Consumer Responses to Creative Platform of the Internet Advertising

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ChangHyun Jin and Jongwoo Jun

WJMCR 9 (April 2007)

Sections:

Introduction|Conceptualization|Methodology|Results|Conclusion

Abstract

This study explores the role of the creative platform in consumer attitude formation and behavioral intention on the Web. The purpose of this paper is to identify how the creative factors and interactivity influence attitude toward the target ads and click-through intention. The findings indicate that the creative factors of the Internet advertising possibly play not only the role of leverage as causal effect when consumers form their attitude toward the banner advertising, but also that theses factors indirectly influence click-through intention. Implications and future research are also discussed.

Introduction

With the development of the digital devices and computer software, various formats of advertising have been introduced in advertisements. This trend includes traditional TV commercials as well as Internet advertising. For example, 3D animation in TV advertising, which is combined with dazzling creative techniques (e.g., animation, text message and color, etc.), is dominant in Internet advertising, with creative techniques still developing. While complex creative tools are said to confuse consumers in their understanding of the originally intended communication messages, it is empirically proven that those heuristic elements evoke positive consumer attitudes and behaviors in the Internet advertising environment.1 Interactive settings in banner advertisements are another creative appeal to the Internet advertising. Interactivity could be an effective creative tool for the Internet advertising because the Internet makes two-way communication possible.2

Even though message itself is believed to be a core element when marketing messages are communicated, it is always big concern for the advertising agencies to decide which creative element should be used and stressed. Creative appeals could be critical factors for the success of advertising campaign. Especially for low involvement products, heuristic elements do play a more significant role.3 These creative tools are divided into visual or audio expressions. For print advertising, creativity is limited to the visual expression, but both visual and audio elements are important in the multimedia advertising environment. This means that the creative strategy is more important in multimedia advertising. In this regard, it would be quite fruitful for both advertising academics and practitioners if some of the effective creative factors were found in the Internet advertising.

The main purposes of this study are 1) to examine how the creative factors and interactivity influence consumer attitude formation and processing in the computer-mediated environment and 2) to explore the relationship that may exist between a set of creative variables and click-through intentions on the Web.

Conceptualization

Web Advertising Creative

While research on the influence of executional or content factors has been exploring the performance of print and broadcast advertising, the research on the creative factors of banner advertising is still in progress. Lohtia, Donthu and Hershberger4 suggested that content and design elements positively influence on the click-through rates of banner advertisements. This research also found that banner ad characteristic such as animated/stick banner and type of size influence the viewer recall and clicks through examining viewer cognitive response as a function of banner.5

Even though Internet advertising environment is fast changing, and various advertising format are constantly being introduced, the main forms of Internet advertising are said to be banner ads and their linked sites.6 As technology is developed, operating mechanisms become more complex, but the main frame of communicating system is not changing. Further, advertising researchers should examine banner ads with more integrated perspectives because banner ads evolve and the expressions of marketing messages become more creative and complex. In the same vein, Biehal, Stephens and Curlo7 suggested that researchers should consider the components of the advertisement stimulus in examining resultant consumer attitudes. The content of the ad copy (e.g., context of a message contained in an advertisement),8 the headline, the creative platform, and ad images or pictures presumably contribute to forming advertising attitudes.9

Originally, the creative platform has been defined as the reciprocal factors that included ad image and pictures. Over the years, even though much advertising research primarily focused on the advertising as a mediator,10 the creative platform cannot be underestimated because it could influence consumers directly. Mackenzie, Lutz and Belch carefully consider the creative platform such as copy and visual complexity.11 These factors may be expected to be influential in consumer attitude change toward the advertising and brand, and may possibly influence brand recognition and purchase intention.

