A study on the effects of first- and second-language swear words in advertisements.
An experimental study investigated the effects of first- and second-language swear words in advertisements (ads). In total, 196 Dutch participants participated in the experiment. The experiment had a between-subject design. The design was a 2 (swear word/no swear word) x 2 (English/Dutch) design. Each participant was randomly distributed to one of the four different conditions. The participants saw three different ads. After each ad, participants filled in questions about the attitude towards the ad (attractiveness, offensiveness, credibility, persuasiveness, remarkability, ordinariness, and comprehensibility), the attitude towards the product, purchase intention and recall. Results showed that swearing in ads makes the ad less attractive, less persuasive, less credible and less comprehensible. It did make the ad more remarkable and less ordinary. Also, recall of ads containing swear words was better than of ads not containing swear words. Language was an important factor in research into the effects of swear words in ads. The experiment confirms that the emotional load of first-language swear words is experienced to a higher degree than second-language swear words (Caldwell-Harris & Ayçiçeği-Dinn, 2009; Dewaele, 2004; Pavelenko, 2002). Gender did not have an effect on the attitude towards ads containing swear words. Age did affect the attitude towards ads containing swear words. The attractiveness of the ad and purchase intention decreased with age. The offensiveness of the ad increased with age. English proficiency positively affected recall of the ad. Also, it affected the offensiveness of the swear words. Finally, it was found that self-reported frequency of swearing positively affected the attitude towards ads containing swear words.
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