. For example, the website
the web. Yet, banner ads are the most prevalent form of web provider's reputation and URL domain type (e.g., edu, gov,
advertising (Zeff and Aronson 1999) accounting for one-third org, or com) are among the criteria consumers utilize to judge
of total revenues during the second and third quarters of 2001 credibility of information presented in the site (Rieh 2002).
(IAB 2001). Some view banners to be the "ad for the ad" Consumer judgments of website information credibility are
(Harvey 1997, p. 12) because they direct audiences to their more a function of the website provider's credibility (viewed as
associated target sites (Rossiter and Bellman 1999), often the source of information), than by the perceptions of the
viewed as the "actual ad" (Harvey 1997). Target sites, which actual author or creator of the content (Rieh 2002). Likewise,
include corporate websites, campaign sites, and electronic credibility of advertising on the Web would be influenced by
commerce sites, provide a great amount of information that the reputation of the website provider. If traditional theoretical
cannot be offered in banners. Regardless of their physical approaches to advertising effects apply to the Internet, then
space limitations, banner ads have proven to successfully the perceived credibility of the website may affect the
generate advertising effects such as brand awareness, attitudes, credibility perception of an ad placed in the site and the
and purchase intention (Briggs and Hollis 1997; IAB 2001) as subsequent attitudinal outcomes of the ad. A useful approach
well as build web traffic (Li 1998). For this reason, they have to understanding these relationships is source credibility.
attracted the most attention by practitioners and researchers
Source Credibility
to date.
"Source credibility" is a term commonly used to refer to a
Incipient research on banner ad effectiveness essentially
message sender's positive characteristics that influence the
ignored credibility and focused on ad or message-related
receiver's acceptance of the message communicated (Ohanian
characteristics (Ju-Pak 1999; Li 1998). For example, one
1991), and source credibility has been found, in part, to
experimental study found that animated (versus static) banner
determine the persuasiveness of a message (Petty and
ads generated better recall, and large (versus small) banner ads
Cacioppo 1986). Source credibility perceptions affect message
enhanced viewer comprehension (Li and Bukovac 1999). More
evaluation, attitudes, and behavioral intentions; more credible
recent work has attempted to develop a theoretical framework
sources (often endorsers in advertising) have been found to
for advertising effects on the web (e.g., Cho 1999; Rodgers and
produce more favorable attitudes and stronger behavioral
Thorson 2000; Rossiter and Bellman 1999) with a shared
intentions than less credible sources (Atkin and Block 1983;
assumption that audiences might process web advertising
Freiden 1982; Friedman and Friedman 1979; Kamins et al.
information differently from that in traditional media due to
1989; Ohanian 1991; Petty, Cacioppo, and Schumann 1983;
the distinctive characteristics of the medium such as
Sternthal, Phillips, and Dholakia 1978).
interactivity. In response to consumer and practitioner
concerns (Barilla 2000; Quinn 2001) academic attention has Expertise and trustworthiness have been identified as
turned to credibility (Flanagin and Metzger 2000; Johnson and potentially important and enduring dimensions of source
Kaye 1998, 2000). credibility (Hovland, Jannis, and Kelley 1953; Ohanian 1990;
Tripp, Jensen, and Carlson 1994). Expertise is the extent to
Credibility on the Web
which a communicator is perceived to be able to provide valid,
The Internet has become an important source for information. accurate information (Hovland, Jannis, and Kelley 1953). In
Users encounter abundant and diverse information online, but advertising, it is the knowledge that an endorser or
14 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