In consumer psychology, researchers have paid attention to the relationship between the picture-image memory12 and the semantic memory for brand information. Evaluative connotative responses such as pleasant feelings may stem from the advertised product itself or other pleasant stimuli (music, scenery, characters, etc.) in the advertising context. Consumers may be affected by the creative platform taking the form of appeals and character with pictures and images on the ads. Consequently, consumers will consider all ad components when forming their attitudes toward the ad and the brand.13 However a few researchers have focused on the creative platform. It is obvious that advertising character may affect consumer attitude. Visual information with sound, color, motion, and other factors in advertisements is important in affecting consumer attitude formation.14

Studies on music as a creative factor in commercials draw attention in advertising research area. Music directly affects behavior at stage of purchase as well as can be an effective persuasive design tool. Specifically, Morris and Mary15 pointed out that a peripheral cue such as music positively affects brand attitude in a low involvement advertising setting. Messages with background music in advertising are more influential to consumers� affect than cognition because the characteristics of music such as happiness and sadness modes affected the listener�s feelings. Indeed, music in television commercials has been related to viewers� affection during analytic cognitive situations.16 In this regard, we can extend studies of sound to Internet advertising creatively influencing attitudes toward banner advertising.

H1: Perceptions of sound as one of web advertising creative factors are directly related to attitude toward that banner advertising.

Lothis, Donthu and Hershberger17 pointed out that design elements might be closely related to consumers� emotion on the Internet. They found that design elements such as content and color are critical factors in consumer decision making or in other Internet interface behaviors. Color is an important creative tool with potential.18 Biehal, Stephens and Curlo�s19 research focused on the attitude toward ad and brand choice in connection with advertisements in magazines. They found that the advertising picture is closely linked to consumer attitudes and behavior. The picture size and pictorial information in the advertisement are associated with attitude toward the brand.20 Thus, it can be assumed that color used on the banner could enhance a favorable attitude toward banner advertising. The discussion leads to the following hypothesis:

H2: Perceptions of color as one of advertising�s creative factors are directly related to attitude toward such banner advertising.

Some studies have emphasized that advertising effects were dependent on the content and execution of the advertising. Diamond21 suggested that two elements such as content and format could be closely linked to the evaluation of the brand and consumer behavior. In addition, Edward et al. highlighted that content placement on the Web is an important factor in capturing viewer attention on interactive Web environments.22 Thus, it can be extended that content also is a critical factor when making decision or behavior on the Internet. Therefore, we suggest the following hypothesis:

H3: Perceptions of text as one of advertising�s creative factors are directly related to attitude toward such banner advertising.

Although the effectiveness of animated commercials has been questioned by many researchers23, animation can motivate interaction and draw attention to specific content as well as helping users to increase advertising recognition and brand recall. Detenber, Simons and Bennett24 indicated that �motion also figures prominently in the world of media, for it is a defining characteristic of film, video and new media technologies such as multimedia.�

In addition, many empirical studies on motion have tried to explore the psychological effects of motion in advertisement representation.25 Reeves et al.26and Kipper27 stressed that motion could influence human cognitive processing, and increase human arousal and attention in television commercials. Motion effect theories assume that human beings exhibit inherent preference for moving objects. That is, when people are exposed to moving images, they focus their attention on the source of the motion and process relevant information.28 Motion perception may be not only critical factor to understand the physical world, but also a fundamental attribute of the physical world.29 Motion in advertisements has been positively associated with higher physiological arousal.30 Moreover, Detenber et al.31 reported that image motion had a positive effect on emotional arousal as indexed by self-reports. Also, animated motion used in advertising may influence human cognitive processing and increase viewer attention to ads.32 Thus, this review of motion studies leads to the following hypothesis.

H4: Perceptions of animated motion in banner ads positively influence attitude toward such banner advertising.

Interactivity is also an important element of internet advertising. Rafaeli33 defined, �Interactivity is generally assumed to be a natural attribute of face-to-face conversation, but it has been suggested it occurs in mediated communication settings as well (p.110).� �Interactive advertising is the paid and unpaid presentation and promotion of products, services and ideas by an identified sponsor through mediated means involving mutual action between consumers and producers.�34 In addition to the traditional creative factors in advertising, interactivity is another important factor in new media advertising. It is true that the term, interactivity became a primary idea in the advanced digital media age, and is the most effective characteristics of advertising. Interactivity has been studied in the context of communication between an organization and an individual and, more recently, research in this area has focused on the relationship between the degree of interactivity involved in Web advertising and advertising�s overall effectiveness. People who experience higher levels of interactivity are more likely to exhibit favorable attitudes toward ads on the Web and advertised brands, as well as positive purchasing intentions.35 Based on this discussion, we can postulate this hypothesis.

H5: Perceptions of interactivity as advertising creativity are directly related to attitude toward such advertising.

In conclusion, this study combined specific creative factors and interactivity as antecedents of attitude toward the Internet advertising.

Click-through Intentions

Overt behavior is a function of a person�s intention, which, in turn, is hypothesized to depend on that person�s attitude toward the behavior and his/her subjective norms. According to Briggs and Hollis36 and Millward Brown Interactive37, online advertising can raise brand awareness, positive brand perceptions, and intent to purchase. For the Internet advertising, the click-through intention represents typical behavior of Internet advertising. Click-through is based on the consumer�s penchant for satisfying their needs immediately by clicking on the banners upon seeing the advertisements. In the same vein, Lohtia, Donthu and Hershberger�s study investigates the impact of content and design elements on the click-through rates for banner ads.38 Li and Bukovac found, through examining the viewer�s cognitive response as a function of banner, that banner ad characteristics such as animated/stick banner and size influence the viewer recall and clicks.39 Recently, the concept of attitude toward advertising format was introduced and found to be related to attitude toward advertising and click through behavior.40 Advertising format includes banner, pop-up, skyscraper, large rectangle, floating, and interstitial (webpage) ads generally can be defined as a way of inserting an important messages between the main page and secondary page.41Given that attitude toward the ad is the critical mediator in the field of consumer behavior42, we can postulate the following hypothesis regarding click-through intention as a consequence of attitudes toward Internet advertising.

H6: People who have a positive attitude toward banner ads are, on average, more likely to click on such banner ads.

Methodology

The general purpose of this study was to examine the relationship among creative factors, attitude toward advertising and click-through intention. Thus, the first goal was to gain a better understanding of responses to advertising by examining consumer psychological processes as reflected in attitudes toward ads. Furthermore, the study empirically investigated how creative elements influence response to advertisements under online environments. The study sample, instrument construction, data analysis and results are described below.

Data Collection

A pretest was administered to 25 undergraduate students. After the pretest, questionnaire items were refined and clear directions on how to complete the survey were composed. The measurement tools used in the study were based on the existing literature. Advertising creative factors such ad sound, color, text, motion, and interactivity were used as exogenous variables, and attitude toward banner advertising, click-through intention as endogenous variables.

A total of 308 undergraduates from a large Southeastern university participated in the survey over a one week period. College students are relevant participants for this study because people of this age group are visually oriented and are major users of the Internet. A popular fast-food restaurant website was selected, and banner ads from the websites were analyzed to evaluate creative factors. This restaurant could be appropriate material to measure consumer response because the restaurant is familiar to younger consumers and closely related to consumer service satisfaction.

The survey was administered in two sessions. Each session was conducted in a regular university class. In the first session, the investigator visited the class in the beginning of the spring semester and told participants that the purpose of the study was to examine the different reasons for Internet usage (e.g., information searches, communication, etc.); the real purpose of the study was not revealed. Participants were asked to read and sign an informed consent form, and to write down their name and their email address on the first page. Investigators then send out email contained the URL of the restaurant website to participants. The website address was linked on email content.

A week later, the investigator went to the class again. Subjects were given a packet entitled, �Internet Study.� They were asked to evaluate their overall interactivity with the Web sites in general and with associated creative factors, using a self-administered questionnaire, the subjects were given twenty minutes to fill in their responses to questions about the following variables: a) sound, b) color, c) text, d) image motion on banner, and e) the click-through intention. After completing their questionnaire, subjects were debriefed. The questionnaires were matched based on student name and ID numbers.

Measures

The measurement tools used in the study were based on the literature review of creative factors as independent variables in the Internet. Attitude toward banner ads and click-through intention are also measured as dependent variables. The current research used previously-developed scales, modified when necessary, to measure study variables.

Creative Factors: In order to design a reasoned instrument for this study, certain dimensions were selected from previously developed item sets for the measurement of creative factors including sound, color, text, and motion. The semantic differential scales used in this study to measure creative factors were selected from various prior research studies.43 Scale questions asked subjects to evaluate the components of banner ads on the Internet using 7-point Likert scales.

Four items for sound variables were assessed as �pleasant/unpleasant,� �not irritating/irritating,� �not boring/boring,� and �not comfortable/comfortable�. Three items for color variables were assessed as �unfavorable/favorable,� �unlikable/likable,� and �not attractive/attractive�. Regarding in-text variables, four assessment items were used, including �not informative/informative,� �not persuasive/persuasive,� �not valuable/valuable,� and �good/bad.� In order to measure motion factor in banner ads, four items of motion were assessed as �unfavorable/favorable,� �unlikable/likable, �not attractive/attractive,� and �not funny/funny�.

Interactivity: This study used measurement tools of perceived interactivity suggested by Cho and Leckenby44, Hoffman, Novak and Chatterjee45, and Liu and Shrum46. Five-items were selected to measure interactivity in this study, as measured by a seven-point Likert type scale ranging from �very likable� to �very unlikable�, from �very satisfied� to �very unsatisfied�, from �very pleased� to �very unpleased�, and from �strongly disagree� to �strongly agree.� Examples of response opportunities include, �Please tell us how about the feeling when watching the ads or when interacting with the web and clicking on the ads,� �To visit or see the ad, when you visit to the ad there is very little waiting time between my actions and the computer�s (web page) response,� �It is very quick in loading up pagers,� and �The web site gives visitors the opportunity to talk back.�

Attitude toward Banner Advertising: To measure attitude toward banner advertising, semantic differential scales were selected from various prior research studies.47 Subjects were asked to evaluate banner ads on the Internet (using a 7-point Likert scale) along with four measures anchored by labels of �not informative/informative,� �not valuable/valuable,� �boring/interesting,� and �unfavorable/favorable.�

Click-Through Intention: Click-through intention was measured by tools suggested by Hoffman, Novak, and Chatterjee48 and Cho and Leckenby49. This was seven-point Likert type scales ranging from �strongly disagree� to �strongly agree.� Examples of response opportunities include, �I would like to click because the ad, the site, and animated ad have something to do him or his needs,� and �I would like to click because the ad, website and animated character are very interesting.�

Cronbach�s alpha was used in this study and based on acceptable levels of this statistic, all reliabilities for this study were satisfied to the standard acceptance norm of .70; a) perception of sound was .81, b) color was .89, c) text was .88, d) image motion on banner was .92, e) interactivity was .95, f) attitude toward banner ads was .93, and g) the click-through intention was .93. Thus, we concluded that the internal consistence of the construct was established.

Results

To analyze the hypotheses for this study, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using EQS 5,7b was performed for data analyses. EQS 5.7b for Windows was used because it allows for the simultaneous analysis of several factors.50

Measurement Model

Prior to constructing the measurement and structural model, several underlying assumptions for SEM were checked. Hair et al. suggested that the Skewness and Kurosis values should be �1.96 with a p-value of .05.51 Each scale was assessed for construct validity by examining the standard CFA factor loadings of its hypothesized items. CFA was executed by the maximum likelihood extraction method, with varimax rotation because this model is used to decide the number of factors to be extracted and rotated in the conceptual model. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to examine seven hypothetical factor structures. All items had a factor loading of less than .40.52 Thus, the final model included all items including sound, color, text, motion, attitude toward banner ads, and interactive.

Scale reliabilities were estimated using Cronbach alpha. In all seven constructs, Cronbach alpha exceeded the standard acceptance norm of .70. Table 1 shows the descriptive data (Ms and SDs) and inter-correlations for all variables. The measures appear to be normally distributed and did not show excessive inter-correlation that might indicate multicollinearity. Thus, the assumptions remained within acceptable boundaries.

The procedure described by Fornell and Larker53 was used to assess discriminant validity of the measures. The average variance extracted ranged from .50 to .90 and the squared correlation ranged from .25 to .62. As an indication of discriminant validity, the average variance extracted for each construct was found to be higher than the squared correlation between that construct and any other construct. Thus, the discriminant validity is established in this model.

In the normal reliability, Sujan, Weitz and Kumar54 recommends that t-value should be above 6 and also Nunnally55 suggests reliability should be above .70. For this reason, the use of an Average Variance Extracted above .50 could be appropriate to suggest convergent validity. Some items were not satisfied with the t-value ratio suggested by Sujan, Weitz and Kumar56. Because other criteria were satisfied, it can be said that all factor loadings was significant and that convergent validity is has been established for this study.

Table 1. Correlation among Variables
VariableMeanS.D1234567
Sound5.26.93.81a
Color4.381.35.19**.93
Text4.661.16.40**.46**.88
Motion4.721.21.30**.49**.70**.95
Interactivity4.671.31.23**.51**.62**.71**.92
Abanner4.591.21.33**.47**.64**.74**.79**.93
CTI3.851.43.37**.34**.45**.54**.49**.58**.93
**p=.01, aCronbach�s Alpha, N=308

Hypothesized Model Testing

The structural equation model has appropriate to fit the criteria. A structural equation model was employed to test this seven-factor model. Overall, model goodness-of-fit indexes also supported this model [ (307)=710.6;  = 2.31; CFI = .95; GFI = .85; RMSEA = .07]. In the study the  test was significant. Thus, based on these measures, we can conclude that the model was appropriately satisfactory with the /df ratio.

Standardized path coefficients and path significances are presented in Figure 2. Four of the six path coefficients are significant with a p-value of .05, and support the hypotheses. As expected, we found significant effects of sound (H1), motion (H4), and interactivity (H5) on attitude toward banner ads (p < .05). Finally, color (H2) and text (H3) were not significant with p-vale, while sound (H1), motion (H4), and interactivity (H5) had a positive effect on attitude toward banner ads.

In terms of relative importance of the predictive variables on the response variable, sound, motion, and interactivity (y = .13, .44, and .36) exhibited the predicting power of Abanner, respectively. However, color and text (y= .03 and .02, respectively p>.05) as creative factors did not have the prediction power of attitude toward banner ads. As seen in the results, the attitudes toward banner advertising have a positive effect on click-through intention (H6). As expected, there was a moderating effect of creative factors on the relationship between Abanner and CTI ( = .77, p<.05). Attitude toward banner ads possibly had the moderating effect on CTI. Abanner had a moderator effect of creative factors on CTI. Therefore, factors of creative elements are hypothesized to explain the factor of CTI. The effects of creative elements are mediated by performances (Abanner).

SEM result indicated that the model is plausible and, that the motion used banner has a positive influence on consumer attitudes toward banner ads on the Web. Through path analysis, findings indicate that Interactivity and sound could affect attitude toward Web banner ads. However, this study did not find a significant relationship between color and text and the perception of Web banner ads. Results support some hypotheses that sound, motion and interactivity influenced subjects. There were positive relationships between the attitude toward banner ads and Web banner ads click-through intention. It implies that subjects may look at motion, interactivity and sound, and the perception of banner ads on the Web to determine how they perceive the web and brands.

Conclusion

The main purpose of this study was to explore how creative factors and interactivity elements influence consumer attitude formation and behavioral intention in the computer-mediated environment. To meet the purposes, this study was organized to test a model. A model was developed to test for these effects. The results were quite conclusive showing a significant positive relationship between creative factors and attitude toward advertising even though we failed to find significant roles of color and text.

The findings that creative factors were important antecedents of advertising attitude are consistent with previous studies. Specifically, it is supportive of the proposition of Mitchell and Olson57 that visual and emotional effects of advertising might be mediated by an individual�s evaluation of the advertisement. This means that creative factors are important variables to consider in studies of the Internet advertising effects. As Bruner58 and Park and Young59 emphasized that background music in advertising enhances consume affection, by increasing likeability of the brand. Thus, using banner sound would effective components of advertising when consumers evaluate the banner ad and the brand. However, this study failed to find a significant relationship between color and text and attitude toward advertising. This result is somewhat contradictory to previous research stressing the role of color and text as creative factors in traditional advertising. It is logical to conclude that color and text may play different roles in traditional advertising versus Internet advertising.

In addition, the current study found that interactivity was also an important creative factor in Internet advertising. Given the previously established importance of interactivity in Internet communication, this result is consistent.

