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The effect of disparaging humor and offensiveness in hijacked advertising: the moderating effect of ad hijacking recognition

Sweta Thota (Department of Marketing, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA)
Ricardo Villarreal (Department of Marketing, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 23 March 2020

Issue publication date: 21 May 2020

498

Abstract

Purpose

What happens when an ad parody is created with subtle, professional changes to text and imagery, making it almost indistinguishable from the original corporate brand ad? This paper labels this limiting condition of ad parodies as hijacked advertising. Can viewers of such ads recognize whether the ad is hijacked or not? Also, what are the effects of using the dimensions of disparaging humor and offensiveness, commonly used in hijacked ads, on attitudes toward the brands in these ads and a propensity to engage in negative word-of-mouth (WOM) behavior? Results show that ad hijacking recognition moderates the effect of disparaging humor and offensiveness dimensions in hijacked ads on the dependent variables, with adverse attitudes toward the brand and increased intentions to engage in negative WOM behavior only when consumers can recognize that a hijacked ad is indeed hijacked. Further, the moderating effect of ad hijacking recognition on the dependent variables is attributable only to the dimension of offensiveness but not to disparaging humor. Finally, results show that attitudes toward the brand in the hijacked ads completely mediate the effect of offensiveness and the recognition that an ad is hijacked on intentions to engage in negative WOM behavior.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper investigates these questions through an empirical examination using an original corporate brand ad, a hijacked version of the original ad using a disparaging humor dimension and another hijacked version of the original ad using the offensiveness dimension.

Findings

Results show that ad hijacking recognition moderates the effect of disparaging humor and offensiveness dimensions in hijacked ads on the dependent variables, with adverse attitudes toward the brand and increased intentions to engage in negative WOM behavior only when consumers can recognize that a hijacked ad is indeed hijacked. Further, the moderating effect of ad hijacking recognition on the dependent variables was attributable only to the dimension of offensiveness but not to disparaging humor. Finally, results show that attitudes toward the brand in the hijacked ads completely mediates the effect of the recognition that an ad is hijacked and the dimension of offensiveness on intentions to engage in negative WOM behavior. The result, that a fairly high percentage of respondents attribute the original corporate brand as the source of the hijacked ads, points to a potentially damaging and out-of-control threat to marketers.

Originality/value

Through an empirical study, converging results around the effects of hijacking ads with disparaging humor and offensive dimensions on consumers’ attitudes toward the advertised brand and a propensity to engage in negative WOM behavior were gathered.

Keywords

Citation

Thota, S. and Villarreal, R. (2020), "The effect of disparaging humor and offensiveness in hijacked advertising: the moderating effect of ad hijacking recognition", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 37 No. 4, pp. 433-443. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-03-2019-3147

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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