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J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2009) 37:191203 DOI 10.

1007/s11747-008-0096-y

ORIGINAL EMPIRICAL RESEARCH

A meta-analysis of humor in advertising


Martin Eisend

Received: 6 November 2007 / Accepted: 21 April 2008 / Published online: 30 May 2008 # Academy of Marketing Science 2008

Abstract This meta-analysis combines 369 correlations on the effects of humor in advertising and thus quantifies, updates, and expands previous literature reviews on the effects of humor in advertising. In line with previous reviews, the meta-analytic correlations demonstrate that humor in advertising significantly enhances AAD, attention, and positive affect. Contrary to the assumptions of previous reviews, there is no evidence that humor impacts positive or negative cognitions, and liking of the advertiser. The metaanalytic findings clarify some ambiguous prior conclusions: humor significantly reduces source credibility, enhances positive affect, ABR and purchase intention. The decline from lower order to higher order communication effects is particularly strong, with the effect size of the impact of humor on AAD being twice as large as the effect size for ABR. This impact of humor in advertising has been rather stable over the past decades. A moderator analysis reveals, however, that the findings of academic humor research are somewhat biased. As for the underlying theory, the positive and linear relationship between the funniness of the ad and brand attitudes supports an affective mechanism underlying the impact of humor in advertising. Keywords Humor in advertising . Meta-analysis . Generalization

Introduction The use of humor has become common practice in advertising. Approximately one out of five television ads contain humorous appeals (Beard 2005). TV shows on humorous advertisements and awards for such advertisements indicate that humor in advertising has even become an important part of everyday life. The use of humor as an executional tactic is of particular interest to marketers, since marketing performance depends on effective and successful advertising. Quite an effort has been made to investigate the impact of humor in advertising and has led to several literature reviews (Duncan 1979; Madden and Weinberger 1984; Speck 1987; Sternthal and Craig 1973; Weinberger and Gulas 1992). These reviews draw some clear-cut conclusions on the impact of humor for some of the outcome variables, but have also come up with a set of mixed results. Weinberger and Gulas (1992) suggest in their review that broad generalizations about the persuasive effects of humor may be inappropriate. Chattopadhyay and Basu (1990) recommend asking when humor in advertising is effective, rather than if humor is effective. Both issues, however, the search for generalizable results (if humor is effective) and for moderators that contribute to the variability of results (when humor is effective) are specific tasks to be addressed by the application of a meta-analysis. The purpose of this study is to provide an integrative meta-analysis of research on humor effects in advertising. The meta-analysis quantifies, updates, and expands previous literature reviews, the most recent one having been published 15 years ago. The meta-analytic findings substantiate (or disprove) the conclusions of those earlier literature reviews. Besides generating such empirical generalizations, metaanalytic work tries to resolve conflicts in the literature and to identify gaps in previous research, and thus can help to

M. Eisend (*) European University Viadrina, Groe Scharrnstrae 59, 15230 Frankfurt (Oder), Germany e-mail: eisend@euv-frankfurt-o.de

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ensure that the next wave of research is guided in the most illuminating direction (Farley et al. 1998). Hence, the present meta-analysis further shows whether generalizations on the impact of humor are appropriate and if not, how one can explain inconsistent findings by applying substantial and methodological moderator variables. Finally, for the underlying mechanisms of the effect of humor in advertising, the study investigates the crucial relation between humor-evoked affective responses and marketing-related measures by showing if and how the funniness of the ad supports or harms the impact on brand attitudes.

Previous reviews on the effects of humor in advertising The widespread use of humor in advertising has led to several literature reviews. Table 1 provides an overview of previous review results. In addition to the reviews by academics, the table also shows the findings of a study that surveyed senior advertising practitioners to elicit their views concerning the conclusions of previous academic reviews and the objectives best achieved by humor. Some of the conclusions in the reviews are consistent: Humor in advertising creates attention and awareness, enhances source liking, attitude towards the ad (AAD), positive cognitions, and reduces negative cognitions. Some other conclusions are more ambiguous. It is not clear if humor in advertising enhances comprehension or reduces it.

It is not clear how humor impacts recall or recognition. The conclusions reached for the effect of humor on source credibility are mixed as well. The effects on brand attitudes (ABR), purchase intention and behavior remain unclear as well. Whether humor has an impact on these outcome variables can be studied by calculating a grand mean effect size that integrates the results of previous studies and by applying significance tests to the grand mean effect size. The replication nature of such a meta-analysis brings about the question whether humor effects have changed over the years. There are several reasons that may lead to changes of the effect sizes. One reason is a substantial change in the influence of humor in advertising. For this, some authors refer to the transition from the modern to the postmodern period (which may have started in the 1960s and has been reaching different domains of society at different paces) in order to describe how consumers have changed and the way they deal with communication from marketers (Elliot et al. 1993; van Raaij 1993): Consumers have become more experienced and at the same time more skeptical about influences from marketers. As this may primarily affect the impact of obtrusive marketer persuasion techniques, it is not clear whether consumers react differently to humorous appeals. Another reason relates to method changes and improvements; data collection methods and analytical methods have been improved over the years, leading to stronger effect sizes (Kayande and Bhargava 1994).

