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The effect of cultural orientation on advertising effectiveness. A comparison among Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Mexicans.


Cultural and national artifacts or elements have become an important economic and marketing attraction (Edson, 2004). Nations and cultures all over the world are gaining importance, not only for the tourism industry, but for the experiences related to different cultures in which people might live. Indeed, cultures survive as long as they have marketable elements that are attractive to be consumed (Firat, 1995).

As members of a community, people have a sense of identification with one or more countries and with one or more cultures (Deshpande et al, 1986; Whittler et al, 1991). The way this sense of identification or belongingness to a community is acquired is beyond the scope of this study; however there is a common believe that this is done by socialization. It is noticeable that we can have more than one citizenship. It is also true that we can identify with more than one culture. The main focus of this paper is to explore how these cultural elements might impact advertising effectiveness.

In advertising, culture-related elements have been used extensively. It is common to observe on TV ads the countries' flags, national sport heroes as spokesmen, and other cultural elements, such as traditions and cultural practices. However, there is no formal study in marketing literature where cultural orientation is considered. By considering not only culture, but also cultural orientation, this paper will shed light on the understanding of the use of cultural elements in ads and how different communities that live in the US can be targeted more effectively.

We are assuming that Americans have American cultural orientation, and Mexicans have Mexican cultural orientation. For the Mexican-American community, we use scale ARSMA (The Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican-Americans) developed by Cuellar et al. (1995). This scale contains two subscales that measure AOS (American orientation subscale) and MOS (Mexican orientation subscale) of 6 items each.

The importance that this study has for marketing is high. For advertisers, the results of this study will give insights about the proper way to use cultural elements in advertising to ensure effectiveness, and for academicians, this study opens a new stream of research on culture and cultural orientation.


In marketing literature, there has been some research about cross cultural studies related with advertising. For example, Callow and Shiffman (2004) studied print advertising between high and low context cultures. Also the effectiveness of comparative vs. non-comparative advertising has been studied in a cross-cultural settings (Jeon and Beatty, 2002; Shao et al, 2004). Furthermore, there are comparisons between advertising from the US and other countries like Britain (Caillat and Mueller, 1996), Japan (Mueller, 1987), China (Lin, 2001; Zhang and Neelankavil, 1997), and Hispanic/Mexican advertising (Roberts and Hart, 1997).

Similarly, cultural studies deal with the national identities reflected in advertising. Examples include Thai identity (Jory, 1999), Canadian identity (Macgregor, 2003), and Russian identity (Morris, 2005). Also, other studies deal with the effect of language, for example Koslow et al (1994) studied the effect of the Spanish language as an important element for identification as Hispanic. In another study, Webster (1992) studied the effect of Hispanic subculture identification with the information search behavior.

In conclusion, there are studies that compare advertising effectiveness of different countries. Also the research about Mexican-American population has been investigated. However, there is no study that makes a comparison on the effectiveness of cultural orientation when people are exposed to cultural stimuli. So, by comparing the three populations (American, Mexican-American, and Mexican), this study contributes to this important aspect of advertising.



Congruency is the consistency that the self-identification has with the stimuli. Many aspects have been researched. For example, Gregory and Munch (1997) studied consistency in roles and cultural norms and the effect it has on viewers. They argue that the reactions are more favorable than for ads that depict inconsistencies, indeed, inconsistencies elicit adverse effects on attitudes toward the ad (Shen and Chen, 2006).

Another example is given by Holland and Gentry (1997), where stronger identification with the group will elicit stronger affective responses to the use of cultural symbols in advertising. Furthermore, matching characters with viewers' ethnicity would elicit more favorable response toward the ad (Torres and Briggs, 2005).

Some results are based on the theoretical perspectives of the elaboration likelihood model (Cacioppo and Petty, 1984). According to this model, there are two routes of perception: the central and the peripheral. Congruencies in advertising with the viewers are processed though the peripheral route such that the affection is transferred directly toward the ad judgment (Leach and Liu, 1998).

Not only has the affective reaction to congruency been researched: the impact or effect that these congruencies have on advertising has also been studied. Self-identification as a group member gives a sense of belonging to the group and contributes to a positive self-concept (Phinney, 1990). Cultural congruency appeals (collectivist vs. individualistic) are more effective (Zhang and Gelb, 1996), although the product-use condition moderates the effectiveness of culturally incongruent advertising appeals.

