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The effect of physical attractiveness of models on advertising effectiveness for male and female adolescents.

INTRODUCTION

People often compare themselves with others in their daily lives. Even when watching TV commercials, there is a tendency to make comparisons with the models used (Martin & Kennedy, 1993). Richins (1991) indicated that 50% of the young adult female respondents in his study frequently compared themselves with models in regard to clothing, personal care, and cosmetics. Some studies have also indicated that female college students, adolescents, and pre-adolescents compare their physical attractiveness with that of models in ads (Richins, 1991; Martin & Kennedy, 1993, 1994).

Physical attractiveness is a very sensitive issue for many women (Gustafson, Popovich & Thomsen, 1999). With some research indicating that it is strongly associated with females' global self-esteem (Harter, 1992; Mathes & Kahn, 1975; Rosenberg, 1986). Lerner, Orlos, and Knapp (1976) found that the self-concepts of many female adolescents stem primarily from the sense of their physical attractiveness.

In advertising, the use of highly attractive models is believed to be effective in increasing sales. However, support for this view is inconsistent in the marketing literature. For example, Bower and Landreth (2001) noted positive effects of employing attractive ad spokespersons. Patzer (1983) also suggested that it resulted in better advertising effectiveness. However, Bower (2001) noted that highly attractive models could decrease advertising effectiveness because it deflated the self-image of potential customers when they compared themselves to models.

This subject has received a considerable amount of attention, but most of past research has focused on adults. Physical attractiveness is considered very relevant by adolescents and also a very significant factor in determining the levels of males' and females' global self-esteem (Harter, 1992; Mathes & Kahn, 1975; Rosenberg, 1986). Less attention has been paid to the impact of physical attractiveness on advertising effectiveness for adolescents, especially males. This study considers the effects of advertising on male adolescents as compared to females.

In addition, since self-perception of physical attractiveness is more negative among females than males (Harter, 1992; Rosenberg, 1986), we sought to determine if there is a difference in effect of physical attractiveness in advertising between males and females.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Social Comparison

Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory postulates that humans have a drive to evaluate their opinions and abilities--that they best serve this need for self-evaluation by measuring their attributes against certain standards. However, when objective standards are unavailable, individuals compare themselves with other people--social comparison. Wood and Taylor (1991) also indicated that people are motivated to evaluate themselves in this way. Suls (1986) asked college students (ages 16-25), government office workers (ages 16-50), and seniors in a retirement community (ages 65-72) to evaluate a number of their skills (e.g., reading, remembering, make conversation). After reporting their evaluations, respondents indicated that they had used comparisons with older, younger, or similarly aged people. It was revealed that they made these social comparisons frequently.

Social Comparison of Physical Attractiveness by Adolescents

Bers and Rodin (1984) pointed out that children increasingly focus their comparisons on attributes they regard as personally important as they grow older, with physical attractiveness considered a very important attribute by adolescents (Harter, 1992; Rosenberg, 1986; Mathes & Kahn, 1975). This concern about physical attractiveness has been found in adolescents in general, but especially in females (Dion, 1977; Langlois & Stephan, 1981).

Due to the unstable self-perceptions of adolescents, social comparisons have become increasingly important and efforts have been made to stabilize these perceptions regarding physical attractiveness (Martin & Kennedy, 1993). Since adolescents do compare their physical attractiveness with that of models in ads, this study was conducted to assess the effects of advertising on male and female adolescents.

Highly Versus Normally Attractive Models

Richins (1991) noted that the appearance of highly attractive models are both idealized and unrealistic. Highly attractive models not only have beautiful faces but are also thin (Striege-Moore et al., 1986). Normally attractive models are of more average weight, height, and facial beauty; that is, they are more representative of a "real" woman (Bower & Landreth, 2001).

Baker and Churchill (1977) found that highly attractive models have a positive effect on attitudes toward ads, including brands and intention to purchase. Petroshius and Crocker (1989) had the same findings. However, as noted, some research has failed to support these findings. Bower and Landreth (2001) suggested that highly attractive models are not always the most effective.

METHOD

Pretest

Thirty female students in a classroom were shown ten full-color photocopies of female models wearing underwear in order to select a highly and normally attractive model. Thirty male students in another classroom were also shown ten full-color photocopies of male models wearing underwear for the same purpose. All sixty subjects ranged in age from 18 to 19 years and were enrolled in colleges in Taiwan. The photocopies had been collected and cut from fashion magazines for women and men with the text eliminated. None of them was from advertisements. These photocopies were numbered 1-10 separately for the female and male models.

Based on Bower's (2001) study, two seven-point Likert items were used to assess the models' physical attractiveness. Items for the construct were summed and analyzed for selecting highly and normally attractive models. The model selected as most highly attractive scored the highest physical attractiveness mean. The model scoring the fifth highest was the normally attractive model. The results of pretest are presented in Table 1. For the sake of convenience, highly attractive model was abbreviated as HAM and normally attractive model was abbreviated as NAM in the tables.

