The effectiveness of adapting advertising appeals to cultural values: an experimental and meta-analytical approach

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Many studies have been conducted in international advertising investigating whether advertisements with culturally adapted value appeals are more persuasive than unadapted value appeals. A meta-analysis compiling these studies (Hornikx & O’Keefe, 2009) shows that culturally adapted value appeals are more persuasive and better liked than unadapted value appeals, especially when they appeal to the individualism – collectivism dimension. Even though there are cultural differences on this dimension in Europe (Hofstede, 2001), adaptation effects are not present there. The fact that Europeans have a bicultural identity, may be able to explain for the lack of effects on this continent. Europeans have a national and a European identity, which cannot simultaneously guide cognition. According to dynamic constructivism, the guiding cultural frame gets activated because of exposure to cultural stimuli (Hong, Morris, Chiu & Benet-Martínez, 2000). Perhaps in Europe, national values have to be activated in order to find adaptation effects. Since adaptation research is very quantitative, there has not been much attention for the circumstances that could potentially increase sensitivity to cultural value appeals in Europe. This study therefore replicates the material used by Lau-Gesk (2003) in a study that found very strong effects for liking and persuasion in China and the United States, and adds a qualitative part to the study. Participants in the current study completed a cognitive response task, placed either before or after the main dependent measures, to investigate whether inviting participants to actively think about the advertisement may lead to value activation and in turn to cultural value adaptation effects. The results showed no effects of cultural value adaptation, even when the cognitive response task was placed before the main dependent measures. This study adds to a growing body of literature indicating that advertisements adapted to the individualism – collectivism dimension are not more persuasive to, or better liked by, Western Europeans than unadapted advertisements.
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