Congruency with the ethnicity of salespersons affect brand attitude positively (Grier and Deshpande, 2001). Congruency between the ad message and music also leads to an increase in brand recall (Shen and Chen, 2006). Furthermore, congruencies with the model and language with the viewer positively affects advertising effectiveness (Ueltschy and Krampf, 1997). This leads to the next hypothesis:

H1a: Advertising stimuli having American cultural elements would elicit more positive reactions to

Americans than advertising having other cultural elements. H1b: Advertising stimuli having Mexican cultural elements would elicit more positive reactions to

Mexicans than advertising having other cultural elements.

Cuellar (1995) developed the ARSMA (Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican-Americans) scale to measure the American and Mexican levels for Mexican-Americans. This scale is needed in this study to obtain these two important orientations that Mexican-Americans may have. The acculturation level, then is defined as the extend to which subjects exhibit the two types of orientation.

For the case of Mexican-Americans, acculturation level is a key element in advertising effectiveness. It was found that highly acculturated Mexican-Americans tend to have more similarities with the American population in advertising preferences (Uelschy and Krampf, 1997; Uelschy, 2002). This presides the basis for the next hypotheses:

H2a: Advertising stimuli congruent with Americans as a culture would elicit more positive reactions for

Mexican-Americans with a high American orientation level than advertising stimuli congruent with Mexicans as a culture. H2b: Advertising stimuli congruent with Mexicans as a culture would elicit more positive reactions for

Mexicans-Americans with a high Mexican orientation level than advertising stimuli congruent with Americans as a culture.

Advertising effectiveness

This section refers to the effectiveness of advertising in relation with cultural orientation. Since cultural elements elicit positive feelings, people would have more positive reaction toward the ads that contain congruent cultural elements, and thus advertising would be more effective.

As was mentioned before, self-identification as a group member gives a sense of belonging to a group and contributes to a positive self-concept (Phinney, 1990). When advertising elicits this sense of belonging and value, then a sense of pride is elicited. As a positive feeling, the reaction toward the ad and other ad effectiveness such as attitude toward the product and purchase intention are influenced positively on the impact of the ad. Some studies have reported positive responses to ads when positive feelings are elicited. For example, Aaker et al (1986) studied the impact of warmth in advertising. Warmth is a positive emotion very related with happiness and pride (Smith and Ellsworth, 1985).

In another study involving the role of emotions in advertising, Holbrook and Batra (1987) find the importance of emotions as mediators of responses to advertising. The responses are measured using attitude toward the ad and attitude toward the brand. They suggest pride as an emotional index that generates pleasure and is related with superiority and worth, such that positive emotions impact advertising effectiveness positively.

The use of cultural symbols has been researched as well. Holland and Gentry (1997) propose the Theory of Intercultural Accommodation to explain the effect of the usage of cultural symbols in advertising. That theory posits that there are both cognitive and affective responses to cultural symbols in advertising. The cognitive can either be positive, if the recipient perceives the cultural symbol handled with respect, or negative, if the recipient sees it as manipulative. The other type of response is affective, and people who identify stronger with the ethnic group of the ad actor, have stronger affective response and the ad is better evaluated.

The previous discussion leads to the conclusion that positive feelings impact advertising effectiveness positively. Hence, since cultural pride is a positive feeling, this study hypothesizes:

H3a: There is a positive relation between cultural orientation and attitude toward the ad when stimuli are present.

H3b: There is a positive relation between cultural orientation and attitude toward the product/service when stimuli are present.

H3c: There is a positive relation between cultural orientation and purchase intention when stimuli are present.



Definition and Operationalization of Variables.

Attitude Toward the Ad- is defined as the predisposition to respond in a favorable or unfavorable manner toward the advertisement after being exposure to it. This construct is operationalized by using a scale used in previous research studies. This study took the scale from the research made by Neese and Taylor (1994) using a 7-point Likert scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree, including items such as offensive, useful, and convincing.

Attitude Toward the Product/Service- is defined as a predisposition to respond in a favorable or unfavorable manner toward the product after being exposed to an advertising stimulus. To operationalize this construct this study combined two already used scales in marketing literature made for this purpose. The scale consists of a series of 7-point bipolar scale with items selected from two sources. One is from Holbrook and Batra (1987) that include items such as good/bad and positive/negative. The other source is from Peracchio and Meyers-Levy (1997) that include items such as boring/exciting and exceptional/mediocre.

