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J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

DOI 10.1007/s11747-010-0224-3


The effectiveness of publicity versus advertising:

a meta-analytic investigation of its moderators
Martin Eisend & Franziska Küster

Received: 27 April 2010 / Accepted: 7 September 2010

# Academy of Marketing Science 2010

Abstract This study provides an answer to the question disguised as editorial material) are more effective, since they
whether and under which conditions publicity is more or combine the advantages of both publicity and advertising.
less effective than advertising. Advertising refers to paid The results have theoretical and practical implications.
communication that identifies the message sponsor, where-
as publicity is communication that secures editorial space in Keywords Publicity . Advertising . Meta-analysis .
media for promotion purposes and does not have an Structural equation model
identifiable sponsor. The primary advantage of advertising
over publicity is the sponsor’s control over message
content; its disadvantages are audience skepticism and lack Introduction
of credibility. We investigate this trade-off between credi-
bility effects and effects of recipients’ processing and In recent years, organizations have placed increasingly
evaluation of message content. Results of a meta-analytic greater importance on marketing-oriented publicity over
structural equation model show that the positive credibility advertising (Ries and Ries 2002; Shimp 2007). Despite the
effect of publicity is on average about three times as strong widespread belief among practitioners that publicity out-
as the information evaluation effect, supporting the overall performs advertising (e.g., Hausman 2003; Pohl 2008),
superiority of publicity over advertising. This effect, previous study results are far from consistent: some studies
however, is moderated by prior knowledge and only holds find no differences between the impact of publicity and
for products about which recipients lack prior knowledge. advertising (e.g., Hallahan 1999a, b; Jo 2004; Schmidt and
The effects change for known products when advertising Hitchon 1999), and some studies show that advertising
becomes superior. The effectiveness of publicity depends even outperforms publicity (e.g., Jacoby and Hoyer 1989;
on further moderating variables. In particular, academic Salmon et al. 1985). Furthermore, both advertising and
studies tend to underestimate the true effects of publicity publicity have their disadvantages in terms of lack of
over advertising due to experimental manipulations. Cam- credibility or lack of control by marketers, respectively
paigns that combine publicity and advertising weaken the (Balasubramanian 1994). This is a considerable issue when
effects of publicity, whereas advertorials (i.e., advertisements it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of both communi-
cation devices. The present study shows whether and under
M. Eisend (*) what conditions marketing-oriented publicity outperforms
European University Viadrina, advertising in terms of communication effectiveness.
Große Scharrnstr. 59,
The main distinction between advertising and publicity
15230 Frankfurt (Oder), Germany
e-mail: is found in their definitions. Advertising is paid communi-
cation that identifies the message sponsor. Publicity, in
F. Küster contrast, secures editorial space in media (i.e., space that is
Marketing-Department, Free University Berlin,
not paid for) for promotion purposes (Kotler and Keller
Otto-von-Simson-Str. 19,
14195 Berlin, Germany 2006) and does not identify a sponsor. This distinction
e-mail: implies a trade-off for managers who decide on how to
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

assign their resources and budgets to either communication how to use either marketing-oriented publicity or advertising
device. The trade-off is described by Balasubramanian in order to enhance communication effectiveness.
(1994) in terms of control and credibility. The primary The outline of the paper is as follows. First we present
advantage of advertising is the sponsor’s control over the models that can be applied in order to explain the effects of
content; its disadvantage is audience skepticism. Since the marketing-oriented publicity versus advertising. We further
audience is aware of the fact that ad content is under control derive hypotheses related to moderator variables that might
by the sponsor, recipients consider it less objective and explain inconsistent findings of previous studies. Then, we
more biased than publicity. In publicity, the situation is present the meta-analysis method. We analyze the meta-
reversed: the perceived source (the media) is evaluated as analytic data using structural equation models and moder-
credible due to third-party endorsement, but the content is ator regression models. Finally, we interpret and discuss the
also under their control. Although publicity is not control- results in light of the proposed models and our main
lable by marketers, it can be influenced in a favorable way, research question.
which constitutes the main task of public relations. Having
no control over message content is crucial to marketers and
can lead to disadvantages of publicity compared to Theoretical background
advertising for two reasons. First, publicity might reveal
negative information about a company and its products in Source credibility model
some instances. Incidents of negative publicity are widely
prevalent in the marketplace, whereas advertising tends to Studies of source credibility date to Hovland and Weiss
present information only in a favorable way (Ahluwalia et (1951), who found that highly credible sources were
al. 2000; Eisend 2006). Second, publicity is both more viewed as more trustworthy and generated more attitude
credible and more diagnostic; communicating with con- change than low-credibility sources. The higher credibility
sumers via publicity is less common than via advertising, of publicity over advertising results from the fact that media
which brings consumers to evaluate information more are independent sources that have no reason to give a
critically and can lead to more negative cognitions than biased or false account; this objectivity is called third-party
advertising, even if the message content is the same. endorsement (Cameron 1994; Lord and Putrevu 1993). An
Researchers have investigated the effects of publicity advertiser, however, has a strong vested interest in selling
versus advertising for many years and provided support products and thus tends to provide only a positive view of
both for source and information effects; they have failed, products and avoids mentioning negative information
though, to provide a solution on how to best deal with the (Eisend 2006; Kamins and Assael 1987). Message recipi-
trade-off between these effects. ents infer these underlying intentions by assigning causes to
In this study, we provide an answer to the question of communication behavior of advertisers and the media
whether marketing-oriented publicity is more or less (Jones and Davis 1965; Jones and McGillis 1976). Personal
effective than advertising in general and in particular when gain, the intent to persuade, and source bias are main
the trade-off between credibility effects and information characteristics of advertising that account for its low
evaluation effects are taken into account. For this purpose, credibility compared to publicity (Cameron 1994). Al-
we conduct an integrative meta-analysis of research on the though there are means to influence advertising’s credibility
effects of marketing-oriented publicity versus advertising (e.g., by two-sided message (Crowley and Hoyer 1994)), it
that provides generalized results. Using correlations from is widely accepted in the literature that on average publicity
these studies, we test a structural equation model and reaches higher levels of credibility than advertising
compare alternative model specifications, in particular a (Cameron 1994; Lord and Putrevu 1993).
model on source credibility and a model on information The third-party endorsement affects the perception of
evaluation in order to answer our research question. We credibility, which in turn increases attitude and behavioral
further explain inconsistent results of previous studies by measures in a chain of effects from message attitudes to
examining the effects of relevant moderator variables. brand attitudes and behavioral intentions, in line with a
The findings contribute to our knowledge on the source hierarchy-of-effects from lower order to higher order effects
effects and information effects of both communication that is accompanied with a decline in the strength of the
devices by showing the strength of each effect, how these effect (Eisend 2009; Grewal et al. 1997).
effects work together, and under which conditions they The source credibility model assumes the following
become stronger or weaker. The moderator analysis provides paths (see Fig. 1): Publicity over advertising (1) enhances
a further contribution by explaining inconsistencies in source credibility (2), source credibility enhances attitude
previous studies. Finally, the findings have important toward the message (3), attitude toward the message
practical implications as they advise marketers when and impacts attitude toward the brand (4) and finally attitude
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