Table 1 Assumed effects of the impact of humor in advertising in previous literature reviews Outcome variables Reviews by academics Sternthal and Craig 1973 AAD ABR Affect, positive Affect, negative Attention Attitude towards the advertiser Cognitive responses, positive Cognitive responses, negative Comprehension Credibility Purchase intention Purchase behavior Recall Recognition Duncan 1979 Speck 1987 Weinberger and Gulas 1992 + + Practitioner view Madden and Weinberger 1984 + ? + + + + ? O O O O O ? + ? ? ? ? ? + Overall conclusion

O + + +

+ +

O + +

+ +

+ + O O ? ? ? ? ? ?

+ indicates that humor enhances the outcome variable; indicates that humor decreases the outcome variable, O indicates that humor has no additional effect over serious messages, ? refers to mixed findings, empty cells indicate that the review does not provide any conclusions related to the particular outcome variable.

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If the set of effect sizes is heterogeneous, the grand mean must be considered an average rather than a common value, and the variability of the findings can be due to methodological and conceptual differences of past humor research studies. These differences can be explained by considering moderating variables. We used the following criteria to select from the potential variables that moderate the relationship between humor and outcome variables. The moderator analysis is limited to those subsets of relationships that provide a sufficient number of effect sizes for the purpose of testing. The moderator analysis is further limited to those moderator variables where previous literature provides some guidance as to how they may moderate the effects of humor and/or that help to resolve ambiguous findings. A sufficient number of effect sizes in this meta-analysis (more than thirty) is available for the effects of humor on AAD, ABR, and purchase intention, because the primary focus of most scholarly advertising studies has been on the impact on attitudes as a main predictor of behavior. Since ABR and purchase intention are highly correlated with each other, moderating variables should apply to both outcome variables in a similar way (Eisend 2006). Therefore the following discussion focuses on the impact of humor on AAD and ABR. As for the influence of humor on attitudes, the effects on AAD versus ABR can differ, and humorous ads that are most liked are not necessarily most effective in terms of influencing brand attitudes (Woltman et al. 2004).

Moderating variables affecting the impact of humor in advertising on attitudes Humor and AAD Whether humor enhances AAD depends on the characteristics of the humorous stimulus, how the stimulus is presented, and what kind of recipients are addressed. Previous studies differ in at least one important instance of each of the factors that can be assessed by means of a meta-analysis. As for demographics, the majority of practitioners believe that humor seems to work best for younger and well-educated consumers, particularly for males (Madden and Weinberger 1984). This assumption is in line with Suls incongruity-resolution theory of humor comprehension and appreciation (Suls 1972). Suls proposed a two-stage model of humor: detection and resolution of incongruity. Humor is based on incongruity wherein a prediction is not confirmed in the final part of the story. To comprehend humor, it is necessary to revisit the story and to transform an incongruous situation into a funny, congruous one. Comprehension of humor requires cognitive abilities,

which vary over stages of cognitive development and therefore depend on age as well as on education. That is, age is negatively related to humor comprehension whereas education is positively related to humor comprehension (Mak and Carpenter 2007; McGhee 1986). Comprehension precedes humor appreciation, which in turn influences liking of the advertising (e.g., Cline and Kellaris 2007; Woltman et al. 2004). The majority of previous studies of humor in advertising have been based on student samples, while a smaller group of studies have worked with representative samples or convenience samples of consumers. Student samples have consisted of younger and better educated individuals than the consumer samples. Therefore, higher appreciation and stronger effects of humor on AAD are expected when the sample consists of students. Previous studies differ according to some methodological factors that in turn are related to the above-mentioned audience and stimulus characteristics. Some authors have pointed out that humorous stimuli in studies by academics, which are mostly performed in controlled laboratory settings, are only mildly amusing, and the effects may therefore differ from the effects of real world advertisements (Speck 1991; Woltman et al. 2004). Furthermore, humor is harder to execute in print advertisements due to fewer tools in the executional arsenal (Gulas and Weinberger 2006). Humor in print media is confined to addressing the whole sensory spectrum of individuals and is therefore inferior to humor in broadcast media in terms of funniness. Gulas and Weinberger (2006) further suggest that the impact of humor in print media may be neutralized through more vigilant, intense, and selective processing. It is therefore not surprising that TV ads tend to be more humor-dominated than print ads (Speck 1991). Hence, studies that work with humor in print media should provide weaker effects of humor on AAD than TV ads. Humor and ABR Product categories interact with executional factors (such as humor) to affect advertising impact, and so the effects of humor on ABR depend on factors related to the particular product. In their book on humor in advertising, Gulas and Weinberger (2006) notice that only several studies have explicitly examined the impact of humor on outcome variables for different products, and that there is little to guide effective usage of different products. A conceptual scheme to explain the effectiveness of humor when used with different products can be found in product typologies that have been developed from the rationale of the elaboration likelihood model (ELM; Petty and Wegener 1999). Several product typologies have been developed that attempt to integrate the idea of the ELM, which makes a distinction between low and high motivation/

