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An executive summary for

managers and executive Addressing services'

readers can be found at the
end of this issue intangibility through integrated
marketing communication:
an exploratory study
Stephen J. Grove
Professor of Marketing, College of Business and Public Affairs,
Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA
Les Carlson
Professor of Marketing, College of Business and Public Affairs,
Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA
Michael J. Dorsch
Associate Professor of Marketing, College of Business and Public Affairs,
Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA

Keywords Services, Intangibility, Advertising, Marketing communications

Abstract In this study, we examined the degree to which integrated marketing
communication (IMC) might be manifested in services advertising. Using one of
Lovelock's typologies of services as a framework for classifying different services with
respect to their tangibility, we examined ads in each of four service product categories to
assess advertisers' efforts to address the tangibility of service offerings via IMC. We
found few differences with regard to incorporation of IMC across four service types, with
the exception that services advertisements that reflected tangible acts (lawn care,
hairstyling) were more highly integrated than services ads for intangible acts (education,
retailing, banking). Results are discussed in terms of the implications for developing
better services advertising.

Creating a unified message Over the past two decades, the growth of interest in services marketing
phenomena has risen significantly (Bitner, 1997; Fisk et al., 1988; Lovelock
and Wright, 1999). A particular concern to both practitioners and scholars
has been the determination of the most effective means to market service
products (c.f. Berry and Parasuraman, 1993; Fisk et al., 1993). In this
context, the investigation of services advertising has been singled out as a
topic that deserves greater attention (Grove et al., 1997; Mortimer and
Mathews, 1998; Parasuraman, 1995; Stafford and Stafford, 2000). An
exhaustive overview of the services advertising literature conducted several
years ago highlighted the need for closer examination of message factors
(e.g. the structure and execution of advertisements) as one area in critical
need of further explication (Tripp, 1997); in this light, the question has been
raised, ``Are services advertisers using integrated marketing
communications?'' (Tripp, 1997, p. 35). Integrated marketing
communication may take many forms (Cornelissen and Lock, 2000), yet in
each case the underlying thrust is the coordination of various marketing
communication devices (e.g. advertising, direct marketing, etc.) to create a
unified message. Since integrated marketing communication (IMC) has the
potential to produce a strong focus for an offering (Schultz et al., 1993;
Nowak and Phelps, 1994), IMC would seem to be a particularly attractive

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JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING, VOL. 16 NO. 5 2002, pp. 393-411, # MCB UP LIMITED, 0887-6045, DOI 10.1108/08876040210436876 393
tool for advertisers to accommodate the intangibility present in services. Yet,
since some service offerings are more intangible than others (c.f. Shostack,
1977; Zeithaml, 1981), it is logical to expect some variation in the
application of IMC to services. Nevertheless, consider the value added
dimension that typically emerges for Southwest Airlines or Barnes &
Noble's stores through their integration of sales promotion, brand
advertising, and direct response features in a single advertisement; such an
effort in clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact (Sirgy,
1998; Stone 1994).
The study that we report here was conducted to examine the degree to which
IMC has been utilized by advertisers across various service categories
identified by their degree of intangibility. First, we present a brief review of
services advertising in general and a similar review of IMC. Then, we
propose a framework for examining the degree of IMC across categories of
services. A treatment of our methodology and the results of our inquiry
follow. A discussion of our findings is presented. Finally, conclusions and
recommendations for services advertisers are offered.

Services advertising
Different approaches Several years ago, in a broad examination of the services marketing
literature, Parasuraman (1995) noted several services topics that had been
relatively under-examined. The advertising of services was one of the topics
that he recognized as deserving more attention. Later, in her comprehensive
review of the extant services advertising literature, Tripp (1997) identified
various issues that were in need of further exploration. Included among these
was the identification of message factors that characterize services
advertisements, i.e. aspects pertaining to the structure and execution of a
services ad. While a significant body of literature exists that argues the need
for different approaches when advertising a service as opposed to a physical
good (e.g. George and Berry, 1981; Legg and Baker, 1987; Grove et al.,
1995, Shostack, 1977; Stafford and Day, 1995), further examination of the
nature of services advertising is warranted.
Service marketers face a significant challenge when it comes to
communicating the intangible benefits of a service to their target audience
(Mattila, 2000). Hence, a specific proposition that has become almost
axiomatic in the services literature is that advertising should strive to add
tangibility to the service offering (c.f. Berry and Clark, 1986; Onkvisit and
Shaw, 1989; Stafford, 1996). Ostensibly, such an effort can help customers
mentally grasp a product whose core lacks a physical reality (c.f. George and
Berry, 1981; Shostack, 1977; Upah, 1983). Further, adding tangibility
through advertising may help to address customers' high degree of perceived
risk with service products (Bateson, 1995; Clow et al., 1999; Guseman,
1981; Lovelock and Wright, 1999; Murray, 1991; Zeithaml, 1981), a
circumstance that ensues in part from the fact that services do not even exist
until they are performed. In short, marketers have been advised to make
``services appear more tangible through a communication strategy that treats
the services, to some extent, as goods'' (Berry, 1986, p. 51).
Addressing intangibility The question arises: how can marketers address the intangibility of services
in their advertising? Various prescriptions regarding how this might be
accomplished have been posed. For instance, advertisers have been
encouraged to create messages that provide factual information, evoke
visualizations, or establish associations with physical elements (c.f. George
and Berry, 1981; Grove et al., 1995; Legg and Baker, 1987; Stafford, 1996).