Source credibility model

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

Source: + Source + Attitude + Attitude + Purchase/
advertising/ credibility toward toward behavioral
publicity message brand intention

Information processing model

(1) (6) (3) (4) (5)

Source: + Cognitive + Attitude + Attitude + Purchase/
advertising/ responses, toward toward behavioral
publicity total message brand intention

Information evaluation model


+ responses, +
(1) positive (3) (4) (5)
Source: Attitude + Attitude + Purchase/
advertising/ + - toward toward behavioral
publicity Cognitive message brand intention

Fig. 1 Models explaining the effects of publicity versus advertising

toward the brand impacts purchase/behavioral intentions ease of subsequent processing. Such enhanced information
(5). processability can produce positive reactions toward the
message and the object (e.g., a brand) being evaluated
Information processing model (Winkielman et al. 2003). The intensity of processing
through enhanced elaboration is further assumed to increase
Processing efforts play a fundamental role in determining message comprehension and, thus, the likelihood to accept
recipient response to promotional communications (MacInnis the message, which enhances persuasiveness (McGuire
et al. 1991). Consumers expose themselves to media content 1968, 1978). Note that enhanced message processing refers
for informational or hedonic reasons. They seek information to the number of cognitions only, not to the valence of
provided by media voluntarily and mostly intentionally. At cognitions that we refer to in the information evaluation
the same time, consumers tend to avoid exposure to model below.
advertising. Exposure to media content, and thus to publicity, The information processing model assumes the follow-
results in a more enhanced motivation to process information ing paths (see Fig. 1): Publicity over advertising enhances
compared to advertising and in an increased number of total cognitive responses (6), total cognitive responses
cognitive responses. Lord and Putrevu (1993) further argue enhance attitude toward the message and attitude toward
that publicity has a higher risk reduction potential for the brand, attitude toward the message impacts attitude
consumers, which also enhances the amount of elaboration toward the brand and attitude toward the brand impacts
induced by publicity messages. purchase/behavioral intentions.
The increase in total cognitive responses is also due to
the fact that publicity, compared to advertising, lends Information evaluation model
greater salience to information. The ability of mass media
to influence the perceived importance of issues is posited The information evaluation model refers to the valence of
by agenda setting theory that states that media mainly cognitive responses; that is, whether publicity or advertis-
influence their audience’s perceptions (“what to think ing generates positive or negative cognitive responses or
about”), rather than their opinions (“what to think”) both. There are two reasons why publicity can lead to more
(McCombs and Shaw 1972). Thus, agenda setting enhances negative cognitions than advertising does. First, negative
issue involvement which, in turn, affects the intensity and information is more likely to be presented by publicity
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