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ability situations when processing an (advertising) message. Each framework provides a matrix of four fields with an involvement/perceived risk dimension and a functionality dimension (Rossiter et al. 1991; Vaughn 1980, 1986; Weinberger et al. 1994). In those frameworks, involvement, i.e., whether advertising information is worth processing or not, is mostly understood as the outcome of perceived risk. Although the operational definition of involvement and perceived risk varies slightly, the classification of products in the matrix fields is made rather consistently. The classification of products in the functionality dimension distinguishes between products of functional value (think, informational) and hedonic value (feel, emotional, transformational). Gulas and Weinberger (2006) summarize those frameworks within a four product color matrix distinguishing white, red, blue, and yellow goods. Following Rossiter et al. (1991) and Gulas and Weinberger (2006), different strategies seem appropriate for each color and its effect on ABR. Based on this typology, the appropriateness of humor in advertising for each color can be derived by considering another crucial factor: the relatedness between product and humor, that is, whether humor is thematically related to the advertisers message about the product or not. White goods are high involvement/high risk and functional products that are risky enough to be worth processing information in a more detailed way. Advertisements for such products should consider benefit claims to be convincing and the target audience must accept the ads main points but does not have to like the ad, although ad liking does not harm advertising impact. Humor can serve as an issue relevant argument, particularly when consumers are engaged in detailed information processing (Zhang and Zinkhan 2006). Hence, issue-relevant humor provides benefit claims and can help to sell the product, whereas unrelated humor may help consumers to like the ad but may not further improve the impact on ABR. Red goods are high involvement/high risk and hedonic products where the audience processes information in a more detailed way as well. Advertisements should provide emotional authenticity, and consumers should

like the ad and must identify with the product portrayed in the ad; information may be provided as well. Humor basically supports effects on ABR and does not need to be product-related, as humor contributes to ones liking of the ad that can transfer to the advertised brand. Blue goods are low involvement/low risk and functional products that do not require detailed information; trial experience is sufficient. As for advertisements, a simple problem-solution format focusing on the central benefits of the product is most appropriate. It is not necessary for consumers to like the ad (although ad liking does no harm to advertising effects); both related and unrelated humor may bear the risk of distracting the consumer from a successful information transfer of the central benefits of the product. Hence, humor may be effective, but less so than for other kinds of products in the matrix. Yellow goods are low involvement/low risk and hedonic products. Brand attitude strategies should focus on an emotional appeal that is unique to the brand, and the target audience must like the ad. As for red goods, humor supports effects on ABR and does not need to be product-related.

The suggested relationships for the moderator variables are presented in Table 2.

The AADABR relationship in humor studies Gulas and Weinberger (2006) have suggested that an immediate effect of humor is best described by mirth, a generic affective response that covers a variety of responses such as happiness, fun, or pleasure. This affective response impacts higher order outcomes such as feelings, thoughts, attitudes, or actions. The immediate response to humor varies in intensity depending on the humorous stimulus. Intensity may impact higher order outcomes in different ways. A widely accepted explanation for the effect of humor on attitudes is based on the idea of affective mechanisms, such as evoking a positive affect that is transferred to the brand

Table 2 Assumed moderating effects on the impact of humor on ABR

Type of product White goods (high involvement/risk, functional) Blue goods (low involvement/risk, functional)

Relatedness Related humor Unrelated humor Related humor Unrelated humor Related humor Unrelated humor Related humor Unrelated humor + O + + + +

+ indicates that moderator enhances the effect of humor on ABR; indicates that the moderator decreases the effect of humor on ABR, O indicates that the moderator has no effect.

Red goods (high involvement/risk, hedonic) Yellow goods (low involvement/risk, hedonic)

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(MacKenzie and Lutz 1989). Such affect generalization can be explained by classical conditioning: positive affective reactions towards the humorous stimulus represent the unconditioned reaction that is generalized onto the conditioned stimulus: the advertised brand (Prilluk and Till 2004). Very funny ads seem to be liked best (Woltman et al. 2004), and a positive impact on ABR should increase with the level of humor intensity in terms of perceived humor. Some authors have mentioned that ads that score high on perceived humor and, by this, impact A AD are not necessarily effective in terms of impacting ABR and purchase behavior (Weinberger and Campbell 1991; Woltman et al. 2004). One reason for the missing link between both variables is based on the insight that humor functions as a distractor from those parts of the message that provide brand benefits. By referring to the widely accepted insight that humor facilitates attention, Zillmann et al. (1980) have argued that respondents pay close attention to the humorous part of the message, since humor induces pleasant reactions and thus functions as incentive to pay attention. But because respondents are preoccupied with the humor, they are less attentive to other parts of the message. Hence, the funnier the ad, the higher the incentive value of humor, and the more the ad may distract from brand-related parts of the message; thus, humor intensity shows no relationship with ABR. Bryant et al. (1981) provide an explanation for a possible negative persuasive effect of humor intensity through a source-mediation rationale. The use of humor contributes to decreased credibility of a source, which reduces persuasion effects. The authors support this effect with the context of humorous illustrations in college textbooks. However, such textbooks are expected to provide serious material, whereas in advertising, a source does not necessarily suffer from decreased credibility, provided the superior use of humor is valued by the recipient. If the source is witty and has excellent command of her or his material by using humor, the effect may be positive. A source that is perceived as using humor because of a lack of ability to make her or his point seriously impairs persuasion. Humor intensity may play a moderating role in advertising, as very strong humor may be seen as weakness of the marketer to make a serious argument for the brand. This is also indicated by the Speck (1987) study; the author distinguished between five types of humor and found out that the ads of the type with the highest level of perceived humor performed the worst on source trust. A curvi-linear relationship between humor intensity and the effects on ABR is due to the idea that humor plays a cathartic role, evoking arousal that results in pleasure when released (Gulas and Weinberger 2006). Humor causes such arousal through novelty, complexity, and incongruity (Berlyne 1972). According to arousal theory, greater arousal results in greater pleasure when released up to a