Other prescriptions involve emphasizing symbols in service advertising
messages (Cobb-Walgren and Mohr, 1998) and or utilizing narratives within
service ads as means to make the service experience more concrete (Mattila,
2000; Padgett and Allen, 1997). The goal across all of these approaches is to
facilitate the audience's comprehension of the service product while, at the
same time, avoiding the potential pitfall of introducing more abstraction and
confusion to an offering that already suffers from a lack of concreteness
(Hoffman and Bateson, 1997; Mortimer and Mathews, 1998; Shostack,
1977). Another solution to the challenge of addressing the obscurity of
service products involves an effort to ``integrate'' various forms of evidence
related to the service and its delivery in an attempt to compensate for the
service's innate intangibility (Shostack, 1977). Ultimately, the goal is to
create a concrete, ``total impression'' of the service by controlling a wide
range of communicative devices associated with the service and its
performance, including the content of service advertising. This approach
parallels the recommendation of George and Berry (1981) who argue that
services marketers should strive to present a uniform message through
continually stressing distinctive symbols, formats and themes to strengthen a
service's image and differentiate it from its competition. Similarly, utilizing
various communication tools to fashion a uniform perception of a product is
one of the major thrusts of the evolving promotional perspective labeled
integrated marketing communication.

Integrated marketing communication

Defining IMC During the past decade, the concept of IMC has received wide attention in
the marketing literature (Duncan and Everett, 1993; McArthur and Griffin,
1997; Schultz et al., 1993; Schultz and Kitchen, 2000a), yet a ``working
definition of integrated marketing communication is hard to come by''
(Schultz et al., 1993, p. xv). One approach that captures much of the essence
of the concept defines the phenomenon as the coordination of different
communication tools for a brand (Krugman et al., 1994). In essence, IMC
involves blending various communication devices, e.g. publicity,
advertising, sales promotion, etc., into a single, seamless entity (Nowak et
al., 1996). While great diversity exists regarding IMC's nature (c.f. Schultz
and Kitchen, 1997), three broad applications of IMC in practice have been
identified: IMC as a ``coordinated marketing communication campaign'',
IMC as ``one voice communication'' and IMC as ``integrated
communication'' (Nowak and Phelps, 1994). The distinction among the three
is rather hazy, yet each does offer a somewhat different slant to creating a
marketing effort that is uniform with respect to its look and tone (Duncan,
Applications of IMC The ``coordinated marketing communication campaign'' approach to IMC
focuses on unifying a firm's communication efforts across the spectrum of
marketing communication disciplines (e.g. sales promotion, advertising and
public relations) to target multiple audiences with a congruent message
(Rapp and Collins, 1990; Schultz et al., 1993), while the ``one voice''
approach emphasizes unity among various communication and promotional
tools to reflect a single positioning strategy at the outset of a promotional
campaign (Reilly, 1991; Snyder, 1991). The latter focuses on a single brand
position while the former may not, yet both reflect IMC at a broad level. The
third form of IMC, ``integrated communications'', involves the promotion of
brand image and audience behavior simultaneously, by incorporating tools
such as brand advertising, consumer sales promotions, public relations and
direct response mechanisms within the communication effort (Peltier et al.,


1992). Overall, this approach reflects a more micro level of IMC application
by employing integration within a single communication device such as
advertising. Further, there is some evidence to suggest this is the IMC form
that is most often emphasized in practice (Phelps et al., 1994).