spokesperson seems to possess to support the claims made in of the important factors determining advertising effectiveness.
the advertisements. Trustworthiness refers to an audience's However, the effects of advertiser credibility in the context of
belief that the communicator provides information in an web advertising are not examined yet. Given the little
honest manner, without a motivation for manipulation or information available in banner ads, well-known advertiser
deception (Ohanian 1991). Friends and family, for example, names might lead to credible perceptions of the ad.
are perceived to be more trustworthy than salespeople
Based on the findings of MacKenzie and Lutz (1989) and
(DeSarbo and Harshman 1985).
Goldsmith et al. (2000) concerning the significant influence
Perhaps the most commonly studied source in advertising is that advertiser credibility may have on a number of ad-related
the message presenter or product endorser, often a celebrity. constructs, the following hypotheses were tested:
Well-known people or celebrities are viewed as more credible
H1a: Perceived advertiser credibility is positively and
and influential than average people in most cases (Atkin and
directly related to ad credibility.
Block 1983; Freiden 1982; Friedman and Friedman 1979;
Kamins et al. 1989; Petty, Cacioppo, and Schumann 1983; H1b: Perceived advertiser credibility is positively and
Sternthal, Phillips, and Dholakia 1978). However, the process directly related to attitude toward the brand.
of advertising creation and placement involves more
H1c: Perceived advertiser credibility is positively and
communicators or sources. Stern (1994) extended the concept
directly related to purchase intent.
of source credibility by recognizing that research that focuses
only on the persona (i.e., a visible presenter in an ad) does not Although Goldsmith et al. (2000) found direct effects of
explain the broader picture of source effects in advertising; a corporate credibility on attitude toward the ad, the Attitude-
full model of source effects must include the sponsor (or toward-the-Ad model suggests the influences of advertiser
advertiser) and the author of the ad. Creators of ads (e.g., credibility on ad attitudes be mediated by ad credibility. Thus,
designers or producers) in general are not known to the no direct relationship of advertiser credibility to attitude
audience. Of particular note is that advertisers or sponsors of toward the ad was proposed.
ads appear to be an important source for ad effects Another source of influence, which has been studied less than
(Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell 2000; MacKenzie and Lutz other types of sources, is the medium of advertising
1989). placement. Consumer perceptions of a medium in general,
Advertiser Credibility and the particular vehicles (in this case websites) of ad
placement would be expected to have effects on consumer
Recently, advertiser or corporate credibility has received close
responses to an ad.
attention (Goldberg and Hartwick 1990; Goldsmith, Lafferty.
and Newell 2000; Lafferty and Goldsmith 1999). Corporate Vehicle Source Effects: Website Credibility
credibility is defined as "the extent to which consumers believe Advertisements do not appear alone. Mass media
that a firm can design and deliver products and services that advertisements typically appear embedded in a non-
satisfy customer needs and wants" (Keller 1998, p. 426), and advertising (i.e., editorial or programming) context within a
has been found to have direct, positive effects on attitude medium and vehicle. Vehicle source effect is "a measure of the
toward the ad, attitude toward the brand, and purchase intent relative value of an ad exposure as a function of the exposed
(Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell 2000). In some Attitude- vehicle" (Aaker and Brown 1972). That is, it represents the
toward-the-Ad research, advertiser credibility, defined as "the differential effect that an ad exposure will have on an audience
perceived truthfulness or honesty of the sponsor of the ad," exposed in one vehicle as compared to that exposed in
appeared to exert a strong effect on attitude toward the ad by another. Several empirical studies have shown that different
enhancing ad credibility sponsored by the company or vehicles can influence the persuasiveness of the same ad
advertiser (MacKenzie and Lutz 1989, p. 51). Ad credibility (Aaker and Brown 1972; Freiden 1982; Winick 1962). High-
refers to the extent to which consumers perceive the message status vehicles are in general more effective than low-status
in the ad to be believable, and is based largely on "the trust a vehicles in producing positive advertising outcomes.
consumer places in the source of that particular ad" (the
credibility of the advertiser) (MacKenzie and Lutz 1989, p. 61). These vehicle effects evidenced in traditional media, most
Accordingly, advertiser credibility has been identified as one notably the creation of credibility perceptions, reasonably
15 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