Purchase Intention- is defined as the actual intention of the subject to purchase the product. The measurement is done by asking a single question in the questionnaire, "If you could, would you buy this product?" with a 7-point Likert scale (Not at all--Definitely).

Cultural Orientation- Since acculturation is defined as the process of learning a culture that is different from the one in which a person was raised (Valencia, 1985), then the acculturation level is the stage where the person is in that process. To operationalize this construct, this study uses the scale ARSMA (The Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican-Americans) developed by Cuellar et al. (1995). This scale contains two subscales that measure AOS (American Orientation subscale) and MOS (Mexican Orientation subscale) of 6 items each.

For the Mexican community, this study assumes that they have Mexican cultural orientation. In the same way, Americans have American cultural orientation

Description and Selection of the Sample

In order to make the comparison among the three populations (American, Mexican-American, and Mexican) this study needs data from the three groups. The American population should be selected from a town where the majority of the population is American and their contact with Mexican culture is limited (e.g.Georgia). The Mexican population, in the same way, should be from a Mexican town where the American culture is not determinant (e.g. Monterrey). And finally, the Mexican-American sample should be selected from a town where the majority of the population is from that culture (e.g. a Rio Grande Valley town in South Texas).

In order to assure equal samples from the three populations, college students were used as subjects in the experiment. By using a classroom setting, the study has more control of the variance of the experiment and avoids extraneous variables. In Mexico, the sample selected need to have enough English domain to perform the test in that language. Both the ads and the questionnaires are in English. In order to obtain that sample, this study selected a university that requires that its students get a minimum of 550 points in the TOEFL test, this assures that the subjects would have enough knowledge of the English language to perform the experiment.

Experiment Design

In each university, different classes were approached, and each group was exposed to only one of the commercials that contain either American or Mexican cultural elements. Since the experiment was done at different class times, those students that participated before, were asked not to do the experiment again.

Statistical Analysis

The hypotheses are about the comparison among the populations. For comparing the differences on the populations, ANOVA is the proper statistical technique to use with a post-hoc analysis to identify where the exact differences are (Hair et al, 1998).

In order to test the effect of cultural orientation on advertising effectiveness, regression analysis and the correlation matrix were used to verify if, statistically, there is significant evidence that cultural orientation impact on advertising effectiveness. The three variables to test the effectiveness of the advertising are: attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the product/service, and purchase intention. Such that cultural orientation would be the independent variable and each one of the three effectiveness variables would be the dependent variables.


Data gathering process

This study was designed to examine the effect of culture in advertising effectiveness. In order to conduct the experiment, selected advertisements were exposed to different classes in a normal classroom in three different universities. The universities selected were considered such that the majority of the students belong to the three samples that this study intends to compare. The three samples are Americans, Mexicans, and Mexican-Americans.

In each one of the universities, subjects were approached to conduct the experiments in a normal classroom. A total of 331 usable questionnaires were gathered. The distribution of the samples is presented on table 1.

Description of the data

Table 2 shows some of the descriptive for the data. This table includes all the demographic variables that were collected.

Analysis of Results

For each one of the samples, some statistical analysis was made in order to test the hypotheses. These analyses include ANOVAs and Regression Analysis. The software used for this purpose was SPSS.

The first set of hypotheses consists of comparing advertisements having stimuli from different regions (Mexico and the USA). To test differences, ANOVA was used. In order to test positive reactions about the advertisements, this study used the three variables: purchase intention (PI), attitude toward the ad (AttAd), and attitude toward the product (AttPr).

For the American sample, it is expected that stimuli congruent with the USA would have more positive reaction than the other ads that contain elements form Mexico. As presented in the first section of tables 3a and 3b, this study finds that the only variable in which the different regions differ is purchase intention, but in the opposite direction as expected. This evidence did not support H1a.

For the Mexican sample, this study did not find evidence that Mexican elements in the ads would promote more positive reactions than ads having stimuli from the USA. This is shown on the second section of tables 3a and 3b, hence hypothesis H1b is not supported.

Hypothesis H2a posits that Mexican-Americans with high American orientation would evaluate ads containing American elements better than ads containing elements from Mexico. In this case, the results show that that the differences are presented in the three variables, however in the opposite direction than expected. The third section of tables 3a and 3b show these results, hence H2a is not supported.