Services advertising and IMC

While IMC has generated a good deal of interest among academics and
practitioners (Schultz, 1996; Kitchen and Schultz, 1999), there has not been a
great deal of research regarding its incidence and application. Indications of
its value, however, suggest that IMC is perceived as a valuable tool and that
nearly two-thirds of consumer product companies employ some form of IMC
(Caywood et al., 1991; Duncan and Everett, 1993). One study found that 75
percent of organizations that were queried had adopted IMC in some form or
fashion (Phelps et al., 1994). Nevertheless, there is little evidence of the
prevalence of the exact nature of IMC in different market contexts (Nowak et
al., 1996). The meager information that is available suggests that there is
``some variance among the various alternatives'' of IMC across business
types, e.g. retailing, business to business, etc. (McArthur and Griffin, 1997),
however there appears to be a lack of strong coordination among the major
media and message delivery elements comprising an integrated approach
(Nowak et al., 1996). Clearly, further examination of IMC and marketers'
activities to plan and implement it is needed (Duncan and Everett, 1993).
A product that customers IMC's potential contribution for services organizations is seemingly great.
cannot see Specifically, the uniform message that IMC produces may be a remedy that
is capable of addressing the inherent problem that service organizations face
when they must market a product that customers cannot see. The abstract and
intangible nature of service products makes it difficult for an organization to
create a concrete and consistent perception of a service offering in the
customer's mind (c.f. Shostack, 1977). As indicated earlier in this article,
many scholars have argued that marketers should compensate for this
circumstance by adding ``tangibility'' to their services through advertising
(Berry and Clark, 1986; Cutler and Javalgi, 1993; George and Berry, 1981;
Mortimer and Mathews, 1998; Stafford, 1996). Since a service's ``reality'' is
construed by customers through a process of deduction (Shostack, 1977), it is
imperative for service organizations to effectively manage any form of their
products' evidence to enhance and differentiate them in their customers'
minds. A well-devised integrated marketing communication effort can
produce this result. By coordinating various communication devices
regarding a service (e.g. advertising, sales promotion, direct response
communication, etc.), it is possible for marketers to establish and maintain a
clear and consistent position or message (Nowak and Phelps, 1994; Reilly,
1991). Essentially, the synergy and focus derived from effective IMC can
provide valuable information (Lane and Russell, 2001) and add tangibility to
a service offering.
Potential benefits not Evidence exists to suggest that service organizations are aware of the
communicated effectively potential benefits of IMC programs, yet have not done a very good job of
strategically coordinating the diverse IMC elements in their communication
programs (McArthur and Griffin, 1997; Nowak et al., 1996). This, of course,
is unfortunate given IMC's likely contribution to effective services
marketing. Further, since it is well established within the services literature
that some service products are more intangible than others (c.f. Shostack,
1977; Zeithaml, 1981), it would seem that IMC would yield a differing
benefit, depending on the nature of the service offering. The research we


report here investigates the degree to which IMC is embraced by service
organizations and how it is manifested across service types.

The study
Services advertising To study the incidence and application of IMC across service concerns, we
focus specifically on services advertising. The examination of services
advertising as a vehicle exhibiting IMC is congruent with one of the three
forms of IMC discussed earlier. Specifically, by ``unpacking'' various
message components comprising an advertisement, it is possible to discern
the degree of integration within that particular communication device.
Overall, the identification of IMC and services advertising is an appropriate
activity given the importance of services to various economies around the
globe (c.f. Zeithaml and Bitner, 2000) and the increasing interest in IMC in
general. For instance, since services comprise over 70 percent of the gross
domestic product in the USA (US Bureau of Economic Analysis, 1999), it is
logical to assume that a commensurate percentage of advertising dollars are
devoted to promoting services. Clearly, a key concern for service advertisers
is ensuring that those dollars are wisely spent. Adding tangibility to the
service offering through advertising is a primary objective for service
marketers (Lovelock, 2001). Further, due to IMC's ability to generate a
uniform message, it is reasonable to expect that organizations would
embrace IMC in their services advertisements as a means to assuage the
inherent intangibility of service products. Nevertheless, the extent to which
IMC is prevalent within services ads is not known, nor is there any evidence
to establish variation of its presence across service types exhibiting differing
degrees of intangibility.
IMC at the tactical (ad) level To address these issues, we utilized a perspective on IMC offered by Nowak
and Phelps (1994). These authors note that IMC can occur at the strategic
level (i.e. integrating an entire promotional campaign through the use of
multiple promotional tools which focus on imparting a unified message), at
the tactical level (i.e. incorporating a variety of communication devices
within a specific type of promotional tool such as advertising), or
simultaneously (i.e. IMC being evidenced within each of the specific
promotional tools used in an overall IMC-oriented campaign, see Nowack
and Phelps, 1994, p. 57). As this was an initial, exploratory (not normative)
study regarding the degree to which IMC is being manifested within a
services context, and since we did not have access to organizational decision
making and initiatives regarding their implementation of IMC at the strategic
level, we chose to explore the incidence of IMC at the tactical (ad) level,
rather than at the strategic (campaign) level of analysis (see Nowak and
Phelps, 1994, pp. 56-8).
Utilizing a set of services advertisements, we investigate the frequency with
which service ads could qualify as representing an integrated marketing
effort according to criteria established by Nowak and Phelps. In addition, we
examine the possible variation of IMC across service types by classifying the
service products that are promoted in the ads with respect to their degree of
tangibility according to a Service Recipient  Nature of Service Act
framework posed by Lovelock (1983, 1994). It has been previously argued
that this framework ``permits a service advertiser to target the ad to his or her
audience according to the nature of the service'' (Hill and Gandhi, 1992,
p. 69). The framework combines two dimensions of service performance ±
the nature of the service act (tangible or intangible) and the recipient of the
service (people or possessions) ± to create four categories of services (see
Figure 1). Ostensibly, tangible acts on people (e.g. haircutting ± cell 1)


Figure 1. Intangibility across service types

should be the most palpable service types, while intangible acts on intangible
possessions (e.g. insurance ± cell 4) should be the least. Tangible acts on
physical possessions (e.g. dry cleaning ± cell 2) and intangible acts on people
(education ± cell 3) should fall in between with regard to tangibility overall
and the degree of IMC among their ads, respectively. In sum, we expect that
the emphasis on IMC would increase from cell 1 through cell 4 as depicted in
Figure 1.