could be expected for banner ads on the web as well influences consumer responses to the ads and the advertised
(Shamdasani, Stanaland, and Tan 2001). Consumers are product. Along with vehicle source effects, effects of the
presented with thousands of websites when searching for context or environment of the vehicle in which ads are
information and they can easily move from one site to another embedded have been suggested in conventional media.
sometimes even accidentally by clicking on links. Unlike in
Context Effects: Relevance Between Website Content and
conventional media such as newspapers and magazines,
Advertised Product
consumers have instant access to a huge number of vehicle
sources on the web. With the large number of websites Research has shown that an advertiser or endorser delivering
available, consumers tend to seek credible information the same advertising message to the same audience can
provided by well-established websites. In addition, since generate different effects depending on the ad environment -
banner ads are inherently short on information, it is more the context in which the ad is embedded (Aaker and Brown
likely that people might use other cues available at the time of 1972; Chaiken and Stangor 1987). Context can influence
processing (e.g., vehicle source or site provider) to make audience perceptions of the ad and the advertised product.
judgments of the ads. Indeed, website reputation has been When the advertised product fits well with the context, the
found to serve as a cue for consumer inference-making about content presented in the environment, the audience is likely to
the content carried in the site including the ads appearing in find the ads more useful and interesting. Individuals are more
the website (Hermes 1996; Shamdasani, Stanaland, and Tan likely to use vehicles that meet their special interests or
2001). informational needs within a medium. Correspondingly, ads
that promote products that are relevant to the content of the
Shamdasani, Stanaland, and Tan (2001) assessed three-way
vehicle in which the ads appear would induce more positive
interaction effects between website reputation, advertised
audience responses.
product/website content relevance, and product involvement.
The results suggest that consumer evaluations of banner ads Relevancy between content of a vehicle (i.e., website) and the
for low-involvement products are mainly determined by product category of banner ads placed in the site has been
website reputation, whereas the effectiveness of the banner ads found to enhance consumer responses to banner ads (Cho
for high-involvement products is enhanced by relevance 1999; Shamdasani, Stanaland, and Tan 2001). Research on
between the advertised product category and content of the celebrity endorsers in advertising also provides evidence that a
host site. Of note is that both website reputation and relevance good match or congruence between source and product leads
were found to have positive effects on the dependent variables to more positive ad and brand evaluations (Kamins and Gupta
(i.e., attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the brand, 1994; Kamins et al. 1989; Till and Busler 2000). Perhaps the
intention to click on banner ads, and purchase intention). expertise dimension of source credibility can explain relevance
Accordingly, website credibility was expected to lead to or congruence effects. That is, if the site is considered as
favorable advertising outcomes and the following hypotheses reputable or prestigious, the relevance or compatibility
were tested to assess the effects of the website credibility on ad between the content of the site and the product category
and brand evaluations. The credibility perceptions of the extends the credible image of the source, which is perceived as
website were hypothesized to have a direct effect on ad an expert by the consumer. People might be more likely to
credibility that in turn influences attitude toward the ad perceive the placement of the ad as the vehicle's approval of or
(MacKenzie and Lutz 1989). endorsement for the product if they notice a congruent fit
between the expertise of the source (i.e., website provider) and
H2a: Perceived site credibility is positively and directly
the product category. Relevance or congruence between the
related to ad credibility.
content of the site and the advertised product was predicted to
H2b: Perceived site credibility is positively and directly influence consumer credibility perceptions of the ad as well as
related to attitude toward the brand. brand attitudes and purchase intent, and the following
hypotheses were proposed to test the expected relationships.
H2c: Perceived site credibility is positively and directly
related to purchase intent. H3a: Relevance between the content of the site and the
advertised product on the site is positively and directly
As evidenced in Shamdasani, Stanaland, and Tan's study
related to ad credibility.
(2001), content of the website in which banner ads appear
16 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