Hypothesis H2b posits that Mexican-Americans with high Mexican orientation would evaluate ads containing Mexican elements better than ads containing elements from the USA. This study finds that this happens for purchase intention and attitude toward the product, but not for attitude toward the ad. The last section of tables 3a and 3b shows these results, hence H2b is partially supported.

The last sets of hypotheses are related with the relationship between cultural orientation and advertising effectiveness in the variables purchase intention, attitude toward the product, and attitude toward the ad. Regression analysis is used to verify if there is a significant relationship of dependence between two variables. Table 4 shows the results of these tests. For the Mexican-American sample, we split the sample in two files. One contains subjects with high Mexican Orientation (MOS) and the other contains subjects with high American orientation (AOS). Furthermore, the selection of those ads in each one of the samples that represent their culture need to be done to assure that the correct analysis is performed with the correct data. In summary, for the Mexican sample and for the Mexican-American sample with high MOS, this study used only the evaluation of the Mexican commercials in the analysis; and for the American sample and the Mexican-American sample with high AOS, this study used only the cases where subjects evaluate the American commercials. H3a posits that there is a positive relationship between cultural orientation and attitude toward the ad (AttAd). The numbers on table 4 show that only in the Mexican-American sample with high Mexican orientation this is true, hence partially supporting H3a. Similarly, H3b posits that there is a positive relationship between cultural orientation and attitude toward the product. By looking table 4, it can be seen that this is true only for the two Mexican-American samples, hence partially supporting H3b. Last, H3c posits that there is positive relationship between cultural orientation and purchase intention, table 4 shows that this happens only with the two Mexican-American populations, such that H3c is partially supported.

In this table it can be seen that the only case where cultural orientation has a significant effect on the independent variables (i.e. purchase intention, attitude toward the ad, and attitude toward the product) was in the Mexican-American subsamples, in both the American orientation and the Mexican orientation subsamples. In the other samples (American and Mexican) cultural orientation was not determinant for these variables.


Discussion of the results

The main objective of this study was to compare three different populations (Mexican, American, and Mexican-American) in the way cultural orientation influences the effectiveness on TV advertising.

The first set of hypotheses is about cultural congruency. A high surprisingly result was obtained in the hypotheses that deal with cultural advertising stimuli congruent with the subjects own identity. Even when prior research (e.g. Gregory and Munch, 1997; Shen and Chen, 2006; Torres and Briggs, 2005) find evidence that people evaluate more positively ads congruent with their own culture, this study did not find support on this. The Americans did not evaluate more positively the ads that contain American cultural elements; neither the Mexicans evaluate more positively the ads that contain Mexican cultural elements. The cause may be again the sample selection. However, it can also be that indeed, cultural elements do not affect the evaluation of TV ads. People is more used to watch TV ad made for international advertising campaigns and the use of particular cultural or national elements may tend to influence now in smaller proportion. Beside, there are some other important elements that may be considered more important is ad evaluation, especially for young people, such as resolution, image, creativity, and so on.

An important finding of the study was the evidence that ads with Mexican elements have more positive effects for the Mexican-Americans that have high Mexican orientation (MOS). Surprisingly, the opposite did not find any support. Ads containing American elements did not have a positive effect in the Mexican-Americans high in American orientation (AOS), indeed, they have a negative effect on the dependent variables. This may be cause by the fact that Mexican-Americans with high MOS that are away from Mexico may cause this positive effect when exposed to Mexican elements in TV ads. The Mexican-Americans high in Anglo orientation follow the same pattern of the Americans and the Mexican samples, in the fact that American cultural elements in ads are not evaluated more positively than the rest of the TV ads. It may be possible to consider that no matter the cultural orientation, the Mexican-American community may be influenced by Mexican cultural stimuli in advertising. This may be an important finding that only Mexican-Americans evaluate more positively the ads that contain Mexican cultural elements. This finding may be determinant on the advertising campaigns directed to a specific sub-culture that is away from what they might consider their "home country".

The last set of hypotheses is about advertising effectiveness. The variables that this study considers to measure the effectiveness of the advertising are: attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the product, and purchase intention. For these hypotheses this study suggests a positive relationship between cultural orientation and these variables. This study found that only in the Mexican-American sample the impact of cultural orientation on advertising effectiveness (attitude toward the ad, attitude toward the product, and purchase intention) was significant. Again, it can be caused by the sample selection or it may be cause by other factors that affect the evaluation of the ads. And only in the population with cultural diversity, these cultural elements are influential. This finding is congruent with the finding that only the Mexican-American population is influenced by their cultural orientation. Again, this is a very important finding when targeting a sub-culture immerse in another country.