Data collection
The research design Content analysis was used to examine the nature of service advertising
claims to detect the degree to which services advertisements are integrated.
Content analysis is useful as a means to establish patterns that support
existing theory (or fail to support them) and as a vehicle to discover patterns
on which to formulate new theories (Kolbe and Burnett, 1991). When
developing our research design, particular attention was devoted to the
criteria of objectivity, systematization, sampling methods, and reliability that
are often used to ascertain the excellence of content analysis research
(Kassarijian, 1977). Objectivity and systematization was achieved by
adhering to a data collection approach that easily enumerated identifiable
characteristics (Holsti, 1969) of advertisements (i.e. the specific elements
within the ads that represented IMC components). Conducting a rigorous
qualitative document analysis requires that the widest range of messages be
included in the sample (Altheide, 1996). These ``scope'' samples are
common and justifiable in exploratory research such as ours (Altheide, 1996;
Willer 1967). Accordingly, the ads examined in this study were drawn
systematically from a wide range of source possibilities (i.e. magazine titles)
to ensure a broadly defined database.


The sample
Cluster sampling is appropriate for generating a sample that covers a range
of topics and events (Altheide, 1996). Accordingly, we employed a cluster
sampling approach to include a range of magazine titles and to generate our
sample of services advertisements. In the first step, a referee was trained and
instructed to systematically select seven magazine titles from a cross-section
of categories of magazines regularly delineated in Advertising Age (1999)
(e.g. ``Science/electronic/mechanical'' and ``Weeklies/biweeklies''). The
magazine titles used in the study and the number of services advertisements
obtained from each magazine title are identified in Table I. A cross-section
of categories was used to methodologically vary the sources of the services
advertisements. In the second step, the referee was briefed on services
advertising and shown examples of services ads. Beginning with the first
issue in the calendar year and proceeding to subsequent issues, the referee
then examined the seven selected magazine titles for instances of services
advertising discussed earlier that fulfilled the criteria of the four categories of
Lovelock's services framework.
Service categories A total of 168 services ads were initially identified by the referee, yet the
identified 168 services advertisements were not evenly distributed across the
four categories of Lovelock's Service Recipient  Nature of Service Act
framework (see Figure 1). To create a balanced sample, the authors
independently examined the ad set with the objective of obtaining 25
services ads for each of the four categories. During this process, the authors
purged any entry that failed to clearly focus on a service product, reassigned
services ads that may have been misclassified earlier to more appropriate
categories, and added additional services advertisements to fulfill the 25 ad
quota for each cell. Disagreements among the authors over which ads to
exclude were settled by either elimination of the ad from further
consideration or discussion leading to consensus concerning its retention.
Duplicate and/or incomplete ads were discarded. The final pool of 100 ads
reflected Lovelock's four service categories (i.e. tangible acts directed
toward people (people processing services), tangible acts directed at
possessions (possession processing services), intangible acts directed toward
people (mental stimulus processing services), and intangible acts directed at
possessions (information processing services)). Table II depicts the number
of ads by service category.

Method of analysis
Our method of analysis consisted of two steps. In the first step, the degree
and incidence of IMC within the sampled services ads was determined.
During the second step of the analysis, a comparison of the extent of IMC

Total services
Magazine advertisements
Cosmopolitan 10
Fortune/Business Week 38
Men's Health/Maxim 5
People 15
Southern Living 4
Sports Illustrated/Road & Track 17
Time 11
Total 100

Table I. Sources of services advertising


Total services
Service category Service offering advertisements
People Airline 4
Breast augmentation 4
Dieting 2
Health care 1
Hosting an exchange student 1
Hotel 11
Restaurant 2
Total 25
Possessions Auto repair 1
Automotive enhancement 1
Building analysis 1
Computer systems 1
Delivery 4
E-commerce: home products 1
Natural gas 1
Network power protection 1
Office communications systems 1
Office systems 1
Postal service 1
TV satellite system 1
Trucking 1
Utilities 5
Total 25
Mental stimulus Advertising media 1
Arts and entertainment 3
Broadcast 12
Chatroom 1
Concert 1
Education 6
Museum 1
Total 25
Information Data transmission 6
Fianancial services 12
Financial service advice 1
Insurance 5
Insurance/finance 1
Total 25