H3b: Relevance is positively and directly related to METHOD

attitude toward the brand.
Websites and Banner Ads
H3c: Relevance is positively and directly related to
The current study measured online consumer responses to a
purchase intent.
realistic banner ad appearing in a created website. For this
Attitudes toward the ad and the brand and purchase intention purpose, eight versions of websites and banner ads were
have long been examined as advertising outcome variables. professionally developed to reflect several cases of banner ad
The aforementioned roles of website credibility and website placement. A concern of this study was to generate variations
content/advertised product category relevance have been in consumers' credibility perceptions to detect the structural
discussed in enhancing credibility perceptions of the ad, brand relationships of the relevant components in the proposed
attitudes, and purchase intention. However, they are also model. Correspondingly, two online photojournalism
expected to exert indirect influences on attitude toward the ad magazine sites with an editorial feature and two banner ads
through ad credibility, as evidenced in the Attitude-toward- were developed. "LIFE" was chosen as a well-established online
the-Ad study (MacKenzie and Lutz 1989). In addition, the magazine and a real but barely known magazine site "foto8"
interrelationships among ad attitudes, brand attitudes, and was selected from a search on the Internet as a less known
purchase intent have been suggested and tested in prior vehicle. To create a more "realistic" exposure setting, the
research. Many studies have assessed the effects of attitude content of the website, a feature story about digital
toward the ad on attitude toward the brand that subsequently photography was chosen for its easiness to read and expected
influences purchase intent (Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell personal relevance to the participants (i.e., college students) in
2000; MacKenzie and Lutz 1989; MacKenzie, Lutz, and Belch the study.
1986). Thus, the following hypotheses are put forth to create a
The banner ads featured a digital camera or an MP3 player.
more comprehensive picture of the relationships among the
These product categories were selected for their relevance and
variables, and explain ad effectiveness more completely.
availability to the study participants. Digital cameras were
H4a: Ad credibility positively and directly relates to expected to more closely relate to the content of the website
attitude toward the ad. (high relevance) than MP3 players (low relevance). Kodak and
Sony were selected as reputable advertisers for the digital
H4b: Attitude toward the ad positively and directly relates
camera and MP3 player ads respectively. A fictitious
to attitude toward the brand.
advertiser, Keica was used to represent the case of an unknown
H4c: Attitude toward the brand positively and directly or unfamiliar advertiser promoting its products online. A
relates to purchase intentions. fictitious, neutral, brand name, MX5200 was used for both
products in all of the banners, as a newly introduced brand to
The Study
prevent any possible effects of prior experience or knowledge
A study was undertaken to examine source effects in the web with real brands. The rectangular-type banner ads were placed
advertising process. Although the issue of credibility on the on the top of the front pages of the websites. Participants saw
web has received increased attention due to consumer one of the eight versions of the materials. Four banners used
uncertainty and security concerns, research on what for the study are shown in Appendix A.
determines perceived web ad credibility is scant. The purpose
of the present study was to systematically assess the effects of
advertiser credibility, website credibility, and website A total of 294 male (45%) and female (55%) students
content/advertised product category relevance on the participated in the study. Subjects were recruited from
subsequent ad outcome variables: ad credibility perceptions, undergraduate courses at a Midwestern university. The
attitudes toward the ad/the brand, and purchase intent. courses were campus-wide electives so that the participants
Toward this end, a model was constructed with the represented a variety of majors and backgrounds. Their ages
hypothesized causal relationships among the variables (Figure ranged from 18 to 28 years, with an average of 21 years. Over
1). Structural equation modeling systematically and 90 percent of the participants were single and Caucasians.
simultaneously tested the interrelated, structural linkages and Missing data were treated with listwise deletion of cases and a
provided a comprehensive understanding of the process. final sample size of 267 was used for analysis.
17 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