point (optimal level) and therefore an inverted-U relationship between humor appreciation/intensity and arousal can be expected. An increasing level of arousal evoked by humor intensity may reach an optimal affect transfer; beyond this point, too much arousal may become less pleasant, leading to transfer of negative affect. Whether such high levels of arousal can be reached in advertising remains an open question. Indeed, the inverted-U shape is not universally held, and research has provided evidence for a linear relationship between humor appreciation and arousal (Godkewitsch 1976; Gulas and Weinberger 2006). A curvi-linear effect has been supported in an education research study by Bryant et al. (1981). The authors found that the use of low levels of humor has essentially the same level of persuasion as no humor, while extensive use of humor was detrimental to persuasion. As for advertising research, only Krishnan and Chakravarti (2003) investigated moderate and high levels of humor with respect to claim recall. Gulas and Weinberger (2006) notice that we still do not know what the effects of different humor levels on outcome variables other than recall are; they point out that manipulation checks of experimental studies in humor research show that the level of humor is usually not very high. Based on the ambiguous results for the relationship between arousal and pleasure, they infer that the matter of arousal-evoking humor effects still remains unresolved. Effect sizes within a meta-analysis typically provide a wide range of data points. Hence, perceived humor measures can be used to investigate the relationship between perceived humor and ABR in a more profound way than has been done in previous studies. The relationship may be negative (due to reduced credibility), positive (due to an affect transfer), curvi-linear (according to an optimal-level approach underlying an affect transfer), or there may be no relationship at all (due to distracting the consumers from brand benefits).

Method Literature review To identify relevant studies for the meta-analysis, a computerized bibliographic keyword search using Business Source Elite, ABI/Inform (for business publications), PsycINFO and PSYNDEX (for psychology literature), and the Social Science Citation Index was conducted, followed by an internet search using Google Scholar. Once a study was identified, references were examined in a search for further studies. The approach is consistent with recommendations made by several authors (e.g., Hunter and Schmidt 2004; Rosenthal 1994), and closely follows the steps taken in earlier meta-analyses published in the marketing literature.

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The literature search covered the period from 1960 up to late 2006. Only studies published in English that investigated the impact of humor in advertising on dependent variables as described above were considered. These studies had to provide empirical results on the effect of humorous compared to non-humorous advertising. That is, studies dealing with humor in advertising that did not provide such comparisons were not considered (e.g., Aaker et al. 1986; Unger 1995). In the case where two studies were based on the same data (e.g., an unpublished dissertation and a journal publication), the study that provided more data detail was used [e.g., the dissertation by Lee (1997) was included but not the journal publication by Lee and Mason (1999)]. The search resulted in 54 manuscripts. If necessary, authors were contacted in order to receive further data for those studies with insufficient information to calculate effect sizes. Eventually, 38 manuscripts covering 43 independent studies could be used for the meta-analysis (these studies are indicated by asterisks in the reference list). With the exception of three studies, they were all performed in the USA. Sixteen manuscripts (of the 54 manuscripts that were found by the literature review) were excluded due to a lack of statistical information for calculating an effect size. For ten studies, standard deviations and/or cell sizes were not available (De Pelsmacker and Geuens 1996; Flaherty et al. 2004; Furnham et al. 1998; Furnham and Mori 2003; Geuens and De Pelsmacker 2002; Madden 1982; Smith 1993; Stanton and Burke 1998; Zhang 1992; Zhang and Zinkhan 1991); four studies were excluded due to a (partial) lack of means as well as a (partial) lack of standard deviations (Lammers 1991; Lammers et al. 1983; Madden and Dillon 1982; Nelson et al. 1985); two studies provided data from crosstabs of more than four cells that could not be transformed into an appropriate effect size (Murphy et al. 1979; Weinberger et al. 1995). The percentage of exclusions (30%) is not uncommon in meta-analyses and corresponds to figures given in other meta-analyses in the marketing and consumer behavior literature (e.g., Brown and Stayman 1992; Szymanski et al. 1995; Tellis 1988). The effect size metric selected for the analysis is the correlation coefficient; higher values of the coefficient indicate a stronger effect of humor on advertising outcome variables compared to non-humorous messages. Since most papers reported multiple measures of humor effects, the analysis includes multiple correlations from single studies for particular relationships. Altogether 369 correlations were available for the purpose of the meta-analysis. The ratio of correlations to the number of studies is not uncommon in meta-analyses when focusing on various dependent variables (e.g., Churchill et al. 1985; Sultan et al. 1990; Szymanski et al. 1993).

