Consumer Response and Interpretation of Provocative Advertising through Message Encoding and Association Creation
Abstract: In a globalized world subjected to ongoing rapid technological development and increasingly evocative entertainment, advertisers are turning their attention to methods of provocation in an effort to induce actionable behavior from the consumer. Struggling to fight their way through the challenging environment of todays saturated market and appeal to the increasingly desensitized consumer, advertisers are increasingly looking to engage consumers by arousing feelings and emotions through provocation. The purpose of this paper will be to address the research gap concerning the conceptualization of provocative advertising, examining the thoughts, feelings and emotions aroused in the consumer upon interpretation of a campaign’s message. In recent decades, existing literature has acknowledged the impact of shock advertising, however, has proven limited in explaining emotional responses from the consumer’s point of view. Drawing on the work of Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) and Hall (1973), the theoretical underpinnings of the paper are grounded in mass communications research; the construction and reconstruction of meanings in society and the process of encoding/decoding messages in a social context. Using three company examples, provocative campaigns by the UK’s National Health Service, Benetton, and Virgin Mobile were used as examples in the process of collecting data. Combining qualitative methods of online observations and interaction, and eight semi-structured interviews, the data gathered categorically organized into themes of emotional responses. Of the prevalent themes, eight distinct emotional responses emerged: third person, victimization, deflection, desensitization, extreme responses, and company/product rejection. From these findings, the paper concludes with a discussion of the research findings in relation to the appropriability and attainment in addressing the objectives of the research question. From these research findings, practical advice for both practitioners and researchers in the field of advertising is offered along with suggestions for areas requiring further research.
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