Procedure known or unknown, familiarity scores were obtained to assess

differences between the two types of websites or advertisers
The study was administered in groups of 10-20 in a computer
respectively. Next, the effects of advertiser/website familiarity
lab on campus. Participants were asked to browse one of the
and relevance were tested using ANOVAs.
eight varieties of the websites as they normally would. After 5
to 10 minutes passed, they turned off the monitor and filled Subsequently, to better understand interrelationships between
out a paper-pencil questionnaire. Upon completing each the constructs of interest, a proposed structural equation
session, they were debriefed and dismissed. model was tested and retested with AMOS 4, using the two-
step model-building approach that tests the measurement
model before examining the hypothesized structural linkages
Most of the measures employed here were adapted from (Anderson and Gerbing 1988). A measurement model that
relevant research and have been commonly used in the included latent constructs was first analyzed. As the next step,
domain of this topic. Attitudes toward the ad and the brand the proposed model with hypothesized relationships was
were measured on a three-item, seven-point semantic tested and refined through a series of tests in an attempt to
differential scale. The items were anchored by "good/bad," better explain the data. A final, modified model is presented as
"pleasant/unpleasant," and "favorable/unfavorable" a result.
(MacKenzie and Lutz 1989). The scales were found to be
Testing Differences across Conditions
reliable (ad attitudes: = .90; brand attitudes: = .88). Credibility
perceptions of the website were assessed on a three-item, T-test results on website familiarity and involvement with the
seven-point semantic differential scale by asking how website content showed no significant differences between the
"believable/ unbelievable," "convincing/unconvincing," and two websites (website familiarity t = .45, df = 265, p > .1;
"credible/not credible" participants thought the website was content involvement t = .57, df = 265, p > .1). However,
(MacKenzie and Lutz 1989). This website credibility scale another t-test indicated that known advertisers were
appeared to be less reliable ( = .73). It may be because website significantly more familiar to the participants (M = 6.28) than
credibility has never been measured on the scale although it the unknown advertiser (M = 2.9; t = 20.28, df = 265, p < .01).
was employed as a relevant measure. Advertiser credibility ( = Significant differences in perceived relevance between the
.92) was assessed on a six-item, seven-point semantic advertised product and the website content was also found
differential scale anchored by "believable/unbelievable," between the two product categories by using a t-test (digital
"credible/not credible," "trustworthy/not trustworthy," camera M = 5.86; MP3 player M = 4.28; t = 9.40, df = 265, p <
"dependable/not dependable," "reliable/unreliable," and .01), although the relevance scores for both products were
"reputable/unreputable" (Lafferty and Goldsmith 1999; above the mid-point on the scale.
MacKenzie and Lutz 1989). Purchase intention was measured
A series of ANOVAs were performed to examine differences
on a two-item, five-point Likert scale ( = .78). Relevance
in scores on the variables of interest across the eight versions
between advertised product and website content was measured
of the materials. The results showed no significant differences
on a four-item, seven-point, semantic differential scale with
(p > .05) in the measures depending on the varieties of the
endpoints of "compatible/not compatible," "good fit/bad fit,"
materials the participants were exposed to. One exception was
"relevant/irrelevant," and "congruent/not congruent"
advertiser credibility; the known advertisers were viewed to be
(Shamdasani, Stanaland, and Tan 2001; Till and Busler 2001).
more credible (M = 5.77) than the unknown advertiser (M =
The scale was found to be reliable ( = .94).
4.67; F(1, 259) = 85.80, p < .01), although the unknown
DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS advertiser was also deemed relatively credible as the rating was
above the mid-point on the 7-point scale. Although advertiser
credibility was found to vary with advertiser types, the
Before testing the proposed hypotheses, initial analyses ANOVA results did not indicate significant differences in the
examined differences that resulted from the different versions other relevant variables (i.e., ad credibility, ad attitudes, brand
of the materials shown to the participants. No information on attitudes, and purchase intent) based on the two advertiser
the websites and advertisers were provided and thus the conditions. Given the non-significant differences among the
subjects' evaluations of them were expected to rely on their materials, structural equation modeling was pursued to test
own judgment. Since the websites and advertisers were either the proposed hypotheses and investigate the interrelationships
18 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

among the relevant constructs. Differences in the advertiser Table 3. Factor Loadings of Indicators of Latent Constructs
credibility perceptions were expected to generate variations in
the construct of advertiser credibility that was hypothesized to
subsequently influence the other variables in the model.
Testing the Measurement Model
The measurement model was tested in the first step. The
means, standard deviations and scale reliabilities of each latent
construct are reported in Table 1.
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and Scale Reliability

The measurement model was analyzed and improved with

AMOS 4. All the items or indicators significantly loaded on
the corresponding factors (p < .01). Some error terms were
allowed to covary as modification indices available in AMOS 4
suggested when the error terms were considered to have
Analyzing Structural Relationships
reasonable, correlated relationships conceptually as well. Table
2 presents correlations of all latent constructs in the The first step in testing the fit of the model was to estimate the
measurement model used in the development and refinement paths in the proposed model in Figure 1. The parameter
of the structural model and Table 3 reports the factor loadings estimates for this model are reported in Table 4. Of the twelve
for each latent variable. The goodness-of-fit indices indicated a proposed relationships, nine were statistically significant in the
good fit of the measurement model with the data: 2 = 263.62, expected direction (p < .05). H1a (advertiser credibility to ad
df = 217, p < .05; GFI = .93; AGFI = .90; NFI = .94; CFI = .99; credibility), H1b (advertiser credibility to brand attitudes),
RMSEA = .03. H1c (advertiser credibility to purchase intent), H2a (site
credibility to ad credibility), H3b (relevance to brand
Table 2. Correlations of Latent Constructs
attitudes), H3c (relevance to purchase intent), H4a (ad
credibility to ad attitudes), H4b (ad attitudes to brand
attitudes), and H4c (brand attitudes to purchase intent) were
supported. Contrary to expectations, however, three
relationships were not significant (p > .05), disconfirming H2b
(site credibility to brand attitudes), H2c (site credibility to
purchase intent), and H3a (relevance to ad credibility).
19 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

