The effect of open advertising on purchase intentions and brand attitude

Does broader communication profit from openness?

Fuelled by the vision to be the world’s most progressive and desirable premium car brand, one of the largest current opportunities for Volvo is the transition to electric mobility. Volvo has traditionally been well-known for safety but this is no longer a unique selling point, since all premium European cars nowadays are considered safe (Emerald strategic 2016).

This is why today; Volvo aspires to be the most human car manufacturer. “Volvo understands us, protects what’s important to us and makes us feel special” (Volvo 2016). Since the focus of Volvo’s new communication strategy is much broader than their traditional strategy, management suggested to favour traditional print advertisements in premium magazines that are Open to broader interpretation.

Previous research: openness is quite a challenge!

Ginter (1974) found that the attitude towards a new brand changes, both pre and post choice and Michell and Olsen (1981) found that brand beliefs mediate purchase intentions. Using these in an ad, is thus recommended. Ketelaar and Van Gisbergen (2006 p.148) concluded that single open ads hardly generate a positive effect, but also that consumers’ intelligence should not be underestimated. While Ketelaar and Bosman (2008, 2010) concluded that open ads did not command a deeper level of attention, Lagerwerf and Meijers (2008) found that openness still enhances straightforward advertisements. Nonetheless, openness decreased the chance that the intended belief was judged to fit, although one specific car ad showed a non-significant reverse effect (Ketelaar, Bosman 2010). Ultimately, an open strategy might be successful, but the chances are rather small.

Research and analysis

With our research, Volvo aimed to obtain insights in the effect of Open advertising on Dutch consumers’ Purchase Intentions and Attitude towards Volvo eMobility, in order to make the most effective use of their marketing budget in The Netherlands.

Should Volvo adopt an open or closed advertising strategy, in order to expand their market share in eMobility?

In order to answer Volvo’s research question we measured not only consumers’ attitude towards the Volvo brand when viewing an open or closed advertisement. We also assessed the likelihood of an actual purchase of a new Volvo car. In the posttest, the sequence of the survey questions was randomised in order to prevent recognition from the pretest.

Research Design
Research Design

Measures, materials and participants

The pretest and posttest consisted of 42 validated questions with α of .97 (Spears, Singh 2004), measuring brand attitude and purchase intention. The stimuli consisted of two ads, differing in openness. The only difference between the ads in the photography used, all texts and logos are identical in both ads. Seven participants completed a survey before and after exposure to one stimulus. In semistructured 30-45 minute interviews, participants were inquired about the survey results, the ad they saw and their purchase intentions. Additionally, participants were asked about relevant decision factors in their purchase process.

Please note that although quantitative instruments were applied, this research should be considered qualitative, since only the interviews were used in the actual analysis. Individual survey results were used strictly as a means to guide the interviews.

Advertisement A: closed

Referring to typology developed by Philips and McQuarrie (Philips, 2004) the image used in Ad A applies fusion as a visual structure (the car and road and trees) as it tries to demonstrate an apparent connection between the elements displayed (electric car and the environment).

Ad A Closed
Ad A Closed

Advertisement B: open

Whereas Ad A does shows (a part of a) car, Ad B does not show a car at all, but rather focusses on Volvo’s 2016 human car manufacturer vision. Advertisement B is more complex by trying to make the same connection while the image shown (humans in nature) replaces the absent image (a car) completely.

Ad B Open
Ad B Open

Conclusions

A Closed ad is the preferred strategy, for this scenario.

“A car ad should contain at least the car and additionally some information about the car” Specifically participants who don’t own a Volvo demonstrated greater appreciation for the closed ad.

Closed ad is more recognisable, metaphor-elasticity limit reached.

Philips (2000) found that closed ads are preferable. Ad B (open) appears too difficult to comprehend, little or nothing gives away the clue. Ease of comprehension is main determinant of Ad appreciation, and influences  BA.

Association for environment and eMobility doesn’t work.

“What is eMobility?” is a question that multiple participants asked. The connection between the environment, next of kin and eMobility appeared to be too difficult to comprehend at first hand.

PI and BA increased, but ads are not pivotal in purchase decision.

The acquisition of a car can hardly be seen as an impulse purchase. PI is influenced by facts and figures and our social environment, rather than open  or closed magazine ads.

