Business Advertising Appeals as a Mirror of Cultural
Dimensions: A Study of Eleven Countries
Nancy D. Albers-Miller and Betsy D. Gelb
Across cultures, do systematic differences in advertising content mirror predictable differences in the cultures themselves? The authors designed a study to shed light on that question, using Hofstede's cultural model as a tool for analyzing cultures and using advertising appeals identified by Pollay. After coding advertisements in business publications from 11 countries for the appeals employed, they computed correlation coefficients relating the proportional use of each appeal and Hofstede's cultural dimensions: individualism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and masculinity. The culture-reflecting quality of advertising was supported for 10 of 30 hypothesized relationships, and for an additional eight after removal of outliers from the data.
Nancy D. Albers-Miller is an
Assistant Professor in the Department of Marketing at the University of North Texas.
Betsy D. Gelb is a Professor in the
Department of Marketing at the
University of Houston.
This research was supported by a
grant from the University of
The role of values in advertising has long been debated. Strong arguments have been made suggesting that advertising both reflects and influences cvdtural values. The question can be viewed as more than academic. If variation in advertising content is independent of a culture's values, the task of an advertiser facing audiences in multiple cvdtures is challenging indeed! However, if advertising differences across cultvires are predictable at least te some extent, the task of the advertiser is simplified. Possibly because of differences in values across cultures, previous research supports the hypothesis that advertising content is different across cultures (Cheng and Schweitzer 1996; Culter and Javalgi 1992; Ramaprasad and Hasegawa 1992; Tansey, Hyman, and Zinkhan 1990; Wells 1994). Generally, researchers have paired countries te test for differences in several values portrayed in advertising.
The research described here also tested the idea that advertising appeals vary predictably among countries. Its objective was te test a set of propositions relating characteristics associated with a covmtry's work cvilture te a wide range of appeals employed in that country's advertising in business publications. Specifically, Hofstede's (1980) theory of cultural values was used te predict differences across countries.
Journal of Advertising,
Volume XXV, Number 4
Despite the call for multidisciplinary approaches to testing international advertising hypotheses (Zinkhan 1994), only a few researchers have used a particular theory or model of culture te support their work. Biswas, Olsen, and Carlet (1992), Mueller (1992), and Roth (1992) all used works by Hall (1976; Hall and Hall 1987) and additional country-specific information te predict differences in advertising.
Recently researchers in msirketing have begun te use Hofstede's model of culture as afi*anieworkfor testing cross-cultural differences. The model is the output of an extensive study of work-related values representing the value system of the majority of the middle class. Hofstede's study yielded a structvire consisting of four dimensions on which societies differ: individualism (IDV), power distance (PDI), vmcertainty avoidance (UAI), and masculinity (MAS). The data collection instrument used by Hofstede was devel-
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oped by a multinational team in an effort to reduce
cultural biases in the questionnaire (Hofstede 1991,
1994). Table 1 lists the scores on each dimension for
the countries of interest in ovir study.
Hofstede's model has rarely been applied to advertising research. Although advertising appeals are not cultural values per se, our study proceeded from the
assumption that the principal conduit for incorporating values into...
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