Table 4. Parameter Estimates linkages and the goodness-of-fit statistics indicate a slightly
better fit of the revised model with the data (i.e., AGFI = .89
for the proposed model; .90 for the final model). See the final
model in Figure 2.
With its brief history, the World Wide Web is still struggling
to build credibility or trust on the consumer side; in fact the
Wall Street Journal committed an entire section of its
September 16, 2002 issue to trust in e-commerce (Wall Street
Journal 2002). Trust and the believability or credibility of
website providers, their content, and advertising is still at
issue. This study proposed and examined a structural equation
model for understanding antecedents and consequences of
online advertising credibility in the context of banner ads.
Overall this study expands the literature on source credibility
and web advertising effectiveness by examining relevant
variables in a systematic way. The results of the study revealed
many significant relationships among the variables of interest.
Of particular note are the effects of advertiser credibility and
website credibility on consumer responses to banner ads. They
The goodness-of-fit indices suggest that the proposed model may deserve future research attention because they appear to
fits the data well; 2 = 276.67, df = 223, p < .01; GFI = .92; AGFI drive ad credibility perceptions that ultimately lead to ad and
= .89; NFI = .94; CFI = .99; RMSEA = .03. However, in an brand attitudes and purchase intention. Most importantly, the
attempt to refine the model and achieve parsimony, the non- final "best fit" model shows that source credibility perceptions
significant relationships were tested in the second phase of the and website/product relevance cannot be ignored in studying
analysis by systematically relaxing a restriction and examining ad and brand-related outcomes and have merit to further our
the resultant change in chi-square. That is, chi-square indices understanding of web advertising effectiveness.
of the models without each of the paths were reestimated and Results suggest that credibility perceptions play an important
compared to the proposed model. The paths (1) from site role in the development of ad/brand attitudes and purchase
credibility to brand attitudes, (2) from site credibility to intent. Both advertiser and website credibility perceptions
purchase intent, and (3) from relevance to ad credibility did appear to influence banner ad credibility that subsequently
not yield significant changes in chi-square: (1) 2difference = affects attitudes toward the ad/brand and purchase intention.
1.27, df = 1, p > .05; (2) 2difference = .61, df = 1, p > .05; (3) The credibility perceptions of these two ad sources (i.e.,
2difference = .73, df = 1, p > .05). Thus, these three paths, vehicle and advertiser) determine consumer judgment of how
which did not significantly contribute to improvement of the believable the ad is which in turn strongly influences ad
model fit, were removed. attitudes. Although website credibility was not found to exert
Parameter estimates for the revised model are presented in direct effects on attitude toward the brand and purchase
Table 4. Overall this final model accounts for the data well; 2 = intent, advertiser credibility appears to directly influence
278.71, df = 226, p = .01; GFI = .92; AGFI = .90; NFI = .94; CFI brand attitudes and purchase intention. Consistent with the
= .99; RMSEA = .03. To compare the original model and the findings in traditional media (Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell
modified model, the chi-square difference between the two 2000), advertiser credibility enhances ad/brand attitudes and
models was estimated. The resultant chi-square change did not purchase intention. Perhaps in this still relatively new
indicate significant improvement of the final model in the environment (i.e., the Internet) the credibility of the company
model fit; 2difference = 2.04, df = 3, p > .05. However, the who manufactures and sells the advertised product plays a
modified model was chosen as the final model because it is more important role in consumer responses to banner ads,
more parsimonious without any non-significant causal than the credibility of its site of placement. Consumers want to
20 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