rather than by advertising, which traditionally presents the 1999a, b; Jo 2004; Schmidt and Hitchon 1999). Other
advertised products in favorable light. Hence, publicity in studies showed that advertising outperforms publicity (e.g.,
comparison to advertising is more likely to lead to cognitive Jacoby and Hoyer 1989; Salmon et al. 1985). In order to
responses of negative valence. Additionally, since enhanced account for inconsistent results and variance in findings of
processing of information, as triggered by publicity, implies previous studies, some moderator variables are considered.
that both positive and negative cognitions are proportion- The moderator variables that are chosen here are the ones
ally enhanced, the absolute increase is higher for negative that describe substantial differences between the studies that
than for positive cognitions. Negative information is consid- are used in our meta-analysis.
ered more informative than positive information and there-
fore more salient (Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy 1990; Product type Previous studies differ with respect to whether
Skoworonski and Carlston 1989). This leads to a more the product that the message refers to was previously known
thorough processing of negative information than positive by the respondents. In particular, many studies use fictitious
information, which impacts message and object evaluation products that are all unknown by the recipients, whereas
accordingly; positive cognitive responses enhance attitudes, studies in natural settings use real products that can be
while negative cognitive responses reduce them. previously known or unknown by the recipients. Consumers
Second, information provided by publicity is more who differ in prior knowledge show varying preferences for
diagnostic than information provided by advertising be- marketer-dominated versus neutral sources.
cause communication by a marketer via publicity is less Publicity is superior to advertising when consumers lack
common than via advertising. This phenomenon increases prior knowledge about the product because a lack of prior
elaboration likelihood, which increases the total number of knowledge implies uncertainty and doubt about the prod-
cognitions as well as the negative-positive cognitions ratio uct. A high credibility source provides the needed reassur-
due to cognitive capacity and the motivation for further ance and is therefore more effective than a low credibility
scrutiny (Coulter 2005). Consumers are more likely to ask source (Lord and Putrevu 1993). As soon as consumers
why messages are provided via publicity rather than via experience a product and learn about its features, the need
advertising and will more critically look for “faults” in for reassurance disappears and the high credibility source
messages, which increases critical thinking and the likeli- effect might reach its limit (ceiling effect). Instead,
hood of generating negative cognitive responses. consumers might become less skeptical toward information
The information evaluation model assumes the following provided by advertising as they are able to evaluate the
paths (see Fig. 1): Publicity over advertising enhances given information by themselves (Chew et al. 1995). They
positive cognitive responses (7) and negative cognitive further may prefer to expose themselves to positive
responses (8), with the effect on negative cognitions being information as provided by advertisements after product
stronger than on positive cognitions. Positive cognitive experience or trial has taken place in order to avoid
responses enhance attitude toward the message and attitude cognitive dissonance (Harmon-Jones and Mills 1999). It
toward the brand, while negative cognitive responses has been shown that consumers actively seek for positive
reduce attitude toward the message and attitude toward information and avoid negative information in order to
the brand. Finally, attitude toward the message impacts reduce or hinder dissonance (Jonas et al. 2005).
attitude toward the brand, which, in turn, impacts purchase/ Previous research has provided further results on when
behavioral intentions. low credibility sources can be more influential than a high
Figure 1 presents an overview of the models to be tested. credibility source. When consumers’ own prior behavior
All three models can be integrated in a total model, where (i.e., the experience with a particular product) serves as the
each of the models is nested within the total model. The main persuasion cue, a low credibility source facilitates the
integrated model allows us to test and compare the strength attribution of behavior to internal causes and, thus, becomes
of the effects along each path. By comparing the total influential, whereas a high credibility source hinders such
effects of each path, the trade-off between source credibility an attribution process (Dholakia and Sternthal 1977; Tybout
effects and effects due to information evaluation can be 1978).
H1: Product type moderates the effectiveness of publicity
over advertising such that unknown products lead to
Moderator variables
stronger effects of publicity, whereas known products
lead to stronger effects of advertising.
Although the idea that publicity is more persuasive than
advertising seems quite plausible, previous study results are
inconsistent. Some studies did not find any differences in Message type Most experimental studies use the same
the impact of publicity and advertising (e.g., Hallahan messages for both marketing-oriented publicity and adver-
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

tising in order to control for confounding factors in the this reason, a few studies tested a sequence or a
experimental setting. The assumption of identical message combination of publicity and advertising and compared
types leads to unrealistic and artificial settings, because the results to an advertising-only stimulus. The combina-
both sources typically present information in different tion of both stimuli reduces the strength of the source
ways. As such, some studies modified the message in manipulation, because respondents are less able to
order to provide more realistic conditions. Findings distinguish between the sources when sources are pre-
demonstrate that publicity and advertising that use the sented in a sequence and not in isolation. The strength of
same messages hamper the ability of recipients to the source manipulation impacts the effects size of the
distinguish between both source types. If the same dependent variables. Furthermore, the combination of both
message is presented in both experimental conditions, sources averages the advantages and disadvantages of the
recipients might even tend to perceive both messages as credibility of both sources. Hence, the combined effect
advertising messages (or publicity messages) but not as typically lies somewhere between the effect of either
messages coming from different sources. The inability to advertising or publicity (Loda and Coleman 2005). Since
distinguish between messages from different sources the combination or sequence is compared to advertising
weakens the strength of the source manipulation. Al- only, the effect size is weaker than the effect sizes
though varied messages might provoke confounding emerging from the comparison between advertising and
effects, they enhance the manipulation strength due to a publicity.
clearer differentiation between marketing-oriented public-
H4: Stimulus combination moderates the effectiveness of
ity and advertisement, which enhances the effect sizes for
publicity over advertising such that combined stimuli
the dependent variables. A previous meta-analysis indeed
lead to weaker effect sizes than separate stimuli.
supported the fact that the strength of the effect size
increases for realistic advertising messages over artificial
ones, because the effect of the message manipulation Publicity or advertorial Marketers try to make use of the
becomes stronger (Eisend 2009). effects of both advertising and publicity at the same time by
using advertorials, that is, a print advertisement disguised
H2: Message type moderates the effectiveness of publicity
as editorial material. Instead of marketing-oriented public-
over advertising such that identical messages lead to
ity, some previous studies compared the effects of these
weaker effect sizes than varied messages.
advertorials with the effects of advertising-only. It is argued
in the literature (Lord and Putrevu 1993) that advertorials
Source cue Previous studies differ with respect to whether a combine the advantages of both publicity and advertising,
source cue was provided, that is, whether the source was and therefore lead to even stronger effects than publicity
identified in the message as publicity or advertisement. only. Advertorials lead to high credibility since they are
Providing a source cue can enhance the strength of the perceived as editorial content; at the same time marketers
manipulation in the same way as a varied message type control message content and can avoid the possibility of
(versus an identical one); if a source cue is provided, it is negative information effects.
easier for the recipients to distinguish between source types,
H5: Publicity versus advertorial moderates the effective-
whereas the absence of a source cue might hamper
ness of publicity over advertising such that adverto-
the ability to distinguish between both source types. The
rials compared to advertising lead to stronger effect
strength of the manipulation impacts the effect size of the
sizes than publicity compared to advertising.
dependent variables.
H3: Source cues moderate the effectiveness of publicity
Measurement time While most previous studies provide an
over advertising such that messages with a source cue
immediate measure of the influence of publicity versus
lead to stronger effect sizes than messages without a
advertising, a few studies provide delayed measures. This
source cue.
finding is particularly interesting considering the sleeper
effect of sources that vary in credibility; the source
Stimulus combination The majority of previous studies credibility effect is assumed to diminish over time, because
examined only publicity or only advertising, but not a message information remains more accessible over time
combination of the two sources. In real world settings, than source information (Kumkale and Albarracin 2004;
consumers are exposed to product information that is Weinberger 1961). When source information is forgotten,
provided by different kind of communication sources, and message information remains as the only persuasive
it is likely that consumers receive information about communication element while the effect of the source
products from both advertising and publicity sources. For disappears.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