Table II. Frequency of services ads by service category

among Lovelock's Service Recipient  Nature of Service Act classification

categories was conducted.
Classification framework Degree and incidence of IMC. To examine the degree and incidence of IMC
among service advertisements it was first necessary to establish a
classification framework. Relying on an IMC structure posed by Nowak and
Phelps (1994) as a guide, we developed a framework that is depicted in
Figure 2. It provided us with a tool to ascertain the extent to which service
advertisements are integrated/nonintegrated and the degree of integration
among service advertisements. We used the Nowak and Phelps' framework
to examine IMC at the ad (tactical) level, though these authors note that
integration can occur at either (or both) the ad or campaign level.
According to Nowak and Phelps (1994), advertisements are either image- or
behavior-oriented. The former incorporate ``communication tools'' like


Figure 2. Integrated service communications

public relations and/or brand advertising, while the latter include sales
promotions and/or direct response advertising. A description of the different
ad components/communication tools investigated in this study is available in
the Appendix and Figure 2 depicts our adaptation of the Nowak and Phelps
framework (1994).
Direct response Our derivation is very similar to the original presented by Nowak and Phelps
(1994), except for how we conceptualized direct response. We viewed a
direct response communication tool as one in which the ad copy explicitly
encouraged readers to contact the service provider via media such as the
telephone, Web page, e-mail, ``snail mail,'' or by contacting a service
representative. Likewise, we did not consider a direct response
communication tool to be employed when the reader was not explicitly
directed to contact the service provider for information about the service
provider. Instances of a non-directed response occurred when a services
advertisement simply listed a telephone number, Web page address, or
e-mail address somewhere in the ad but did not explicitly direct the reader to
contact the service provider via these devices (see Appendix and Figure 2).
Content analysis Once the IMC classification framework was established, the authors
examined the pool of ads for instances of the four communication tools, i.e.
public relations, brand advertising, sales promotions and direct response
advertising, in order to determine the degree to which services
advertisements were integrated. The initial step in this process required
content analysis of each services ad to identify which of the four
communication tools were present. Once the protocol for analyzing an ad
was established (i.e. deciding how each communication tool might be
manifested in a services advertisement), the identification of the different ad
components (communication tools) became a simple and essentially
unambiguous exercise, not unlike counting the number of automobiles
passing through an intersection, or tallying the gender of customers in a


service setting. An ad either included one or more of the four components,
such as a Web site address to which a reader was explicitly directed, or a
coupon, or it did not. If disagreements did occur for instance, with respect to
the presence of public relations or brand advertising indicants, they were
resolved by discussion and consensus among the authors. At the conclusion
of this first step, each services ad was summarized in terms of the number
and type of communication tools that it exhibited. For example, one ad may
have been summarized as exhibiting all four communication tools (i.e. it
contained public relations, brand advertising, consumer sales promotion, and
direct response advertising elements), whereas another ad may have been
summarized as exhibiting only the brand-advertising communication tool.
Integrated ads After evaluating the services ads for instances of the four communication
tools, we re-examined the services ads to determine the extent to which they
exhibited IMC. Similar to Nowak and Phelps (1994), we defined integrated
ads as those that contained both image- and behavior-oriented
communication tools. For example, a services advertisement that used a
product claim (brand advertising ± image-oriented) together with an explicit
request to call an 800-number that enabled a caller to obtain a brochure on
the service (direct response advertising ± behavior-oriented) was deemed as
integrated at the tactical (ad) level. Likewise, ads that contained only image-
or behavior-oriented communication tools were not classified as integrated
as stipulated by Nowak and Phelps. For example, a services advertisement
that used a product claim (brand advertising ± image-oriented) together with
only a listing of an 800-number (i.e. the reader was not explicitly directed to
the 800-number) was regarded as not integrated at the tactical (ad) level. For
integrated ads, the degree of integration was determined by tallying the
number of unique communication tools contained within the services ad.
That is, advertisements that used all four communication tools exhibited the
highest level of integration, while ads that contained only one image-oriented
and one behavior-oriented tool evidenced the least integration.
Relationship between IMC and Lovelock's Service classification system.
Chi-square analysis was used to examine whether the degree of integration
associated with services advertisements varied by type of service category.
Specifically, four Chi-square analyses were performed. First, we examined
whether IMC was related to the type of service processing (i.e. people
processing, possession processing, mental stimulus processing, and
information processing). Second, we analyzed whether differences in IMC
existed between people processing (i.e. tangible acts toward people) and
information processing (i.e. intangible acts toward possessions) service
categories. Third, we investigated whether IMC varied by the recipient of the
service (i.e. people versus possessions). Fourth, we considered the
relationship between IMC and the nature of the service (i.e. tangible versus
intangible acts).

Existence of IMC in services ads
Incidence of IMC Overall, there was a high incidence of IMC among the services ads, but it
existed at a low degree (see Table III). Specifically, approximately 63
percent (63/100) of the services advertisements were classified as integrated.
However, a majority of these integrated ads, i.e. 76 percent (48/63), achieved
this status at the lowest level of integration possible. The most common form
of IMC, i.e. approximately 67 percent (42/63), utilized two different
communication tools, i.e. they consisted of an image-oriented (brand
advertising) and a behavior-oriented (direct response) communication tool.