As shown in Table 1, for the photos of female models, number four was selected as the highly attractive model with a mean of 12.13. Number six had the fifth physical attractiveness mean of 9.36, and was selected as the normally attractive model. For the photo of male models, number ten was the most highly attractive model, with the highest mean of 12.23. Number one had the fifth highest mean of 9.57, and thus was chosen as the normally attractive model.

Participants and Design

Recruited for the study were 120 female and 120 male undergraduates from a college in Taiwan.

Because the physical attractiveness of models was manipulated to investigate its effectiveness with both male and female adolescents, the study included two 2x1 between-subjects experimental designs. The female participants were randomly assigned to one of the treatments of highly and normally attractive female models and the males were also randomly assigned to one of the two male model treatments. There were sixty participants in each treatment.

Advertising Stimuli and Procedure

For the female subjects, two full-color ads each including highly and normally attractive female models were created. Another two full-color ads were created for the male subjects each including highly and normally attractive male models. The four ads were created like those commonly used but with fictional brand names. These ads were prepared to look professional. The experiment started with a brief introduction asking for participants' impressions of each advertisement shown.

Females were presented with one of the two full-color advertisements containing a highly attractive model/normally attractive female model wearing underwear. Male participants were also shown one of the two ads containing a highly attractive model/normally attractive male model wearing underwear. They were told to view the advertisements just as they did with magazines. Two five-point Likert items were used to measure product attitude and three five-point Likert items were used to assess purchase intention, respectively. Both measures of product attitude and purchase intention were generated based on Ryan and Bonfield (1975). Cronbach's alpha of product attitude was 0.82 and purchase intention was 0.85, both indicating a satisfactory level of reliability. Respondents were administered the questionnaire at the school.

RESULTS

Advertising Effectiveness of Physical Attractiveness of Models for Female Adolescents

Product attitude. To investigate the effectiveness for the female adolescents, the mean of product attitude and purchase intention were computed and t-tests was employed. As Table 2 shows, the mean for HAM is 5.12 and 8.68 for NAM. The p-values are less than [alpha] = 0.05, meaning that NAM has significantly better advertising effectiveness than HAM.

Purchase intention. As Table 2 shows, the mean for HAM (9.26) is lower than that of NAM (12.42). The p-value is less than [alpha] = 0.01, indicating that NAM has significantly better advertising effectiveness than HAM. Thus, whether using product attitude or purchase intention to measure advertising effectiveness, the results show that NAM has significantly better advertising effectiveness than HAM for the female adolescents.

Advertising Effectiveness of Physical Attractiveness of Models for Male Adolescents

To explore the impact of physical attractiveness of models on advertising effectiveness for the male adolescents, we used t-test to examine if the mean of product attitude and purchase intention is significantly different. The results are presented in Table 3.

Product attitude. To investigate the effectiveness for male adolescents, the mean of product attitude and purchase intention were compared and t-tests employed. As Table 3 shows, the mean for HAM is 4.98 than that for NAM is 9.12. The p value are less than [alpha] = 0.01, meaning that NAM has significantly better advertising effectiveness than HAM.

Purchase Intention. As Table 3 shows, the mean of 8.76 for HAM (8.76) is lower than that for NAM (10.98). The p-value is smaller than [alpha] = 0.01, indicating that NAM has significantly better advertising effectiveness than HAM. Thus, whether using produce attitude or purchase intention to measure advertising effectiveness, the results show that NAM has significantly better advertising effectiveness than HAM for male adolescents.

As shown in Table 2 and Table 3, physical attractiveness of models has the Same effect on advertising for both male and female adolescents. That is, NAM is significantly more effective than HAM for both genders.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

DISCUSSION

The main purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of physical attractiveness of models on advertising effectiveness for male and female adolescents. Respondents were 18- to 19-year-old adolescents enrolled in a college in Taiwan. The study found that normally attractive models are significantly more effective than highly attractive models for both female and male adolescents.

Adolescents tend to compare themselves with models in ads (Martin & Kennedy, 1993). Some research has showed that some females experience a negative affect by comparing themselves with the attractive models (e.g., Bower, 2001; Martin & Gentry, 1997; Richins, 1991). As Bower (2001) indicated, negative affect stemmed from the deflated self-image of potential customers when they compared themselves to beautiful models.

According to Martin and Gentry (1997), advertising and the mass media may play a part in creating and reinforcing a preoccupation with physical attractiveness and thus influence consumer perception of what constitutes an acceptable level of physical attractiveness. This perception can have a negative effect on adolescents' mental and physical health. Thus, the use of highly attractive models in ads has become a matter of concern about advertising ethics.