Integration of correlations and moderator analysis The meta-analytic procedures were performed using ZumaStat 4.0 and taking a random-effects perspective (Shadish and Haddock 1994). The integration of the correlations uses weights for sample size and multiple dependent measures, and considers attenuation corrected correlations. Sample size weights were applied in order to consider varying sample sizes of the studies. Two procedures for attenuation correction were applied as suggested by Hunter and Schmidt (2004): (1) Effect sizes based on variables that were artificially dichotomized were corrected, and (2) measurement errors were corrected by considering reliability coefficients of the dependent and independent variables. A conservative 0.8 reliability estimate was applied to objective measures as suggested in the literature (Bommer et al. 1995; Dalton et al. 2003; Hunter and Schmidt 2004). In order to consider a weight for multiple measures per study, each sample size was weighted by the ratio 1 to the number of effect sizes per study measuring the same dependent variable. Using the simple sample size for studies with multiple dependent measures avoids underestimation of sampling error compared to using the sum of samples (Hunter and Schmidt 2004). Mean correlations are significant when the confidence interval does not include zero. Additionally, mean correlations were tested for significance by z statistics. In case of significance, a fail-safe N is calculated which shows how many non-significant results must be added in order to prove the significance of the integrated effect size as a random error (Rosenthal 1979). The moderator analysis is based on a sample-size weighted regression analysis applying the predictor variables described above (cf., Hedges 1994). Two coders, a female and a male graduate student who were not aware of the research questions of the study, were coding the predictor variables according to the instructions in a coding sheet for each correlation. Based on information given in the studies, the following variables were coded: fictitious versus real advertising, broadcast versus print media, student versus non-student samples, white versus red versus blue versus yellow goods, and product-related versus product-unrelated humor. The coding scheme for product types was derived from the definition and the broad range of product examples provided in previous studies (e.g., Weinberger and Campbell 1991). Given the rather manifest nature of most of the moderator variables, Cohens Kappa indicated excellent results (higher than 0.9) for the dummy codings. The few differences were resolved through discussion. Humor level was assessed by calculating the effect sizes of the available manipulation check measures of perceived humor. The publication year of the study was used as an indicator of the year of the humor effect.

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Furthermore, the number of items to measure the dependent variable was used as an indicator of measurement refinement.

Results Table 3 shows the results of the meta-analytic correlations when applying a random-effects model using the Q-method for variance estimation. The results differentiate between ad- and brand related recall and recognition effects. Humor significantly enhances AAD, ABR, positive affective reactions, attention, and purchase intention. Humor reduces negative affective reactions and credibility. The results show considerable variance, with the strongest effects of humor on attention (r=0.416) and AAD (r=0.374). Both effects can be considered as large according to the classification by Cohen (1977). The high fail-safe N lends broad credence to the significance of the results based on larger samples of correlations, as a remarkable number of additional studies with non-significant results would be necessary in order to prove the significance of the integrated effect size to be a random error. In order to investigate whether humor effects have changed over the year, correlations were calculated between the publication year of the study and the effect size for AAD, ABR, and purchase intention. Only those outcome variables were used, because they were based on a set of studies that were published in at least ten different years. The
Table 3 Meta-analytic correlations (random-effects model) Dependent variables AAD ABR Affect, positive Affect, negative Attention Attitude towards the advertiser Cognitive responses, positive Cognitive responses, negative Comprehension Credibility Purchase intention Purchase behavior Recall, ad-related Recall, brand-related Recognition, ad-related Recognition, brand-related
a b

bivariate correlations are not significant (AAD: r=0.131, p= 0.227; ABR: r=0.112, p=0.445, purchase intention: r=0.180, p=0.232). To control for possible confounds, partial correlations were calculated controlling for perceived humor (as measure of humor intensity) as well as for the number of measurement items as an indicator for measurement refinements. The partial correlations controlling for perceived humor are not significant (AAD: r=0.237, p=0.058; ABR: r=0.082, p=0.641, purchase intention: r=0.149, p= 0.439). When controlling for both perceived humor and the number of measurement items, the partial correlations for purchase intention could not be calculated, because it is almost exclusively measured with single-item scales. The correlations for AAD and ABR remain insignificant (AAD: r= 0.098, p=0.449; ABR: r=0.081, p=0.647). The suggested moderator variables are applied to the subsets of correlations between humor and AAD and humor and ABR, both of which reveal high heterogeneity that can be reduced by moderator variables. For each regression model, a number of correlations had to be dropped due to missing values of the predictor variables, a common problem in meta-analysis (Stock 1994): Five correlations were dropped for the moderator model dealing with the correlations between humor and AAD, and eight correlations were dropped for the moderator model dealing with the correlations between humor and ABR. Table 4 shows the results of the moderator variables applied to the correlations between humor and AAD. The

ka 87 49 6 3 29 6 20 17 29 13 46 4 16 22 5 17

Mean rb 0.374*** 0.189*** 0.268*** 0.283*** 0.416*** 0.093 0.119 0.045 0.036 0.130* 0.192*** 0.008 0.121 0.071 0.224 0.161

95% CI 0.248 0.086 0.141 0.398 0.202 0.040 0.059 0.171 0.033 0.227 0.110 0.423 0.098 0.050 0.320 0.002

+95% CI 0.487 0.288 0.387 0.159 0.592 0.223 0.290 0.082 0.105 0.031 0.272 0.436 0.329 0.190 0.657 0.312

Fail-safe Nc 29,116 2,214 51 10 6,235

311 2,817

k refers to the number of effect sizes. All effect sizes were sample size weighted and corrected for measurement error and artificial dichotomization of continuous variables; weights for considering multiple effect sizes were applied. c The fail-safe N is computed for =0.05 and provided for significant mean correlations. *p<0.05 **p<0.01 ***p<0.001