rely on companies they have known and thus they can trust. expectations or schema for desirable websites, and so would
Website credibility may be more important when the site not trigger processing interrupts (Bettman 1979) or additional
actually serves as retailer. elaborations as predicted by schema theory (Hastie 1984; Srull
1981) for unexpected pairings. However, when ad content
Vehicle source effects and context effects in traditional
does not match site content, the user may notice, stop
advertising may hold true for online advertising, and therefore
processing, and discount the credibility of the advertiser and
should be taken into account to develop effective web
ad content on the basis of its low utility. Experienced users
advertising strategies. As for media placement strategies on the
may wonder why irrelevant ads appear on the website, and
web, relatively unknown advertisers, who are not perceived to
perhaps infer that the advertiser is not as savvy as the user.
be credible by consumers but want to produce positive
Schema theory may hold promise to direct future research.
consumer perceptions of the brand quickly through online
Methodologically, future studies might try to create and
advertising, may need to find places that are viewed as credible
compare poor matches of product category and website
sources for their ads and product information in them. When
content to relatively good matches for credibility effects.
their brand does not have an established image, it would be a
good idea to place its ads on websites perceived as credible and Although the present study offers a more comprehensive
relevant to the product category by target audiences. This picture of the issue of web advertising credibility by examining
would facilitate the process of building a credible, favorable the interrelationships between its antecedents and
image of the brand and greater intention to purchase the consequences, other variables can be added to the picture.
product by making the ad of the brand more credible. On the Consumer involvement with the product was not included in
other hand, well-known advertisers with established the model presented in this study. In addition, involvement
reputations can rely on their own credible image to generate with the website content might have differential impacts on
positive ad outcomes. Although credible websites still help to these effects. For instance, when consumers have strong
make their ads more credible, reputable advertisers have more interest in the content, they might find the information on the
options for vehicles selections. They can place banner ads in product relevant to the content more useful and in turn have
somewhat less credible websites because creating ad credibility more favorable responses to the ad. Similar to the concept of
is not a big concern for them. Rather, they may need to credibility of advertising in general in the Attitude-toward-
consider relevance as an important factor in selecting websites the-Ad research in conventional media (McKenzie and Lutz
for banner ad placements because when the website content is 1989), credibility of the web advertising in general might also
closely related to the advertised product category, brand determine consumer credibility perceptions of a particular
attitudes and purchase intent are enhanced. banner ad. Also, future research could test these relationships
in the context of other, more traditional media, so that media
Unexpectedly, website content/advertised product relevance
driven similarities and differences in consumer response
was not found to exert a direct effect on ad credibility although
patterns can emerge. Source credibility is likely to be
it directly influenced attitude toward the brand and purchase
important in all media, but consumer perceptions of
intent. The absence of relevance effects on ad credibility may
credibility in web advertising may be less certain than in more
be a function of the ads and conditions created for this study.
familiar, traditional media and vehicles. Audiences might view
This study appeared to be a test of the role of relevance when
conventional media as more credible than the Internet
relevance exists (digital camera M = 5.86 / MP3 player M =
(consider for example, how newspapers are perceived as a
4.28), and advertiser credibility is moderate to high (digital
more credible medium than other traditional media) ("NAA
camera M = 5.77 / MP3 player M = 4.67). It is possible that the
Report" 2001; Flanagin and Metzger 2000), and this difference
effect of relevance, or the lack thereof, on credibility may be
in media credibility might also create differences in ad and
triggered or only salient when it does not exist. Internet users
brand credibility, ad and brand attitudes, and purchase
may have developed an expectation of customization of
website content. The savvy user may desire and expect
advertising to match his or her needs as defined by the website Pragmatically, the results of the study suggest that popular
choice, hence a match between the advertiser and information websites with high prices that reach many Internet users may
content of the website. Indeed, ad relevance maximizes the not be good choices for banner ad placements if the website
utility of both ad and website content to the site visitor. Users content is too general to generate relevance perceptions and
may not notice when ads are relevant since a match meets the subsequently desirable brand attitudes and purchase
21 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002

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24 JournalofInteractiveAdvertising Fall 2002


Sejung Marina Choi (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is an
Assistant Professor of Advertising at The University of Texas
at Austin. Her research interests are in the areas of source
credibility, cause-related marketing, advertising on the
Internet, and cross-cultural consumer behavior; Email:
Nora J. Rifon (Ph.D., City University of New York) is an
Associate Professsor in the Department of Advertising at
Michigan State University. Her research interests include
consumer privacy, cause-related marketing, sponsorships, and
source credibility; Email: