Choosing a hot topic is not enough for a successful advocacy advertising campaign

New Ideas in MarketingEssential news for marketers, summarised by YouGov
April 18, 2019, 9:00 PM UTC

Millennial consumers pay greater attention to the content of ads tackling subjects they care about.

Ad campaigns that attempt to shape public opinion about a big issue are referred to as advocacy advertising and their use is on the rise. Greater awareness about corporate social responsibility and increasing pressure from consumers, especially younger ones, has led high profile brands to take stands on issues like patriotism, immigration and cultural diversity. But this paper suggests that to make an impact on brand attitudes and sales these campaigns need to do more than just pick a resonant issue to talk about.

Based on experiments involving 288 US millennials, the authors identified two important factors involved in the processing and impact of advocacy ads. The extent to which a person found the overall subject dealt with in an ad relevant to them was labelled “issue involvement”, and the level of sympathy with the particular argument being made was called “message agreement”. On the surface, the results showed that campaigns with high issue involvement generated positive brand attitudes and purchase intention.

But they also revealed that message agreement was pivotal in how consumers responded. This is because once people saw a topic they found relevant, they became more discerning about the content of the advert. If they also agreed with the argument expressed then the beneficial effects were seen. But if they disagreed then the opposite could occur, making the adverts counterproductive. So the authors recommend that marketers should pay close attention to the “framing” of their messages when planning advocacy campaigns.

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