H6: Measurement time moderates the effectiveness of empirical results on the effect of marketing-oriented
publicity over advertising such that delayed meas- publicity versus advertising on recipients concerning the
ures lead to weaker effect sizes than immediate following dependent variables: attitude toward message,
measures. attitude toward brand, cognitive responses (total, positive,
and negative), message processing, purchase/behavioral
intention, source credibility, recall, and recognition.
Publication year In recent years, source credibility became
We considered studies that compared the effect of
more important as a diagnostic tool for consumers to
advertising only versus publicity plus advertising (i.e.,
evaluate marketing communication because today’s con-
publicity that precedes or follows advertising). Further-
sumers face richer information environments than ever
more, as a basis for comparison, we also considered studies
before (Lurie 2004), whereas the information processing
that investigated effects of advertising versus advertorials.
capacities of consumers have remained stable. Source
We did not consider studies that provided results on format
credibility serves as a cognitively releasing key stimulus
identification only (Wilkinson et al. 1995), since this
for recipients, since it eases the evaluation of information
measure is not usually considered as a dependent variable
and precludes extensive information research (Chaiken
but rather as a manipulation check measure. Furthermore,
1980). By this means, it helps recipients deal with
we did not use content analyses that described features of
increasing information load and richness of information
various communication formats including advertising and
environments. Previous research showed that the effect of
publicity, nor did we consider evaluations of advertising
source credibility indeed became stronger with time, and
versus publicity by practitioners, since these studies do not
this effect persists even after controlling for method factors,
provide a measure for the effects of advertising versus
which indicates that consumers rely increasingly on source
publicity on recipients.
credibility (Eisend 2004).
This search resulted in 36 articles. In cases where two or
H7: Publication year of a study moderates the effective- more studies were based on the same sample, the study that
ness of publicity over advertising such that publica- provided more data details was used (see notes in Table 1
tion year increases the effect sizes. for information on studies with the same data). In one case,
three studies were based on the same sample, but they
provided different results (Wang 2006, 2007; Wang and
Nelson 2006); for the purpose of the analysis, they were all
Method included and classified as results from one independent
sample. Some studies did not provide sufficient data for
Study retrieval direct calculations of effect sizes. In most cases, standard
deviations of experimental groups are missing, whereas
To identify relevant studies for the meta-analysis, a mean values are provided. We attempted to retrieve
computerized bibliographic keyword search using EBSCO information on missing data from authors of the study. If
Business Source, ABI/Inform (for business publications), data were unavailable, we replaced the missing values for
PsycINFO and PSYNDEX (for psychology literature), and standard deviations by regression-based multiple imputa-
the Social Science Citation Index was conducted, followed tions (Schafer and Graham 2002). Multiple imputation has
by an internet search using Google Scholar. Once a study been shown to produce unbiased parameter estimates which
was identified, references were examined in a search for properly reflect the uncertainty associated with estimating
further studies. The approach is consistent with recommen- missing data. Multiple imputation is robust to departures
dations made by several authors (e.g., Hunter and Schmidt from normality assumptions and provides adequate results
2004; Rosenthal 1994) and closely follows the steps taken even in the presence of low sample size. For one study, data
in earlier meta-analyses published in the marketing litera- could not be retrieved nor be replaced due to insufficient
ture. Furthermore, authors that were identified as providing data in the paper (Hennessey and Anderson 1990). The
several studies on the topic were contacted and asked for study was excluded from the analysis. In sum, 30
further studies. independent samples were included in the meta-analysis
The literature search covered the period from 1971 (the (Table 1).
publication year of a study by Preston and Scharbach that is
considered the first empirical study on the topic) up to and Meta-analytic procedure and structural equation model
including 2009. Only the studies that investigated the
impact of marketing-oriented publicity versus advertising The effect size metric selected for the analysis is the
on ad/article processing and related effectiveness measures correlation coefficient; higher values of the coefficient
were considered. In particular, the studies had to provide indicate a stronger effect of marketing-oriented publicity
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

Table 1 Overview of studies and moderator variables used in the meta-analysis

Study: Author(s) and publication Product type Message type Source cue Stimulus Publicity or Measurement
year combination advertorial time