This study also successfully replicated the relationship between attitude toward banner advertising and click-through intension.60 Creative factors had relationships with click-through intention mediated by attitude toward banner advertising. Given that the click-through is indicative of consumer behavioral intentions regarding Internet advertising, this relationship was consistently proved.

The findings of the current study have managerial implications. First, when internet advertisements are developed, creative factors should be considered carefully including visual and audio. Further, the use of TV advertising format is recommended for the Internet. The motion picture orientation of TV advertising, particularly, could be an effective tool. As DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) service started, multimedia based expression of advertising would play more important roles in future advertising environments. Another benefit of motion picture advertising is that these creative elements could attract user attention when the Internet becomes full of advertising clutter. Technically, it is acceptable as the down-loading speed of the Internet is getting faster. Secondly, animation could be an important design tool in current graphic interfaces because it motivates consumer action and draws viewer attention to specific product features. Image motion used in banner can be an attractive tool to capture viewer attention and support the parsing of complex information in graphical user interfaces. The animated genre will have greater appeal to our increasingly visual culture.

Another implication from the results is that interactivity should be considered as a creative strategy of the web advertising. Interactivity does not mean just a link between banner advertising and a linked site as understood by its literal meaning. Interactive elements should be designed in the Internet advertisement itself. This strategy would include user friendly interfaces of Internet advertising that make simple interaction possible in the banner without links to the main advertising page. This interactive creative strategy could foster consumer energy toward and interest in advertised banners through a reduction of advertising clutter. This result has additional implication for Internet media selection. To elicit more favorable attitudes toward web advertisements or click-through, advertisers should select media that have more interactively oriented user interfaces.

Limitations

This study has some limitations. First, only restaurant advertisements were used in this study. Given that product advertising and service advertising have some differences in execution of advertising practices, the results could be different if same research design were applied to other products. Another limitation stems from sampling. The study�s student sample was acceptable for initial theory testing, but we cannot generalize the results to whole web users.

The sample was limited to college students who may exhibit different perceptions of banner ads than those of other consumer segments. Therefore, any future such studies should replicate the current study with a larger and more representative sample. Another concern is that the current study employed the survey under controlled experimental conditions. In order to conduct the appropriate measurement of banner ad perception, a better developed measurement tool and in situ observations of internet behaviors should be considered in other study. Hence, it would be fruitful to conduct an experiment that directly measures actual internet user behaviors on the Web.

Secondly, while the current study provides valuable insights into the importance of design factors on the Web, further research will be needed to obtain a deeper understanding of the relationship between banner design factors and viewer responses on the Web. The results of such research would help banner designers develop various interactive tools to draw viewer attention on the Web.

Accordingly, future research should target a more general population and different types of products. Researchers should study other creative or interactivity elements using more refined measurement scales. Also, experimental research is needed to better identify causal relationships in a more natural setting. Finally, this study was only focused on creative techniques for making effective banner ads. Therefore, other studies should consider various banner formats (e.g., pop-up ads, banner ads, superstitials, text-links, etc.).

As discussed earlier, the importance of the Internet, especially as a medium of advertising, cannot be overestimated. Further, advertisers should develop more attractive and acceptable creative expressions and understand consumers� psychological orientation to make their message communicate more effectively (or just �make their message more effective).

Most researches have been focused on the 2D advertising environment. This study empirically found that these factors may be critical in affecting the short-term or long-term memory store. The creative platform must, at least, act as a link when consumers are forming an attitude toward the ad or brand. Given said interactions between advertisements and consumers in computer-mediated advertising environments, ads with visual complexity may foster positive attitudes, and different animated ad characters may be a factor in the formation of a consumer�s positive attitude toward brand and retention.

Given the effectiveness of interactive advertising and the fact that consumers are more likely to be impacted or to react within the interactive environment, it is logical to assume that interactive advertising would be focused on current and future consumer advertising format needs. Given that people tend to choose a specific the product based on, amongst other things, peculiar creative factors, the psychological effect of ads is an influence when consumers are forming attitude toward object in the three-dimensional world.

ChangHyun Jin received the Ph.D. from the University of Florid in December. Jongwoo Jun is currently a PhD. candidate at the University of Florida.

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