Comparative Advertising

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Journal of Business Research 62 (2009) 768–774

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Journal of Business Research

Effects of comparative advertising format on consumer responses: The moderating effects of brand image and attribute relevance Mehmet I. Yagci a, Abhijit Biswas b,⁎, Sujay Dutta b
a b

Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, University of Mersin, Mersin 33342, Turkey School of Business Administration, Wayne State University, 5201 Cass Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202, United States

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
In this research we distinguish between ads that compare two different brands (Across-Brand Comparison or ABC ads) and those that compare different versions of the same brand (Within-Brand Comparison or WBC ads). Results from an experiment indicate that when comparative ads use attributes that are relevant to product performance, ad type and brand image interact such that an ABC ad leads to less favorable consumer perceptions than a WBC ad when image of the sponsor brand is low but not when it is high. However, when the ads use attributes that are irrelevant to product performance an ABC ad leads to less favorable consumer outcomes than a WBC ad, regardless of the image of the sponsor brand. We further propose and show that ad believability mediates these effects. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed and directions for future research are provided. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 14 August 2006 Accepted 31 March 2008 Keywords: Comparative ad Brand image Attribute relevance Persuasion knowledge model Characterization–correction model.

1. Introduction Comparative advertising is an increasingly popular promotion tactic. Its popularity stems from the FTC's informal encouragement of explicit comparisons in the 1970s (Grewal et al., 1997; Tannenbaum, 1974; Wilkie and Farris, 1975) and advertisers' belief in its effectiveness in influencing consumer decision-making. Indeed, it has been suggested that consumers find comparative advertisements both informative and interesting (Barry, 1993). In a meta-analysis, Grewal et al. (1997) reported that the effectiveness of comparative ads is “equivocal”. A primary reason for these mixed results is that “the complexity of comparative advertising and advertising response makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of comparative advertising outside of some usage context” (Rogers and Williams,1989). In this respect, the primary goal of our research is to examine the effect of comparative ads in the context of the ad format (i.e., brand to which the ad sponsor compares itself), attribute relevance and image of the advertising brand. We also examine the potential effect of “ad believability” as a mediator of comparative advertising on consumers' cognitions, attitudes, and behavioral intentions. We contribute to the comparative advertising literature by examining the relative effectiveness of two forms of comparative tactics, “Within-Brand Comparison” (WBC) and “Across-Brand Comparison” (ABC). Further, this study provides a better understanding of the effects of such tactics by including two factors that have not been examined

before, namely, attribute relevance and brand image. Use of “brand image” instead of “market share” and “attribute relevance” instead of “message content” as variables that moderate the effectiveness of comparative ads provides a different perspective which may prove to be more appropriate in different advertising conditions, such as a lowimage and low-share brand compared to a high-image and low-share brand or a new product compared to a high-image and high-share brand. The manuscript proceeds as follows. First, we discuss our conceptual model and develop hypotheses. Second, we discuss the procedure and results of an experiment conducted to test the hypotheses. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings, state the limitations in our...
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