 

Theory of reasoned action (TRA)

Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen, 1975) looks at how behaviour may be influenced by influencing intentions. TRA states that two factors are paramount when influencing an individual, whether or not to perform a behaviour: 1.) personal attitudinal judgments: the evaluation of the action; and, 2.) social-normative considerations: what an individual believes others think they should do.

The purchase of a new Volvo car is thus influenced by our own opinion, and the opinion of others. Interviews with the participants revealed that the purchase of a new Volvo car is dependent specifically on economic circumstances (our personal assessment of our financial position) and the views of our colleagues and neighbours (bigger car than the neighbour, but smaller than the CEO’s).

Note: This theory has been researched by Paul den Hertog.

INSERT THEORY (TRA)

Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen, 1975) looks at how behaviour may be influenced by influencing intentions. TRA states that two factors are paramount when influencing an individual, whether or not to perform a behaviour: 1.) personal attitudinal judgments: the evaluation of the action; and, 2.) social-normative considerations: what an individual believes others think they should do.

The purchase of a new Volvo car is thus influenced by our own opinion, and the opinion of others. Interviews with the participants revealed that the purchase of a new Volvo car is dependent specifically on economic circumstances (our personal assessment of our financial position) and the views of our colleagues and neighbours (bigger car than the neighbour, but smaller than the CEO’s).

Note: This theory has been researched by Felix Kalkman.
Limitations and Ethical considerations

Sample size

Very small sample-size, even for qualitative research (N=7).

Participants

Sample consisted of friends and family, though all were within Volvo’s target group.

Translation

Validated scales were translated in Dutch by non-professional translator.

Stimulus exposure

Gaze time was not limited during the experiment

 

References

Austrian Tourist Board. (2016). Photograph Ad B.

Emerald Group Publishing. (2016). Getting to the heart of Volvo’s brand. Strategic Direction, 32(7), 8-10. doi:10.1108/sd-04-2016-0050

Ginter, J. L. (1974). An Experimental Investigation of Attitude Change and Choice of a New Brand. Journal of Marketing Research, 11(1), 30. doi:10.2307/3150991

Ketelaar, P. E., Van Gisbergen, M. S., Bosman, J. A., & Beentjes, H. (2008). Attention for open and closed advertisements. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 30(2), 15-25. doi:10.1080/10641734.2008.10505244

Ketelaar, P. E., Van Gisbergen, M. S., Bosman, J. A., & Beentjes, J. (2010). The effects of openness on attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the brand, and brand beliefs in Dutch magazine ads. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 32(2), 71-85. doi:10.1080/10641734.2010.10505286

Ketelaar, P., & Gisbergen, M. V. (2006). General discussion. In Openness in advertising(p. 148). Nijmegen, NL: Radboud Universiteit.

Lagerwerf, L., & Meijers, A. (2008). Openness in metaphorical and straightforward advertisements: appreciation effects. Journal of Advertising, 37(2), 19-30. doi:10.2753/joa0091-3367370202

Mitchell, A. A., & Olson, J. C. (1981). Are product attribute beliefs the only mediator of advertising affects on brand attitude? Journal of Marketing Research, 18(3), 318. doi:10.2307/3150973

Phillips, B. J. (2000). The Impact of Verbal Anchoring on Consumer Response to Image Ads. Journal of Advertising, 29(1), 15-24. doi:10.1080/00913367.2000.10673600

Phillips, B. J., & McQuarrie, E. F. (2004). Beyond Visual Metaphor: A New Typology of Visual Rhetoric in Advertising. Marketing Theory, 4(1-2), 113-136. doi:10.1177/1470593104044089

Spears, N., & Singh, S. N. (2004). Measuring attitude toward the brand and purchase intentions. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 26(2), 53-66. doi:10.1080/10641734.2004.10505164

Volvo. (2016). Volvo brand guide.

Volvo. (2017). Volvo annual report 2016.

Waltjen, R. (2016). Photograph Ad A.

Glossary

Brand Attitude

“An individual’s internal evaluation of the brand” (Mitchell, Olson 1981, p. 318).

Openness

Advertisers “use the concept of openness to refer to the amount of guidance towards the intended message of the ad” (Ketelaar, Van Gisbergen 2006).

Purchase Intentions

“An individual’s conscious plan to make an effort to purchase a brand” (Spears, Singh 2004).

 

Note: Research designed and conducted by Paul den Hertog and Felix Kalkman for NHTV E-MMI attn. M. Van Gisbergen.