REFERENCES

Bers, S. A., & Rodin, J. (1984). Social comparison jealousy: A developmental and motivational study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 766-799.

Bower, A. B., & Landreth, S. (2001). Is beauty best? Highly versus normally attractive models in advertising. Journal of Advertising, 30, 1-12.

Bower, A. B. (2001). Highly attractive models in advertising and the women who loathe them: The implications of negative affect for spokesperson effectiveness. Journal of Advertising, 30, 51-63.

Dion, K. I. (1977). The incentive value of physical attractiveness for young children. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3, 67-70.

Fesetinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117-140.

Gustafson, R., Popovich, M., & Thomsen, S. (1999). The thin ideal. Marketing News, 15, 22.

Harter, S. (1992). Visions of self: Beyond the men in the mirror. Paper presented at the Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, Lincoln, NE.

Langlois, J. H., & Stephan, C. W. (1981). Beauty and the beast: The role of physical attractiveness in the development of peer relations and social behavior. In S. S. Bretion, S. M. Kassin, & F. X. Gibbons (Eds.), Developmental social psychology: Theory and Research (pp. 152-168). New York: Oxford University Press.

Lerner, R. M., Orlos, J. B., & Knapp, J. R. (1976). Physical attractiveness, physical effectiveness, and self-concept in late adolescents. Adolescence, 11(43), 313-326.

Martin, M. C., & Gentry, J. W. (1997). Stuck in the model trap: The effects of beautiful models in ads on female pre-adolescents and adolescents. Journal of Advertising, 26(2), 19-33.

Martin, M. C., & Kennedy, P. F. (1993). Advertising and social comparison: Consequences for female pre-adolescents and adolescents. Psychology and Marketing, 10, 512-530.

Martin, M. C., & Kennedy, P. F. (1994). In J. A. Costa (Ed.), The measurement of social comparison to advertising models: A gender gap revealed in gender and consumer behavior (pp. 104-124). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publication.

Mathes, E. W., & Kahn, A. (1975). Physical attractiveness, happiness, neuroticism and self-esteem. The Journal of Psychology, 90, 27-30.

Patzer, G. L. (1983). Source credibility as a function of communicator physical attractiveness. Journal of Business Research, 11, 229-241.

Petroshius, S. M., & Crocker, K. E. (1989). An empirical analysis of spokesperson characteristics on advertisement and product evaluations. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41 847-855.

Richins, M. L. (1991). Social comparison and the idealized images of advertising. Journal of Consumer Research, 18, 71-83.

Rosenberg, M. (1986). Self-concept from middle childhood through adolescence. In J. Suls & A. G. Greenwald, (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on the self (pp. 107-136. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ryan, M. J., & Bonfield, E. H. (1975). The Fishbein extended model and consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 2, 118-136.

Striegel-Moore, R. H., Silberstein, L. R., & Rodin, J. (1986). Towards an understanding of risk factors for bulimia. American Psychologist, 41(3), 246-263.

Suls, J. M. (1986). Notes of the occasion of social comparison theory's thirtieth birthday. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 289-296.

Wood, J. V., & Taylor, K. L. (1991). Serving self-relevant goals through social comparison. In J. Suls & T. A. Wills (Eds.), Social comparison: Contemporary theory and research (pp. 23-49). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

The authors thank the Students of the Department of Business Administration, I-Shou University in Taiwan for being respondents of this study.

Chih-Hsiang Chang, Department of Finance, National University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Chia-Ching Tsai, Department of Business Administration, I-Shou University, No. 1, Section 1, Hsueh-Cheng Rd., Ta-Hsu Hsiang, Kaohsiung County, Taiwan 840, R.O.C. E-mail: cctsai@mail.isu.edu.tw
Table 1 The Results of Pretest

 HAM NAM t

Female Model 12.13 9.36 4.89

 0.000 *

Male Model 12.23 9.57 5.42

 0.000 *

* Significant at the 1 percent level;
Figures in parentheses are p value.

Table 2 The Ad Effectiveness of Physical Attractiveness
for Female Adolescents

Advertising HAM NAM t

Effectiveness

Product 5.12 8.68 2.03

Attitude (0.025) *

Purchase 9.26 12.42 3.36

Intention (0.001) **

* Significant at the 5 percent level

** Significant at the 1 percent level;

Figures in parentheses are p value.

Table 3 The Ad Effectiveness of Physical Attractiveness
for Male Adolescents

Advertising HAM NAM t

Effectiveness

Product 4.98 9.12 5.69

Attitude (0.000) *

Purchase 8.76 10.98 3.97

Intention (0.000) *

* Significant at the 1 percent level;,

Figures in parentheses are p value.
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Author:Tsai, Chia-Ching; Chang, Chih-Hsiang
Publication:Adolescence
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Dec 22, 2007
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