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The effect of culture on the context of ad pictures and ad persuasion : The role of context‐dependent and context‐independent thinking

Beichen Liang (Department of Management and Marketing, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, USA)
Rodney C. Runyan (Department of Retailing, Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Wei Fu (Department of Marketing, Universal Fibers, Bristol, Virginia, USA)

International Marketing Review

ISSN: 0265-1335

Article publication date: 19 July 2011




The purpose of this study is to examine whether the context of ad pictures differs between Chinese ads and US ads and whether it can influence consumers' ad attitudes.


An ad content analysis and a laboratory experiment were conducted to test the hypotheses.


Findings suggest that contextualized ads appear more frequently in Chinese magazines because East Asians have a context‐dependent mode of thinking while westerners have a context‐independent mode of thinking. However, the effect of culture on advertising is moderated by product class (goods vs service), product category, and magazine category. Moreover, East Asians prefer contextualized ads to non‐contextualized ones, while westerners prefer non‐contextualized ads to contextualized ads. However, the effect of culture on ad attitudes may be moderated by ad involvement.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations of this study stem from its being based on ad samples from China and its use of students to test ad attitudes.

Practical implications

The findings allow managers to better determine whether and under what conditions to use contextualized or non‐contextualized advertisements.


The study's examination of the effect of culture on the context of ad format and effect of context on persuasion in this context constitutes a unique and valuable contribution to the literature. The paper also contributes much to the literature by checking cultural differences across 17 magazine categories, compared to the vast majority of studies analyzing ad content between eastern and western cultures, which have been based on ads from only a few sources.



Liang, B., Runyan, R.C. and Fu, W. (2011), "The effect of culture on the context of ad pictures and ad persuasion : The role of context‐dependent and context‐independent thinking", International Marketing Review, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 412-434.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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