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Age differences in responsiveness to shocking prosocial campaigns

Jeanne Albouy (Department of Marketing, Groupe ESC Pau, Pau, France and Laboratory LGCO, Universite Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France)
Jean-Marc Décaudin (Department of Marketing, Universite Toulouse 1 Capitole, Toulouse, France and Toulouse Business School, Toulouse, France)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 14 May 2018




This paper aims to study age differences in responsiveness to shocking prosocial campaigns. It specifically investigates the differences between seniors and young adults regarding the persuasive effect of emotional charity campaigns, the intensity of negative emotions and empathy elicited, the affect-based persuasive process leading to the ad effectiveness and the role of perceived self-efficacy.


Two studies are conducted on seniors (n1 = 173; n2 = 118) and young adults (n1 = 170; n2 = 123) exposed to appeals for “Action against Hunger” incorporating various levels of emotional content.


The results indicate that seniors are more receptive to emotional campaigns but only for higher emotional ads and only regarding intention to donate. Young adults report lower levels of empathy, and findings do not suggest major age differences in the reported negative emotions after exposure to low or high emotional appeals. The affect-based persuasion differs; young adults are particularly influenced by negative emotions, whereas the persuasive effect on the elderly stems from an empathetic reaction. Self-efficacy moderates the effect of negative emotions only among older participants.

Practical implications

Social marketers are advised to use vivid and realistic stimuli to reach young people and develop these appeals in social media. For an older target audience, however, marketers are advised to use creative components and media support designed to foster personalisation and proximity.


This study provides a better understanding of age-related effects on emotional persuasion, and addresses the specificity of prosocial appeals involving responsiveness to the suffering of others.



Albouy, J. and Décaudin, J.-M. (2018), "Age differences in responsiveness to shocking prosocial campaigns", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 328-339.



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