Degree of integration in services advertising
Non-integrated advertisements Integrated advertisements
Two communication tools: Two communication tools:
Service type One communication tool same orientation different orientations Three communication tools Four communication tools
People 4 3 10 8 0
Possessions 6 1 14 4 0
Mental stimulus 12 0 11 2 0
Information 10 1 13 1 0
Total 32 5 48 15 0

Integrated services advertising breakdown

Two communication tools: different orientations Three communication tools Four communication tools
People 0 0 1 9 0 0 0 8 0
Possessions 0 1 1 12 0 0 0 4 0
Mental stimulus 0 0 1 10 0 0 0 2 0
Information 0 0 2 11 0 0 0 1 0
Total 0 1 5 42 0 0 0 15 0
Note: n = 100

Table III. Degree of integration in services advertising and integrated services advertising breakdown

The second most common form of IMC, i.e. 24 percent (15/63), utilized
three different communication tools, i.e. they exhibited one image-oriented
(brand advertising) and two behavior-oriented (direct response and sales
promotion) communication tools. None of the services advertisements
utilized all four tools.
Brand advertising and Finally, as Table III indicates, brand advertising and direct response were the
direct response communication tools employed most often by the services ads. In particular,
about 98 percent (62/63) of the integrated services ads used brand advertising
rather than public relations to obtain an image response. Similarly,
approximately 92 percent (58/63) of the integrated services ads used direct
response advertising rather than consumer sales promotions as a means to
elicit a behavioral response. Moreover, a review of Table IV reveals that the
majority of directed responses for integrated services ads were to a telephone
number, i.e. 76 percent (44/58), and/or Web pages, i.e. 67 percent (37/58).
Contacting a service representative was a distant third at 33 percent (19/58).
As an interesting aside, the results reveal that many of the services ads could
have easily exhibited higher levels of integration simply by explicitly
directing the reader to a listed direct response tool. Specifically, 41 percent
(41/100) of the complete set of examined services ads failed to adequately
direct the reader to Web page addresses and/or telephone numbers, etc., that
were included in the ads (see Table V). In fact, all 41 of the services ads that
contained non-directed listings involved Web pages. Moreover, a higher
percentage of nonintegrated services ads, i.e. 68 percent (25/37), were found
to include response devices without encouraging the reader to fully utilize
them. In contrast, about 25 percent (16/63) of the integrated services
advertisements included response devices without explicitly encouraging the
reader to utilize them fully. Among the integrated advertisements, an ad
might have included multiple response opportunities, yet neglected to

Instances by direct response type

Service type Telephone Fax Web E-mail Mail Contact
People 17 0 10 0 0 8
Possessions 11 2 14 2 0 4
Mental stimulus 9 2 7 2 0 5
Information 7 0 6 0 0 2
Total instances 44 4 37 4 0 19
Note: A single ad may contain a direct response to more than one communication tool

Table IV. Breakdown of 58 IMC services ads that used a direct response
communication tool

Instances of non-directed listings

Telephone Fax Web E-mail Mail Contact
Non- Non- Non- Non- Non- Non-
Service type ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad
People 2 0 0 0 4 8 0 0 0 0 0 0
Possessions 2 0 0 0 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mental stimulus 3 0 0 0 9 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
Information 2 1 0 0 8 4 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total instances 10 0 41 1 0 0
Note: A single advertisement may contain more than one non-directed listing

Table V. Breakdown of 100 services ads for instances of non-directed listings


prompt the reader to take advantage of one or more of those response
options. Often telephone numbers were stressed, while Web pages listed
were ignored. Among the non-integrated advertisements, a simple statement
encouraging the reader to take action with respect to the response options
that the ad portrayed had the potential to shift the ad to an integrated status,
based on the Nowak and Phelps (1994) classifications. In short, an
opportunity to establish an integrated message was often overlooked. As
Table V suggests, several of the service categories that exhibited low
integration could have benefited greatly in this regard.

IMC and service categories

Level of IMC Three of the four chi-square analyses did not support a relationship between
the extent of IMC and the nature of the service act (see Table VI). Level of
IMC was not different across the four types of service processing (i.e.
people, possession, mental stimulus, or information processing), between
people processing and information processing services, or by recipient of the
service (i.e. people versus possessions). The only statistically significant
finding occurred when comparing the extent of IMC with regard to the
nature of the service act (i.e. tangible acts versus intangible acts) (see
Table VI). Opposite to our expectations, services advertising that addressed
tangible acts was more highly integrated (i.e. 72 percent (36/50)) of the ads
were integrated) than services advertising that addressed intangible acts (i.e.
54 percent (36/50)) of the services ads were integrated) (see Table VII).
These findings suggest that the level of IMC did not increase as intangibility
of the service increased. Thus, based on our finding, little evidence exists to
suggest that the degree of intangibility influenced services advertisers' use of

Level of integration The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which services ads
might exhibit elements of being integrated, i.e. whether service ads manifest
IMC. Our investigation of the utilization of IMC tools in services advertising
was intended to shed light on the degree to which (if any) various forms of
services ads (i.e. those reflecting four forms of services types discussed by
Lovelock, 1994) differed with regard to their level of integration.