1 Cameron 1994 familiar identical with separate publicity manipulateda

2 Celebi 2007 familiar varied without separate publicity direct
3 Chaiken and Maheswaran 1994 unfamiliar identical with separate publicity direct
4 Chew et al. 1995 manipulated identical without separate publicity direct
5 d’Astous and Hébert 1991 unfamiliar identical without separate publicity direct
6 Hallahan 1995, main studyb unfamiliar identical without separate publicity direct
7 Hallahan 1995, prior study familiar varied without separate publicity direct
8 Hausknecht et al. 1991c familiar identical manipulated separate advertorial direct
9 Jacoby and Hoyer 1989 familiar varied without separate publicity direct
10 Jin 2003 familiar varied without combined publicity delayed
11 Jin et al. 2008 familiar varied without combined publicity delayed
12 Jin et al. 2006 familiar varied without combined publicity delayed
13 Jo 2004 unfamiliar identical with separate publicity direct
14 Kim et al. 2001 unfamiliar identical manipulated separate advertorial direct
15 Küster-Rohde 2009, study 1 unfamiliar identical with separate publicity manipulated
16 Küster-Rohde 2009, study 2 unfamiliar identical with separate publicity manipulated
17 Loda et al. 2005d familiar identical without separate publicity direct
18 Lord and Putrevu 1998, study 1 familiar varied without separate publicity direct
19 Lord and Putrevu 1998, study 2 familiar identical with separate publicity direct
20 Micu 2005 unfamiliar varied with separate publicity direct
21 Preston and Scharbach 1971 familiar identical with separate publicity direct
22 Putrevu 2005 unfamiliar identical with separate publicity direct
23 Rosengren 2008 manipulated identical without separate publicity direct
24 Salmon et al. 1985 familiar identical without separate publicity direct
25 Schmidt and Hitchon 1999 unfamiliar identical without separate publicity direct
26 Schwarz et al. 1986 unfamiliar identical with separate publicity direct
27 Stammerjohan et al. 2005 manipulated varied without combined publicity direct
28 Straughan et al. 1996 unfamiliar identical without separate publicity direct
29 Wang 2003 unfamiliar varied without combined publicity direct
30 Wang 2006; Wang 2007; Wang unfamiliar identical with separate publicity direct
and Nelson 2006
Moderator variable was manipulated in the study; that is, the moderator category depends on the effect size used for the final analysis
Same data were used in Hallahan 1999a, 2008; Hallahan 1999b
Same data were used in Hausknecht et al. 1989
Same data were used in Loda and Coleman 2005; Loda et al. 2007

over advertising on outcome variables. Most studies were The models suggested above include eight variables in
experimental studies, for which we computed standardized total. That is to say that 28 off-diagonal cells must be filled
mean differences first and then converted them to correla- in order to produce the input correlation matrix for
tion coefficients. For studies that reported other measures structural equation modeling. In addition to the results of
(e.g., Student’s t), those measures were converted to the effect size integration, the studies were searched for
correlation coefficients following common guidelines for further statistical measures reporting the relationship be-
meta-analysis (cf., Lipsey and Wilson 2001). Since most tween the dependent variables. A minimum of four
papers reported multiple measures of marketing-oriented correlations for each cell of the matrix is included in the
publicity versus advertising effects, the analysis includes correlation matrix. The use of only four estimates for such
single-study multiple correlation estimates for particular relationships is above the minimum of effect sizes that have
relationships. been applied in other meta-analytic structural equation
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

modeling studies (e.g., Geyskens et al. 1999; Zhao et al. sampling error plus random variance of the population
2007). effect size) was then used as a weight in a weighted
The meta-analytic integration procedures were per- regression analysis.
formed taking a random-effects perspective (Shadish and
Haddock 1994). The integration of the correlations uses
variance weights in order to consider the varying sample Results
sizes of the studies. Furthermore, measurement errors were
corrected by considering reliability coefficients of the The matrix in Table 2 shows the meta-analytic correlations,
dependent and independent variables (Hunter and Schmidt the underlying number of correlations, and the cumulative
2004). A conservative 0.8 reliability estimate was applied sample size. The harmonic mean of the sample size is 727.
to objective measures (i.e., single-item measures) as Table 3 provides the standardized path coefficients and
suggested in the literature (Bommer et al. 1995; Dalton et fit indices of the suggested models. The errors of the
al. 2003; Hunter and Schmidt 2004). In order to consider a cognitive response constructs were allowed to correlate. All
weight for multiple measures per study, each correlation models show an acceptable fit. In order to determine
was weighted by the ratio 1 to the number of correlations whether the total model provides a better explanation than
per study measuring the same dependent variable. the three more parsimonious models nested within it, the fit
All of the constructs in the structural equation models of the total model that is restricted to any of the nested
are measured by a single indicator, and error variances for models is compared with the fit of the total model with
the indicators are set to zero, since measurement errors are unrestricted paths. The model fit (chi-square/degrees of
already considered when integrating the effect sizes. The freedom) significantly worsens as soon as the total model
harmonic mean of the cumulative sample size underlying has restricted paths (source credibility model: 251.639/21;
each meta-analytic correlation is used as sample size for the information processing model: 448.703/20; information
analysis, as it is commonly practiced in meta-analytic evaluation model: 335.734/16). The chi-square difference/
structural equation modeling studies (and recommended by df for the total model restricted to the source credibility
Viswesvaran and Ones 1995). The harmonic mean gives model is 200.750/15, for the total model restricted to the
less weight to substantially large cumulative sample sizes, information processing model: 401.581/15, and for the total
and, therefore, enables more conservative testing than the model restricted to the information evaluation model:
arithmetic mean would in the case that cumulative sample 335.734/16. All chi-square differences are significant
sizes show substantial variation. (p<.001). Hence, the total model provides an additional
For the final analysis, fit indices are provided in addition explanation that goes beyond the explanatory power of
to chi-square test statistics, namely: GFI, AGFI, and RMR each of the nested models.
(root mean square residual). Chi-square difference tests are Except for two coefficients, all coefficients shown in
used to assess the difference in fit between the total model Table 3 are significant (p<.05) and indicate the assumed
and the partial models that are nested within the total direction in the models. As suggested in the source
model. credibility model, marketing-oriented publicity versus ad-
vertising enhances source credibility, which enhances
Moderator regression analysis attitude toward the message. The results of the information
processing model show that marketing-oriented publicity
The moderator variables presented in the theory section versus advertising enhances total cognitive responses,
(product type, message type, source cue, stimulus combi- which enhances attitude toward the message, but not
nation, publicity or advertorial, measurement time, and toward the brand itself. The findings of the information
publication year) were coded according to information evaluation model show that marketing-oriented publicity
provided in the studies. Table 1 provides an overview of the versus advertising enhances both positive and negative
studies used in the meta-analysis and the moderators that cognitive responses, but the effect is stronger for negative
apply to each study. These moderator variables are used as cognitive responses than for positive ones (t=2.208, p=.027).
predictors in a regression model in order to explain the Positive cognitive responses enhance attitude toward the
heterogeneity of the effect sizes of dependent variables that message and the brand. Negative cognitive responses reduce
are based on a sample of at least twenty effect sizes. attitudes toward the brand. In all models, attitude toward the
Following a random-effects perspective, the method of message enhances attitude toward the brand, which positively
moments was applied where the residual sum of squares of impacts purchase/behavioral intentions.
an OLS regression of the moderator model was used to The integrated model supports most of these paths, but it
estimate the random variance (Raudenbush 1994). The total also shows changes regarding the cognitive response
variance (conditional variance of the effect size due to measures. The changes are due to the increased number of
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

Table 2 Meta-analytic correlations

Source Source Attitude Attitude Purchase/ Cognitive Cognitive

credibility toward toward behavioral responses, responses,
message brand intention total positive

Source credibility r .225

Nb 20
ka 2666
Attitude toward message r .173 .469
k 63 19
N 5250 827
Attitude toward brand r .204 .429 .625
k 28 10 11
N 2954 980 873
Purchase/be-havioral intention r .188 .309 .430 .773
N 24 10 11 6
k 2623 979 872 1026
Cognitive responses, total r .133 .017 .169 .108 .015
k 28 8 8 4 4
N 1577 501 545 548 547
Cognitive responses, positive r .079 .019 .182 .238 .157 .848
k 20 8 8 4 4 4
N 1721 501 545 548 547 549
Cognitive responses, negative r .193 −.018 −.045 −.236 −.179 .393 .089
k 8 8 8 4 4 4 4
N 629 501 545 548 547 549 549
k: number of correlations
N: cumulative sample size with harmonic mean = 727

explanatory variables, and the total effect from source to measures. The results are as follows: recall: mean r=.074,
both attitude measures is now distributed over more paths. number of correlations k=34, total N=4201; recognition:
The effect of total cognitive responses on attitude toward mean r=.294, k=8, N=613; message processing: mean
the brand becomes negative, which is contrary to the r=.243, k=24, N=148,343.
assumptions of the information processing model. While The correlations for each dependent variable show
the impact of positive cognitive responses on attitude considerable variance. Indeed, except for recognition, the
toward the message becomes non-significant, the path from Q-statistics (homogeneity statistic) indicate that the total
negative cognitive responses to attitude toward the message variance of the correlations for each dependent variable is
becomes significant. significantly higher (p<.01) than the within-study variances
The total effects in Table 4 show that the source (i.e., the variance due to sampling). The remaining
credibility path explains most of the variance in the variability (heterogeneity) can be explained by moderator
dependent variables brand attitudes and purchase/behavioral variables. The moderator variables suggested above are
intention; the effect is about three times as strong as the used as predictors in a regression model in order to explain
effect of the information evaluation model, and more than the heterogeneity of the effect sizes for dependent variables
five times as strong as the total effect of the information that are based on a sample of at least twenty effect sizes
processing model. (i.e., attitude toward message, attitude toward brand,
Next to the dependent variables in the correlation matrix purchase/behavioral intention, recall, total and positive
(source credibility, attitude toward message, attitude toward cognitive responses, and message processing). For two of
brand, purchase/behavioral intention, total, positive, and the regression models, the explained variance is not
negative cognitive responses), we collected effect sizes for significant (total cognitive responses: QR=4.213, df=5,
recall, recognition, and message processing, with positive p=.519; message processing: QR=4.683, df=6, p=.585).
mean correlation coefficients for these variables that indicate They were not considered in the following analysis. The
that publicity over advertising enhances these outcome results of the regression models are presented in Table 5.
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

Table 3 Direct effects and fit indices for structural equation models

Source credibility Information Evaluation model Total model

model processing model

Source ➔ Source credibility .225 *** – – .225 ***

Source ➔ Cognitive responses, total – .133 *** – .133 ***
Source ➔ Cognitive responses, positive – – .079 * .079 *
Source ➔ Cognitive responses, negative – – .193 *** .193 ***
Source credibility ➔ Attitude toward message .469 *** – – .465 ***
Cognitive responses, total ➔ Attitude toward message – .169 *** – .172 **
Cognitive responses, total ➔ Attitude toward brand – .002 – −.178 **
Cognitive responses, positive ➔ Attitude toward message – – .188 *** .038
Cognitive responses, positive ➔ Attitude toward brand – – .261 *** .296 ***
Cognitive responses, negative ➔ Attitude toward message – – −.062 −.108 **
Cognitive responses, negative ➔ Attitude toward brand – – −.259 *** −.166 ***
Attitude toward message ➔ Attitude toward brand .625 *** .625 *** .587 *** .595 ***
Attitude toward brand ➔ Purchase/behavioral intention .772 *** .772 *** .772 *** .771 ***
Model statistics
χ2 50.889 47.122 61.103 114.664
df 6 5 6 15
GFI .974 .975 .974 .969
AGFI .934 .926 .907 .908
RMR .068 .080 .079 .055

*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001


The effect of marketing-oriented publicity over advertis- supporting H4 for both variables. Advertorials versus
ing on attitude toward message, attitude toward brand, advertising lead to stronger effects than publicity versus
source credibility, recall, and positive cognitive responses is advertising for dependent variables for which we could test
stronger for unknown products than for known ones, this effect, namely attitude toward message and recall. This
supporting H1 for these variables. A varied message format finding supports H5. No effect emerged for measurement
leads to stronger effects of marketing-oriented publicity time. Thus, H6 is not supported by the data. Publication
over advertising for attitude toward message, attitude year positively impacts the effect on recall, which supports
toward brand, and purchase/behavioral intention than does H7 for this outcome measure.
an identical message. This finding supports H2 for the Regression analysis based on small samples runs the risk
former variables. Providing a source cue did not affect any of biased estimates in cases where the normality assump-
of the dependent variables. Hence, the assumption stated in tion has been violated. We visually checked the distribution
H3 is not supported by the data. The combination of and controlled for the possibility of outliers; we also tested
publicity plus advertising leads to weaker effects for the distribution of the dependent variables for normality,
attitude measures than does publicity-only messages, which always yielded fit to the normality assumption. As

Table 4 Total effects on attitude toward brand and purchase intention

Overall Unknown products Known products

Attitude Purchase/ Attitude Purchase/ Attitude Purchase/

toward behavioral toward behavioral toward behavioral
brand intention brand intention brand intention

Source credibility model .062 .048 .089 .069 −.063 −.049

Information processing model .009 .007 .009 .007 .009 .007
Information evaluation model −.019 −.015 −.008 −.006 −.144 −.111
Table 5 WLS regression analysis

Predictor (Moderator) Source credibility Attitude toward Attitude toward Purchase/behavioral Recall Cognitive responses,
message brand intention positive

Constant −54.391 (37.868)a 13.061 (7.136) −.732 (18.429) −43.043 (30.102) 23.519 (5.453) *** 24.502 (21.846)
Product type: unknown vs. known −.493 (.196) ** −.156 (.045) *** −.367 (.134) ** −.310 (.247) −.220 (.071) ** −.537 (.147) ***
Message type: identical vs. varied .161 (.299) .383 (.094) *** 1.064 (.244) *** .840 (.303) ** .143 (.117) –b
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

Source cue: with or without .261 (.360) −.025 (.040) −.022 (.130) .213 (.235) .092 (.055) −.048 (.131)
Stimulus combination: separate vs. comb. .192 (.303) −.312 (.095) *** −.885 (.282) ** −.194 (.513) .301 (.286) –b
Publicity versus advertorial –b .595 (.043) *** –b –b .920 (.055) *** –b
Measurement time: immediate vs. delay. −.226 (.161) −.048 (.074) −.237 (.203) −.094 (.319) .239 (.266) .239 (.201)
Publication year .027 (.018) −.006 (.003) .001 (.010) .022 (.015) .012 (.003) *** .012 (.011)
Model summary
QR (explained) 26.825 *** 237.834 *** 34.419 *** 16.903 ** 399.217 *** 17.390 **
R2 .683 .582 .604 .510 .782 .575
kc 20 63 28 24 34 20
The unstandardized regression coefficient with the standard error in brackets is given
The moderator variable is a constant for the particular subset of variables
k ist the number of effect sizes included in the regression model
*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

the sample of effect sizes compared to the number of effect, an information processing effect, and an information
predictors is rather small, which might bias the results of evaluation effect. While the last effect is an overall negative
the multiple regression models and also reduces statistical effect, both other paths show a positive effect, with the
power of single predictors, a second series of regression source credibility effect being about three times as strong as
models based only on the significant predictors in the initial the negative effect due to information evaluation. The
analysis was computed. The results remained unchanged. results show that the trade-off between credibility and
The moderator model showed that the effect of publicity control over message content is in favor of the credibility of
versus advertising on positive cognitions and on source the source, supporting the overall superiority of marketing-
credibility decreases significantly for known versus unknown oriented publicity over advertising. This effect is moderated
products. If we replace the coefficients in the model with the by prior product knowledge though. Indeed, the described
coefficients for both subgroups (source to positive cognitive relationship holds and becomes stronger for unknown
responses: −.413 (known products) and .166 (unknown products. However, the effect changes for known products
products); source to source credibility: −.217 (known where the overall effect of the source becomes negative,
products) and .323 (unknown products)) the results indicate indicating that advertising outperforms publicity. These
a moderator effect (Table 4). For unknown products, the total results show that marketing-oriented publicity versus
effects of the source credibility model become stronger advertising is superior for products about which consumers
showing the same direction as in the overall model. In lack prior knowledge and are in need of reassurance that is
addition, the total effects of the information evaluation model more likely provided by a high credibility source. Most
become weaker. Hence, the overall effects of publicity over studies that have investigated and supported the positive
advertising become stronger. For known products, however, effects of media coverage refer to product innovations,
the total effects of the source credibility model become product pre-announcements, or products with which most
negative, and the negative effect of the information evalua- consumers are not yet familiar (e.g., Basuroy et al. 2003;
tion increases. This moderating factor results in an overall Henning-Thurau et al. 2006). The superior effect of
negative effect, which shows that advertising outperforms advertising over publicity for known products comports
publicity for known products. with the assumption that consumers’ need for reassurance
Correlation coefficients for either known or unknown disappears with product experience and knowledge, and the
products were not available for all cells in the matrix. In the credibility effect simply reaches a ceiling. Instead, consum-
analysis described above, we computed the total effects based ers become less skeptical toward advertising and prefer
on the correlation coefficients of the initial matrix except for positive information as provided by advertising after
correlation coefficients mentioned above (correlation between experiencing a product. Selecting positive advertising
source and source credibility; correlation between source and allows consumers to avoid cognitive dissonance that may
positive cognitive responses) that were used in order to arise from contradictory product experiences and messages.
compute the effects for either unknown or known products. In These findings are also in line with studies that show that a
an additional analysis, we further checked for significant low credibility source can be more persuasive when the
differences of other correlation coefficients when the data consumer’s own prior behavior serves as a persuasion cue
provided in the primary studies allowed us to test for (Dholakia and Sternthal 1977; Tybout 1978).
differences between known and unknown products. Signifi- The meta-analytic findings contribute to the research on
cant differences emerged for the correlation between source negativity effect (Fiske 1980). When consumers are
credibility and attitude toward message (known products: exposed to publicity, message processing and processing
.697, unknown products: .470). When using these values for of negative information are enhanced. This process pro-
each subgroup to compute the total effects in Table 4, the vides another explanation for the negativity effect of
effects for unknown products show a negligible change, publicity. The models suggested in this paper show that
whereas the negative effects of the source credibility model an overall evaluation of publicity effects must consider
for known products increases by almost one third, providing different effect paths next to the negativity effect in order to
stronger support for the moderator effect. test for the overall effect of publicity versus advertising on
consumers. By introducing prior knowledge as an impor-
tant moderator, the findings further suggest that the
Discussion negativity effect might be less severe in cases where
consumers do not yet know about a product.
Contribution and theoretical implications The paths in the total model show results that differ from
the paths in the individual models. They can be explained
The results of the meta-analysis support the effect of by the fact that the number of explanatory variables has
publicity over advertising that is due to a source credibility increased in the total model, and the total effect from source
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

