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Effects of Institutional Change Toward Modernization on Consumer's Responses to Sex-Appeal Advertising
Chung-Leung Luk1; Cheris W.C. Chow2; Wendy W.N. Wan3
Conference NameAmerican Marketing Association Summer Educators Conference 2010
Source Publication2010 AMA Educators' Proceedings: Enhancing Knowledge Development in Marketing
Conference DateAugust 13-16, 2010
Conference PlaceBoston, Massachusetts, USA
Other Abstract

Sexual imagery has been increasingly adopted by advertisers to break through clutter and capture consumers’ attention. However, most of the literatures on sexappeal advertising were largely based on individual-level factors from the microscopic perspective, such as gender of the receivers and the products advertised. Identifying the factors from the macroscopic perspective, such as institutional change toward modernization, is still an unexplored area. Besides, previous researchers conducted their empirical work mainly in western countries (e.g., Gould 1994; LaTour and Henthorne 1994; Severn, Belch, and Belch 1990). Relatively few studies (e.g., Liu, Li, and Cheng 2006; Tai 1999) have been conducted to examine consumers’ responses to sex-appeal advertising in the Chinese context, yet the use of sex appeal is on the rise in China. The current study attempts to fill out these gaps.

Drawing on institutional theory, we integrate the micro and macro factors and describe how these factors affect consumers’ responses to sexual advertising in the Chinese context. Specifically, we argue that institutional change toward modernization has two components, cultural openness and regulatory tightness. Paradoxically, these two dimensions have opposite effects on consumers’ attitudes to sex-appeal advertising. On the one hand, formal rules and regulations serve as a source of legitimacy for people and constrain them from behaving liberally concerning sex issues. Regulatory tightness, therefore, is predicted to have a negative effect on the degree of acceptability to sex advertising. On the other hand, as people learn from their past experiences and encounter more explorations in the process of modernization, cultural openness will be greater. This exerts a positive effect on the degree of acceptability to sex advertising. As a result, a paradox exists in the effects of institutional change toward modernization. The two opposite effects, due to regulatory tightness and cultural openness, are expected to have a non-linear relationship with consumers’ responses to sexual advertising. Formally, the relationships between level of modernization and consumer attitudes and buying intention would follow an inverted U-Shape pattern (Hypothesis 1).

Previous researches provided empirical evidences that female generally possesses more negative attitude and lower acceptability to sex-appeal advertising (e.g., Fahy et al. 1995; Sengupta and Dahl 2008). Empirical studies also found that women generally possess more critical attitudes toward sexual role portrayals and perceive that companies which portray women offensively in their advertising holds discriminatory view (Ford, LaTour, and Lundstrom 1991; Lundstrom and Sciglimpaglia 1977). Hence, it is predicted that gender of the models shown in the ads and gender of the receivers will moderate the effect of level of modernization on consumers’ attitudes to sexappeal advertising. Specifically, the inverted U-shape pattern is more pronounced for female audience than for male audience (Hypothesis 2a) and the inverted U-shape pattern is more pronounced for female model than for male model (Hypothesis 2b).

Document TypeConference paper
Affiliation1.City University of Hong Kong, China
2.University of Macau, China
3.Sun Yat-Sen University, China
GB/T 7714
Chung-Leung Luk,Cheris W.C. Chow,Wendy W.N. Wan. Effects of Institutional Change Toward Modernization on Consumer's Responses to Sex-Appeal Advertising[C],2010:138-139.
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