Does level of IMC differ by Chi-square d.f. Prob. Conclusion

Type of service processing 3.56 3 0.331 Non-significant
People processing and
information processing 0.78a 1 0.377 Non-significant
Recipient of service 0.0a 1 1.00 Non-significant
Integration by nature of service 2.75a 1 0.098 Significant
Note: a Chi-square computed with Yates continuity correction factor

Table VI. Study findings

Non-integrated Integrated
(%) (%) (%)
Tangible acts 14 (28) 36 (72) 50 (100)
Intangible acts 23 (46) 27 (54) 50 (100)
37 (37) 63 (63) 100 (100)

Table VII. Integration by nature of service


Specific service types in Lovelock's classification would appear to be prime
candidates for using IMC in advertising because of their inherent intangible
nature (e.g. services that involve intangible acts on intangible possessions,
see Figure 1). By examining a sample of services ads, we endeavored to
ascertain whether service offerings that might benefit from using IMC in
their ads (to add the tangibility that IMC might lend) were actually
accomplishing this.
As noted earlier, we believe that utilization of the ``communication tools'' as
specified by Nowak and Phelps (1994), e.g. public relations, brand
advertising, consumer sales promotions, or direct response (see Figure 2)
may help to add tangibility to service offerings. For example, specifying
within an ad that a consumer should visit a corporate Web page (a form of a
direct response IMC tool) may help that consumer to ``tangibilize'' that
service in his/her mind.

Managerial implications
Differences in integration Surprisingly, we found few differences in integration across the services ads
representing each of Lovelock's four services categories. This was
particularly noteworthy given what we expected because of the increasingly
intangible nature of the services depicted in each cell (i.e. we expected
growing IMC emphasis from cell 1 to cell 4 because of the rising
intangibility of the service offerings from cell 1 to cell 4). Contrary to our
expectations, however, the trend we thought might be manifested (as implied
above) across Lovelock's four cells was not revealed, and the only
differences that were found were with respect to comparing degree of
integration across tangible vs intangible acts.
That is, when we collapsed cells across the people vs possessions
classification of Lovelock's typology, we found that ads depicting service
offerings that were tangible acts on people and possessions were more fully
integrated than those about intangible acts on people and possessions. This
result contradicted our initial speculation, as it appears that ads promoting
the most tangible services also seem to be exhibiting the most tangibility
from an IMC perspective, i.e. in terms of using the IMC tools.
While managers of these more tangible services may benefit from the use of
IMC tools in their advertisements (i.e. by raising tangibility from the
consumer's perspective), what is most relevant is the opportunity that is
perhaps being missed by other services' managers. That is, managers of
services that are inherently more intangible in nature (e.g. insurance
companies or data processing firms) should consider how tangibility might
also be added to their product offerings through IMC.
Incorporating aspects of As noted, our results suggest that more intangible services (according to
tangibility Lovelock's typology) do not utilize the IMC tools to the same extent as do
more tangible services. Specifically, those types of services that may gain the
most by becoming more integrated through the use of the IMC tools do not
appear to be doing so. Thus, it may be of benefit for managers of service
offerings that involve intangible actions, whether they are directed at people
(e.g. education) or possessions (e.g. banking), to consider how additional
aspects of tangibility might be incorporated into their advertising. We
believe that one way to accomplish this is to include additional forms and
types of IMC tools into their services ads, e.g. by adding sales promotional
devices, links to public relations initiatives, and/or directing the consumer to
sources for further information (see below).