on both attitude measures in the partial models are now effect sizes. A simple explanation might be found in the
distributed over more paths, especially as related to stimuli that were used in the studies: source cues were
cognitive response measures and source credibility. provided when the sources could not easily be identified by
Positive and negative cognitive responses are correlated the study participants. It can be assumed that participants in
with total cognitive responses, but they are not identical, all other studies were aware of the difference between both
because total cognitive responses also include neutral and types of sources. The findings further show that marketing-
other responses and not just the sum of positive and oriented publicity versus advertising affects attitude toward
negative cognitive responses. Still, the explained variance the message and the brand when it is used as an isolated
in attitude measures as caused by the source is now shared stimulus (i.e., when recipients are not exposed to advertis-
over more paths, amongst them three paths related to ing and publicity at the same issue). The strength of the
cognitive responses; this leads to a re-distribution of effects effect of exposure to both sources in sequence or in
of cognitive responses in the total model. As for attitude combination is below the effect of exposure to publicity
toward the brand, the negative effect of negative cognitive only. The combination apparently mixes the advantage of
responses in the evaluation model is reduced, while there is publicity only with the disadvantage of advertising only. As
now a significant effect of total cognitive responses on for advertorials, they lead to stronger effects on attitude
brand attitude. That is, increased cognitive responses can be toward message and recall than publicity—in line with the
unfavorable for brand evaluation since evaluation becomes idea that advertorials combine the advantages of both
more critical due to the fact that the overall increase in publicity and advertising—and therefore can lead to
cognitive responses includes an increase in the ratio of increased effects (Lord and Putrevu 1993). Measurement
negative to positive cognitions, as suggested by the time did not affect any of the dependent variables, which
evaluation model. Although this might be beneficial for can be explained by short delays that were applied in most
attitudes toward a message as indicated by the positive experiments in the meta-analysis. The strength of the
effect of total cognitive responses on attitudes toward the sleeper effect depends on the length of the delay (e.g.,
message (i.e., the message is perceived as more balanced Gruder et al. 1978). Finally, the results show that the effect
when both positive and negative information is included), it of publicity over advertising increased over the years as
affects brand evaluation in a negative way, because related to recall. An increase of credibility effects has been
increasing amounts of negative brand information worsen supported in previous research (Eisend 2004), because
brand evaluation (Eisend 2006). As for the effect on credibility became an important cue for consumers in order
message attitudes in the total model, effects of positive to deal with increasing information load and more complex
cognitive responses diminish, because the total model now information evaluation tasks. Our results show that the
includes an alternative positive effect of total cognitive effect primarily relates to memory effects, that is, source
responses and the positive effect of source credibility that credibility increasingly eases the retrieval of information
both seem to be responsible for the positive influence of the from memory.
source on message attitudes.
The results of the moderator regression models provide Managerial implications
further insights into when marketing-oriented publicity is
the preferred strategy over advertising. As explained above, The findings provide several practical implications as well.
publicity is more effective (in terms of source credibility, First and foremost, they show that marketing-oriented
attitude toward the message, attitude toward the brand, and publicity is superior for products that consumers do not
positive cognitive responses) than advertising for unknown yet know about. Particular emphasis can therefore be given
products, whereas advertising outperforms publicity for to publicity for market introductions. Indeed, Ries and Ries
known products. As another effect, it turns out that a varied (2002) provide some anecdotal evidence on the success of
message type leads to stronger effects (related to source well-known brands such as eBay, Starbucks, PlayStation
credibility, attitude toward the message, attitude toward the that were introduced without large advertising budgets and
brand, and purchase/behavioral intentions) than identical focused on publicity and word-of-mouth instead. As soon
messages. Different types of messages are mostly used in as consumers get to know a product, marketers should
publicity and advertising in the real world, whereas rather rely on advertising campaigns. This advice goes hand
identical messages are mostly used in laboratory experi- in hand with the fact that the newsworthiness of products
mental designs. This illustrates the perils with a merely declines with progress in the life cycle and media might
academic approach when investigating such issues and the lose interest in reporting about these products (Shimp
need to combine both methods: experimental research with 2007). However, the practical implication is somewhat
high internal validity and field research that provides high limited, since ordinary products (e.g., fast-moving consum-
external validity. Source cue did not have any effect on the er goods) might not be interesting for media at all and
J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci.

might be unable to provide a story for press release; in that variable. Further research should try to integrate the cost
case, marketers need to invest in advertising as a more factor that can considerably vary over advertising and
general means of communication for promoting a brand. publicity in order to provide a clearer picture of the
The findings are also interesting in the light of recent effectiveness of both communication devices.
results by Rinallo and Basuroy (2009) who showed that
advertising spending influences media coverage. This Acknowledgement The authors would like to thank the editor and
situation seems to be preferable for new products, but not the four anonymous JAMS reviewers for their constructive and helpful
necessarily for products consumers already know about.
The moderator regression analysis further suggests that
advertorials are a good alternative to publicity, and that the
effect of publicity is stronger when consumers are not References
exposed to both publicity and advertising at the same time.
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