198 Table 4 Impact of moderator variables on the correlations between humor and AAD (n=82) Predictor Unstandardized coefficient 0.354 0.463 0.329 Standard error 0.061 0.137 0.133 p value

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Student sample Real vs. fictitious ads Print vs. broadcast media

<0.001 0.001 0.016

No intercept was included as only dummy variables were applied to the regression analysis. Explained variance=0.482.

effects are stronger for the student sample, for real ads, and for broadcast media. Hence, the predictions of the method factors that explain the variance of the effects of humor in advertising are all met. The results are in line with the effects of perceived humor. Perceived humor is stronger for real ads than for fictitious ads (t=4.442, p<0.001), and perceived humor is stronger for advertising in broadcast media than in print media (t=3.585, p=0.001). Because only three correlations of studies with non-student samples provided a manipulation check, no test was performed. As mentioned before, most academic studies are done in laboratory settings using print ads to evaluate humors effects. When testing the joint influence of students (bias upward) and print ads (bias downward) by adding an interaction variable, the interaction effect was not significant (b=0.020, se=0.086, p=0.819), showing that both effects seem to cancel out and do not operate independently. Table 5 shows the results for the moderator variables of product categories and humor relatedness applied to the correlations between humor and ABR. In line with the assumptions, the impact of humor is enhanced for hedonic motives in both cases of related humor (yellow goods) and unrelated humor (red goods). In the case of white goods (high involvement/risk and functional), humor leads to stronger effects when it is related to the product. As for blue goods, humor does not provide any further advantage, either in the case of related or unrelated humor.

Five of the studies in the meta-analysis provide a correlation coefficient for the relationship between AAD and ABR, leading to a mean weighted correlation between both variables of 0.557 (p<0.001). The studies in the metaanalysis include 35 correlations for the relationship between humor and brand attitudes that provide a manipulation check measure of perceived humor. The results of a bivariate weighted regression model show that perceived humor enhances ABR (b=0.603, se=0.098, p<0.001, R2 = 0.526, F=37.685, p<0.001). Adding a quadratic term to the regression model only slightly changes the results, and the influence of the quadratic term is non-significant (Table 6). The results support the positive and linear relationship between humor intensity and the impact of humor on ABR (Fig. 1).

Discussion The results of the meta-analysis quantify and update previous literature reviews by providing a set of empirical generalizations on the effects of humor in advertising. In line with the assumptions of previous reviews, the metaanalytic correlations demonstrate that humor in advertising significantly enhances AAD, attention, and positive affect. Contrary to earlier review assumptions, there is no evidence that humor impacts positive or negative cognitions and liking of the advertiser. Some of the conclusions of existing reviews were partly ambiguous. This meta-analysis provides empirical results that can help to resolve ambiguous conclusions: Humor significantly reduces source credibility, enhances positive affect, ABR, and purchase intention. Application of a random-effects model to effect size integration shows that the impact on ad-related and brandrelated recall and recognition is non-significant. The effect on comprehension is also non-significant as is the effect on purchase behavior. For those results that are based on large samples of studies and a large number of subjects, those findings should be rather robust. However, most of the

Table 5 Impact of moderator variables on the correlations between humor and ABR (n=41) Type of product White goods (high involvement/risk, functional) Blue goods (low involvement/risk, functional) Red goods (high involvement/risk, hedonic) Yellow goods (low involvement/risk, hedonic) Relatedness Related humor Unrelated humor Related humor Unrelated humor Related humor Unrelated humor Related humor Unrelated humor Unstandardized coefficient 0.121 0.115 0.002 0.359 0.377 Standard error 0.056 0.084 0.128 0.117 0.056 p value 0.039 0.181 0.989 0.004 <0.001

No intercept was included as only dummy variables were applied to the regression analysis. Explained variance=0.630.

J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2009) 37:191203 Table 6 Impact of perceived humor on the correlations between humor and ABR (n=35) Predictor Unstandardized coefficient 0.043 0.558 0.074 Standard error 0.047 0.272 0.415 p value

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Constant Perceived humor Perceived humor (quadratic term)

0.360 0.048 0.859

R2 =0.526; F(2,33)=18.332, p<0.001

integrative findings are based on a quite heterogeneous set of effects (AAD, ABR, attention, purchase behavior, recall and recognition) and the grand mean of the correlation coefficient has to be considered as an average rather than a common correlation value. In particular, when a small number of effects is heterogeneous as it is the case for purchase behavior, the results have to be interpreted with caution. Basically, however, the results support the notion that humor is more effective in generating lower order than higher order communication effects; the effect size of the impact of humor on AAD is even twice as large as the effect size for ABR. Such a decline from lower order to higher order effects is more pronounced compared to the effects of other content elements in advertising (e.g., Eisend 2006; Grewal et al. 1997). Practitioners should be aware that other executional tactics may lose less of their impact on their way from attention and ad liking to brand preference and brand choice. Still, in order to come to an overall conclusion for the effects on sales, the analyst should bear in mind that s/he has to consider the total effect (both direct and indirect paths). Table 7 summarizes the integration results of the metaanalysis and compares them to the assumptions of previous review. Most of the findings replicate what has been identified in the last major review by Weinberger and Gulas (1992). In addition, the main results have not changed over the years. Hence, the meta-analytic results may not only provide more certainty but also suggest that the impact of humor in advertising has been rather stable over the past decades. The moderator models show that humor effects on AAD depend on the characteristics of the audience and the humorous stimulus; the effects of humor on ABR partially depend on the product type as well as the relatedness of humor and product. The results of the moderator analysis for humor effects on AAD in particular show that the academic stream of research on humor in advertising may produce findings that are biased by the fact that those studies are performed in laboratory settings. This bias stems from at least two factors. First, the use of students enhances

