Does rhetoric impact advertising effectiveness with liking controlled?

Bruce A. Huhmann (Department of Marketing, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA)
Pia A. Albinsson (Department of Marketing, The Walker College of Business, Boone, North Carolina, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Publication date: 9 November 2012



Rhetorical works (schemes and tropes) can increase advertisement liking. Because liking impacts advertising effectiveness, this study aims to investigate if positive processing, brand awareness, and persuasion outcomes previously associated with rhetoric are spurious and chiefly attributable to liking.


An experiment (n=448) employed natural advertising exposure conditions and a 3 (headline: nonfigurative, scheme, trope)×2 (copy length: long, moderate)×2 (involvement: high, low) between‐subjects factorial design.


Absent of liking differences, schemes and tropes are robust motivators of available resources devoted to processing (elaboration and readership). Favourable arguments only influence brand awareness and persuasion if processed. Consumers negatively view longer copy. Nonfigurative headlines encourage insufficient processing as copy lengthens. Insufficient processing decreases brand awareness and persuasion. However, schemes and tropes overcome negative copy length effects on brand awareness and persuasion regardless of involvement.

Research limitations/implications

Without the benefit of increased liking, schemes interfere with copy point and brand memory similar to other creative attention‐getters – humour and sex appeals. Instead, schemes focus consumers on advertising style. The results are based on consumer responses; thus, error may make differences harder to detect. Another limitation is the focus on a single low‐risk, informational product, i.e. pens. Future research should investigate effects of rhetorical works with high‐risk and transformative products.

Practical implications

Advertisers should use rhetorical works to motivate processing, especially with longer copy explaining advantages of new, technical, or complex products. Also, effective rhetorical works need not create positive affect.


Isolating advertising rhetoric effects from liking differences explains anomalies in the literature (e.g. scheme versus trope superiority).



Huhmann, B. and Albinsson, P. (2012), "Does rhetoric impact advertising effectiveness with liking controlled?", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 46 No. 11/12, pp. 1476-1500.

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