Limitations and Future Research

Even when the findings of this study are important, much more research needs to be done in order to verify the findings. The main limitation of this study is the sample selection. By using college students in a regular classroom this study assures high internal validity since extraneous variables were more under control and minimizing the effect of the results. However, external validity is jeopardized. The results cannot be generalized to the whole population. This suggests that further research need to be done by considering a non-student sample with higher age and occupations variability.

The selection of the ads is a limitation of this study as well. Evan when the selection of the ads was made by a panel of experts, this study did not have control on the product type or on the specific cultural elements that the ads contain. As future research, the author recommends to prepare the TV ads for this specific purpose to have more control on extraneous variable that this study did not controlled.

Another important consideration for future research is to select samples form other cultures, such as Asian-American or other Hispanic subcultures to verify if the results are congruent with the results of this study. This may open new insights in the way advertising to subcultures may be target worldwide.

And last, this study suggests that some other variables may be considered in the analysis as well. These variables were not considered in this study, but may be determinants of cultural orientation. These variables can also affect the way cultural orientation affect advertising effectiveness. These variables include the time that the subject has been in the USA or the generation that the subject belong (first generation, second generation, and so on) as part of the assimilation measurement.


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Cecilia Maldonado, Georgia Southwestern State University
Table 1


   Region that      American     Mexican    Mexican-    TOTAL
    Ad covers                               American

USA                    41          61          61        163
Mexico                 43          49          76        168
TOTAL                  84          110         137       331

Table 2
Demographic Data by Sample


 Variable         Descriptive        American   Mexican   Mexican-

Age           Min                       19        18         19
              Max                       50        55         48
              Mean                     23.1       20        24.5

Gender        Male                      44        63         55
              Female                    40        47         82

Occupation    Student                   51        102        87
              Other beside student      33         8         50

Table 3a
ANOVA Results for Differences in Ad Evaluation Among
the Ads Regions


Sample                                   PI               AttPr

American                          .017 (opposite)          n.s.
Mexican                                 n.s.               n.s.
Mexican-American with high AOS    .002 (opposite)    .005 (opposite)
Mexican-American with high MOS          .045               n.s.


Sample                                 AttAd

American                                n.s.
Mexican                                 n.s.
Mexican-American with high AOS    .001 (opposite)
Mexican-American with high MOS          .043

Table 3b
Post-Hoc Results from the ANOVA Table (Only Significant
Results Shown)

Sample                            Variable       (I)         (J)

American                             PI       American     Mexican
Mexican                              --

Mexican-American with high AOS       PI       American     Mexican
                                    AttPr     American     Mexican
                                    AttAd     American     Mexican

Mexican-American with high MOS       PI        Mexican    American
                                    AttAd      Mexican    American

Sample                            Variable      Mean        Sig.

American                             PI         -1.01       .034
Mexican                              --

Mexican-American with high AOS       PI         -1.11       .003
                                    AttPr      -.6813       .006
                                    AttAd      -.6674       .006

Mexican-American with high MOS       PI          .88        .064
                                    AttAd       .5174       .099

Table 4
Regression Analysis with the Relationship Between Cultural
Orientation and Advertising Effectiveness (Purchase Intention, Att
Toward the Ad, and Att Toward the Product)

Sample               Considering    Variable      Sig.          R
                       only ads

American                 USA           PI         n.s.
                                      AttAd       n.s.
                                      AttPr       n.s.

Mexican                 Mexico         PI         n.s.
                                      AttAd       n.s.
                                      AttPr       n.s.

Mexican-American         USA           PI         .100        .282
with high AOS                         AttAd       n.s.
                                      AttPr       .010        .394

Mexican-American        Mexico         PI         .044        .331
with high MOS                         AttAd       .012        .390
                                      AttPr       .034        .343

Sample               Considering    Variable    R square      Adj.
                       only ads                             R square

American                 USA           PI

Mexican                 Mexico         PI

Mexican-American         USA           PI         .080        .046
with high AOS                         AttAd
                                      AttPr       .115        .124

Mexican-American        Mexico         PI         .109        .076
with high MOS                         AttAd       .152        .121
                                      AttPr       .118        .085
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Author:Maldonado, Cecilia
Publication:Academy of Marketing Studies Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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