How humor in advertising works: A meta-analytic test of alternative models

Abstract

This study tests a cognitive and an affective model based on extant explanations of the effects of humor along with a new affective–cognitive model. Results are derived from meta-analytic data and show how previous explanations may be integrated in order to explain how humor in advertising works. Humor reduces negative cognitions related to the ad because it serves as a distraction from counter-argumentation. In order to maintain positive affect, humor reduces cognitive efforts, in particular those related to brand-related cognitions, thus supporting a vampire effect; that is, humor distracts from processing central benefits of the brand. Humor exerts its strongest impact along affective paths, supporting the dominance of affective mechanisms. Affect and cognition do interplay in line with a congruency effect where the impact of positive affect on attitudes towards the ad is mediated by positive cognitions. The models differ when they are performed based on data from studies using either real or fictitious stimuli. Depending on the type of stimuli, slight changes occur that can be explained by the lack or existence of prior brand experience. Overall, the integration of affect and cognitions into one model provides a better explanation than the previous solely cognitive or solely affective models.

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Correspondence to Martin Eisend.

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Eisend, M. How humor in advertising works: A meta-analytic test of alternative models. Mark Lett 22, 115–132 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-010-9116-z

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Keywords

  • Humor
  • Advertising
  • Meta-analysis
  • Structural equation modeling