the effects of humor in advertising on AAD, because students represent young and well educated consumers with cognitive abilities that help them to comprehend and appreciate humor more easily. Second, print advertisements and fictitious ads reduce the effects of humor, as they are less humorous than real advertisements and ads in broadcast media. Although both biases seem to cancel each other out, effects from studies performed in laboratory settings should be interpreted with caution. A validation of these studies by performing additional studies with nonstudent samples, with ads in broadcast media, as well as with real ads is advisable for future humor research. The results of the moderator model also call for more questions. Comics, funny stories, and other humorous print sources evoke mirth and laughter and are not necessarily inferior in terms of funniness compared to film adaptations. Why is this not the case in print advertisements? An explanation may be provided by the media-fit of different humorous styles: Do humorous styles used in advertising fit better with TV than with print media? Are there alternatives for print advertising which have not yet been considered (e.g., comic adaptations)? Another question refers to the fictitious ads that are typically used in studies by marketing academics. It would be interesting to see in what way the humor perception and appreciation of academics differ from that of students or the rest of the population. Such results could help to control the bias caused by humorous advertisements that were created by scientists compared to real ads. As for the impact on ABR, the propositions of the existing product typologies are largely supported. Humor is appropriate for red and yellow goods, and it is appropriate for white goods when humor is related to the product and therefore provides a brand claim. The impact of humor is

correlation between humor and attitude towards the brand

0.75

0.50

0.25

0.00

-0.25

-0.20

0.00

0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 humor intensity (perceived humor)

1.00

Fig. 1 Relationship between humor intensity and the correlation between humor and ABR (n=35)

200

J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2009) 37:191203

Table 7 Assumed effects of the impact of humor in advertising in previous literature reviews and findings of the meta-analysis Outcome variables Reviews by academics Sternthal and Craig (1973) AAD ABR Affect, positive Affect, negative Attention Attitude towards the advertiser Cognitive responses, positive Cognitive responses, negative Comprehension Credibility Purchase intention Purchase behavior Recall Recognition Duncan (1979) Speck (1987) + + Weinberger and Gulas (1992) + + Practitioner view Madden and Weinberger (1984) + ? + + + + + + + + O O Overall conclusion of previous reviews This metaanalysis

O + + +

O + +

+ +

+ O O

? ? ? ?

? O O O

O O ? +

? ? ? ? ? +

O + O O O

+ indicates that humor enhances the outcome variable; indicates that humor decreases the outcome variable, O indicates that humor has no additional effect over serious messages, ? refers to mixed findings, empty cells indicate that the review does not provide any conclusions related to the particular outcome variable.

weaker for functional and low involvement goods (blue goods) in both cases of related and unrelated humor. Practitioners should keep in mind, though, that humor basically enhances ABR, and it is simply the strength of the effects that variesdepending on the combination of product category and humor-product relatedness. So far, relatedness of humor has been suggested by other authors as a potential moderator for humor effects (e.g., Speck 1991; Weinberger and Campbell 1991). The meta-analysis shows how the effects of humor-product relatedness depend on product categories; the meta-analysis thereby tests a classification that goes beyond previous approaches of humor-relatedness effects (e.g., Cline and Kellaris 2007). The results of the relationship between perceived humor and the correlations between humor and ABR show a linear and positive relation between both variables. The result is in line with the assumption of an affect transfer mechanism, and shows that humor does not necessarily distract the attention of consumers from processing the brand-related parts of the message. The affective mechanism seems to be the superior mechanism underlying the effect of humor in advertising. Cognitive effects are apparently weaker, which supports the notion that the impact of humor is less likely to be based on cognitive mechanisms such as enhanced

information processing, distraction, or persuasion effects due to source credibility. Such tentative conclusions are in accordance with the integrative results of the meta-analysis. They show that humor enhances attention but does not impact cognitive responses, indicating that humor neither distracts from processing the message nor stimulates message processing. Though the overall effect of humor on credibility is negative, the results of the relationship between perceived humor and the correlations between humor and ABR are not in line with the credibilitymediation effect on brand attitudes. Humor is a stimulus that apparently improves brand attitudes foremost by affective processes and not by cognitive processes. The study has some limitations that represent common problems of meta-analytic techniques. One limitation results from restricting the sample to studies published in English. While such language bias is commonly accepted in meta-analyses for practical reasons (one would need many coders from different countries in order to review all nonEnglish language marketing journals) and for substantial reasons (English is the preferred language of science, and high quality research is always published in AngloAmerican journals), the culture-dependent effects of humor in the present meta-analysis may be largely ignored as the

