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Assessing the Use and Impact of Humor on Advertising Effectiveness: A Contingency Approach

Harlan E. Spotts, Marc G. Weinberger and Amy L. Parsons
Journal of Advertising
Vol. 26, No. 3 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 17-32
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4189039
Page Count: 16
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Assessing the Use and Impact of Humor on Advertising Effectiveness: A Contingency Approach
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Abstract

Every year billions of dollars are spent on advertising that uses humor to sell products. How is that spending decision made? Despite much research examining humor effects in advertising, many advertisers make the decision on faith. Many past studies lack a clear conceptual focus to guide the investigation of humor effects in advertising. The authors examine humor effectiveness by using a conceptual framework adapted from Speck along with a product-contingent focus. The resulting approach affords a clearer understanding of the appropriate use of humor through the examination of (1) the humor mechanisms employed, (2) the intentional relatedness of humor to the ad or product, and (3) the type of product advertised. The descriptive results of the study indicate that current practice for many advertisers is to employ incongruity-based humor in a humor-dominant context. That practice is contrasted with others to examine the influence of humor on the effectiveness of print advertisements for different product groups. Study results indicate that current advertising practices may not be the most effective in terms of advertisement performance.

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