Swear words in advertising: A study on the differences between swear words in L1 and L2.

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Reaching audience as advertisers is becoming increasingly more difficult due to people being exposed to large numbers of advertisements. A possible solution is to employ shockvertising tactics, such as profanity use in advertising. Furthermore, emotionality can be different between L1 and L2 swear words. As of now, there no research has been done on the differences between L1 and L2 swear words in an advertising context. As such, the present study investigated the effects of swear words in an advertising context, while accounting for the language of the advertisements (L1 or English as L2). In an experiment, 136 German and 129 Dutch participants evaluated three different advertisements with or without swear words in the participants’ L1 or L2 in terms of attitude towards the ad and product, purchase intention, emotional response, and brand and product recall. Findings indicated that swear words did not impact the evaluation, except for emotional response, which was higher in the no swear word condition. Language of the advertisement across ads with swear words had no effect. German participants recalled the product better if the advertisement contained swear words in L1 compared to advertisements in L2, but the non-swear word version still led to better recall. It can be concluded that the use of profanity in shockvertising may not have its desired positive effects.
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