J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. (2009) 37:191203

201 *Alden, D. L., Mukherjee, A., & Hoyer, W. D. (2000a). The effects of incongruity, surprise and positive moderators on perceived humor in television advertising. Journal of Advertising, 24(2), 115. *Alden, D. L., Mukherjee, A., & Hoyer, W. D. (2000b). Extending a contrast resolution model of humor in television advertising: The role of surprise. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 13(2), 193217. Beard, F. K. (2005). One hundred years of humor in American advertising. Journal of Macromarketing, 25(1), 5465. Belch, G. E., & Belch, M. E. (1984). An investigation of the effects of repetition on cognitive and affective reactions to humorous and serious television commercials. In T. C. Kinnear (Ed.), Advances in consumer research (pp. 410). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research. *Berg, E. M., & Lippman, L. G. (2001). Does humor in radio advertising affect recognition of novel product brand names? Journal of General Psychology, 128(2), 194205. Berlyne, D. E. (1972). Humor and its kin. In J. H. Goldstein, & P. E. McGhee (Eds.), Psychology of humor (pp. 4360). New York: Academic. Bommer, W. H., Johnson, J. L., Rich, G. A., Podsakoff, P. M., & MacKenzie, S. B. (1995). On the interchangeability of objective and subjective measures of employee performance: A metaanalysis. Personnel Psychology, 48(3), 587605. *Brooker, G. (1981). A comparison of the persuasive effects of mild humor and mild fear appeals. Journal of Advertising, 10(4), 2940. Brown, S. P., & Stayman, D. M. (1992). Antecedents and consequences of attitude toward the ad: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consumer Research, 19, 3451. Bryant, J., Brown, D., Silberberg, A. R., & Elliott, S. M. (1981). Effects of humorous illustrations in college textbooks. Human Communication Research, 8(1), 4357. *Cantor, J., & Venus, P. (1980). The effect of humor on recall of a radio advertisement. Journal of Broadcasting, 24(1), 1322. *Chattopadhyay, A., & Basu, K. (1990). Humor in advertising: The moderating role of prior brand evaluation. Journal of Marketing Research, 17, 466476. *Chung, H., & Zhao, X. (2003a). Effects of humor ad: Moderating role of product familiarity. In Proceedings of the American Academy of Advertising Conference (pp. 11). Denver, CO: American Academy of Advertising. *Chung, H., & Zhao, X. (2003b). Humor effect on memory and attitude: Moderating role of product involvement. International Journal of Advertising, 22(1), 117145. Churchill Jr., G. A., Ford, N. M., Walker, S. W., & Walker Jr., O. C. (1985). The determinants of salesperson performance: A metaanalysis. Journal of Marketing Research, 22, 103118. *Cline, T. W. (1997). The role of expectancy and relevancy in humorous ad executions: An individual difference perspective. Dissertation, University of Cincinnati. *Cline, T. W., Altsech, M. B., & Kellaris, J. J. (2003). When does humor enhance or inhibit ad responses? Journal of Advertising, 32(3), 145. *Cline, T. W., & Kellaris, J. J. (1999). The joint impact of humor and argument strength in a print advertising context: A case for weaker arguments. Psychology & Marketing, 16(1), 6986. Cline, T. W., & Kellaris, J. J. (2007). The influence of humor strength and humor-message relatedness on ad memorability. Journal of Advertising, 36(1), 5567. Cohen, J. (1977). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York: Academic. *Conway, M., & Dub, L. (2002). Humor in persuasion on threatening topics: Effectiveness is a function of audience sex role orientation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(7), 863 873.

majority of the studies included in the meta-analysis were performed in the USA. But use and appreciation of humor shows large differences from culture to culture (Alden et al. 1993; Toncar 2001), making the same kind of humor lead to different effects for audiences from different countries. Further research is needed in order to sort out which kind of humor is most appropriate for each culture in terms of effectiveness. A useful approach could be to test the congruency between humor taxonomies (Speck 1991) and cultural dimensions (Hofstede 2001; House et al. 2004). Moderator models are always restricted by the studies that are available for the analysis. The regression model presented here could be refined by considering interaction effects between audience, humor, and products. Inclusion of additional predictors always leads to the problem of increasing missing values of the predictor variables (Stock 1994). As further studies become available, additional moderators can be applied to the regression models and meaningful moderator models could be applied to other dependent variables that are affected by humor in advertising (attention, affect, source credibility). Nevertheless, this metaanalysis revealed some insightful findings, provides some empirical generalizations and resolves some conflicting findings in the literature. By identifying gaps in previous research, the meta-analysis will help to ensure that the next wave of research is guided in a promising direction. While empirical work on the impact of advertising is widespread, including detailed studies of executional elements, only several meta-analyses have been performed in order to review quantitatively such advertising effects (Lehmann and Reibstein 2006). As research integration is an essential step of knowledge accumulation and refinement in science, linking past research with future scientific endeavors and providing empirical generalizations that are useful for practical marketing decisions, more meta-analytic work on the effects of executional elements in advertising would help both researchers and practitioners.

Acknowledgement The author would like to thank Alexandra Langer and Torsten Richter for their excellent and committed coding work as well as the editor and the four anonymous JAMS reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments. The work was supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).

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