The fact that there were no differences in communication tool usage across
the four cells of Lovelock's typology, implies that managers in general may
be failing to utilize certain opportunities that may strengthen the tangibility
of their service offerings. Specifically, it appears that despite the prospect of
further differentiating one's service product through the tangibility
engendered by incorporating IMC, a number of different services are
overlooking this opportunity. That is, those service offerings that are
arguably the most appropriate for IMC intervention (i.e. intangible acts on
possessions ± cell 4, Figure 1) are seemingly not utilizing these
communication tools to any greater (lesser) extent than the most tangible
service types (i.e. tangible acts on people ± cell 1, Figure 1) or the other
service categories (cells 2 and 3, Figure 1). Again, this represents
circumstances that service managers may be able to exploit, especially in
terms of adding tangibility via the use of the IMC tools.
Public relations ventures Further opportunities at differentiating a service offering via the use of IMC
tools may be indicated by additional inspection of the bottom half of Table III.
This table suggests that the vast majority of integrated services ads are of the
brand advertising/direct response communication tool variety, irrespective of
whether these tools incorporate a third tool (sales promotion ± three tools
total) or not (two tools only). Virtually no services advertising in our sample
appeared to link the service organization in some way to a public relations
venture, e.g. stating that the First National Bank of ``Anytown USA'' donates
X amount of dollars to a philanthropic organization on an annual basis.
Another concrete way to lend tangibility to a service offering would be to
link the service to some type of sales promotion. Table III indicates that less
than one-third (20 of 63) of the integrated ads (i.e. those ads exhibiting tools
from both the image- and behavior-oriented tool types in Figure 2) utilized
any form of sales promotion. Services ads could include a sales promotion by
printing coupons in the ad that provide price discounts or by instructing
readers on how to obtain brochures that provide added benefit to the
consumer over and above the benefit accruing from the service itself, e.g. an
auto repair service that offers a manual on driving safety tips.
Specific information Our results also suggest that services advertisers could do a much better job at
directing consumers to specific information in their ads that might be
overlooked or unappreciated. Table V, for example, suggests that some services
ads, while hinting that a service organization may have a Web page, still do not
guide the consumer to that page. That is, we found many services ads that
merely listed a Web page or 1-800 telephone number (often in small print and
outside of the body copy of the ad itself) or failed to indicate to the consumer
what might be obtained from accessing this information. In such instances, only
slight changes in advertising copy may be necessary to take full advantage of
the opportunities of increasing tangibility afforded by fully utilizing additional
IMC tools. Specifically, rather than only listing a 1-800 telephone number, a
services ad might indicate what information about the service offering might be
obtained by calling the number. In this manner, the full impact and value of a
direct response communication tool could be realized.

Limitations and conclusion

As with all studies, our investigation has certain limitations. For example, we
have only examined integration as it occurs in ads depicting Lovelock's four
categories of service types. Nowak and Phelps (1994) indicate that
integration may occur at the ad level (the unit of analysis we used) or at the
campaign level. Obviously, we have not determined whether the service


organizations depicted in the ads we studied are attempting IMC integration
(thereby adding tangibility to their service offering) in other ways.
Specifically, we do not know whether sales promotions (or any of the other
IMC tools) for the service are being distributed in a manner other than via an
advertisement or if they are part of an overall promotional campaign being
used by the service organization that includes promotional devices in
addition to advertising. Yet, at this exploratory phase in understanding the
evolving nature of links among IMC and services, we felt that it was
appropriate to investigate these issues at their most rudimentary or simple
phase, i.e. at the tactical level of analysis as conceived by Nowak and Phelps
(1994). Certainly, future research should examine the use of IMC by service
organizations as an over-riding promotional strategy. Do service
organizations utilize IMC as a ``theme'' for their promotions, and if so, might
trends that we have observed at the ad level of analysis be supported across a
broad range of promotional tools? These questions have only begun to be
investigated (see McArthur and Griffin, 1997). Such information could be
gathered in a number of ways, e.g. by utilizing survey methods (see
McArthur and Griffin, 1997; Schultz and Kitchen, 1997) and/or via
qualitative interviews with key informants in the organization. However, at
present, we simply are not in a position to state definitively the degree to
which IMC is being implemented by services organizations. This assumption
is predicated on acknowledged gaps in the definition and measurement of
IMC (see Schultz and Kitchen, 2000b).
Trends in service Despite not examining utilization of IMC at the strategic (i.e. campaign)
advertising level, we believe that we have uncovered useful and intriguing trends in how
services advertising is being manifested and depicted vis-aÁ-vis IMC at the
tactical (ad) level. By focusing on the ad itself and the nature of services
advertising across a broad spectrum of service products and ad sources (i.e.
magazines), we offer concrete suggestions on how service advertising might
be improved, especially in terms of how the critical element of service
tangibility could be enhanced. IMC may be a means by which tangibility of
the service offering can be assessed as well as improved, particularly with
respect to services advertising.

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Appendix. Integrated advertising components

(1) Public relations. The advertisement attempts to earn public understanding and acceptance
of the service firm by stressing the practices policies and procedures of an individual or
the organization. This can be accomplished by identifying donations to charitable
organizations, sponsorship of esteemed causes or events, contributions to individual,
community or societal well-being and so on.
(2) Brand/offering advertising. The advertisement stresses the attribute of the service offering
in terms of the service workers (``we have skilled employees''), the service setting (``our
rooms are newly decorated''), the service customers (``the nicest people visit our
establishment''), or the service process (``we're fast and efficient'').

(1) Consumer sales promotions. The advertisement describes a sales promotion within the ad
copy or somewhere else within that is linked to the service offering, e.g. a coupon, a
rebate, how to obtain a sample or preview of the service offering, a premium, a contest or
sweepstake, etc.
(2) Direct response advertising. The advertisement attempts to elicit a behavioral response
from consumers by describing a method that will facilitate such a response. These
methods could include mail in offers, 1-800 telephone numbers, requests to write for
additional information, and emphasis of Web site addresses. Mere inclusion of a Web site
address within an ad, without a statement suggesting the reader visit it, does not fulfill this