Marketing Letters

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 421–434 | Cite as

Should donation ads include happy victim images? The moderating role of regulatory focus

  • Yael Zemack-RugarEmail author
  • Sona Klucarova-Travani


We examine how victim imagery interacts with ad messaging’s regulatory focus to determine the effectiveness of donation appeals. We predict and show that ads that combine a happy victim image with a promotion-focused message uniquely increase donation intentions. We demonstrate that this occurs because the combination of promotion-focused messaging, which makes gain goals salient, and a happy victim image, which signals gains are occurring, increases consumers’ perceived response efficacy. Four studies test the interaction of victim imagery and regulatory focus showing the predicted effect. We also test the mediating role of perceived response efficacy and rule out several alternative explanations. Our findings extend prior work which has overlooked the interactive effects of victim imagery and ad messaging and the effects of victim imagery on perceived response efficacy. By exploring these dimensions, we offer marketers and consumers guidance on how to construct effective fundraising ads.


Donation Imagery Regulatory focus Emotion Advertising Response efficacy 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Business Administration, BA2-308DUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.College of Business Administration, BA2-308KUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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