Cultural Differences In Television Advertising Part 3
maart 4, 2020

Cultural Differences In Television Advertising Part 3


a. Kotler (1997)

He differentiates three different types of appeals:

  1. rational appeals,
    He classifies rational appeals as “appealing to the audience’s self interest”. Typically they refer to the quality, value or performance of the product.
  2. emotional appeals
    Emotional appeals “attempt to stir up negative or positive emotions” (ibid.), and include fear, guilt, joy. Although Kotler makes a reference to negative emotions, I would argue, that these are turned into positive appeals in commercials. For example the negative “fear” appeal is used only when the product can actually provide safety.
  3. moral appeals.
    Finally moral appeals “are directed to the audience’s sense of what is right and proper.”(ibid.) These may include such appeals as ecological appeals and nationalism.

The often interchanging use of appeals and values by some researchers can be explained when looking at the interaction that is necessary between the two:

  • Appeals are used to appeal to the values a consumer holds;
  • Values are the underlying source of appeals.

b. Wells, Burnett and Moriarty (1995)

They define values and tentatively describe the interaction as: The source for norms is our values.

An example of a value is personal security. Possible norms expressing this value range from the bars on the window and double-locked doors in Brooklyn, New York, to unlocked cars and homes in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Values are few in number and are not tied to specific objects or situations. (…) Advertisers often refer to core values when selecting their primary appeals. Burnett and Moriarty (1995): 167.

This extract clarifies this interaction to some extent: Knowing that people value personal safety, and that a product X can enhance the personal safety, advertising for product X may use a safety appeal. So strictly argued, the safety value (or the desire to be safe) is held by the consumer – and the appeal is what is expressed in the advertisement in order to suggest to the consumer that their desired state of personal safety can be enhanced.

The appeal hence represents the underlying value.

c. Hofstede (1994):

This definition of values comes relatively close to the definition of values given by Hofstede (1994): Values are broad tendencies to prefer certain states of affairs over others.

To continue the above example: The advertising for product X, appealing for enhanced personal safety, displays a preference for a state of safety. And as such can be interpreted as displaying the preference for the state of enhanced personal safety (or in other words: the value of personal safety). Hence, if an advertisement displays a happy family, it can be understood to use the family appeal to represent family values.

In order to avoid any further confusion of the situation, for the remainder of this document:

We will refer to “appeals” as the values that are expressed in advertising, by using appeals, or the appeals that are displayed in advertising representing certain values. We will use values strictly when this represents a tendency to prefer certain states of affairs over others by human beings in the real world.

d. Pollay (1986)

The use of appeals, and with them the possibility of a distorted representation of reality, has been a topic of discussion for a considerable time. In 1983 Pollay published a coding framework for the identification of cultural appeals (actually, he called them values) in advertising, primarily as a response to the discussion over the cultural consequences of advertising appeals and what values of society these reflect.

By reviewing a variety of advertising related literature, as well as literature and values research in other disciplines, such as psychology, sociology and the humanities, Pollay created a list of 42 appeals most commonly found in advertising. He notes, that advertising does reflect a somewhat different set of values as can be found in a society in general (Pollay, 1986), a notion which he termed the “distorted mirror”, and which has lead to a significant debate over the subject matter. Clearly, advertising will attempt to have positive appeals associated with the product, and hence lead to a distorted reflection of reality. Although Kotler (1997) includes negative appeals, such as fear or guilt, in his examples, these will normally be turned “positive” in advertising, and are included as such in the Pollay list: For example the fear of an accident is resolved by demonstrating the safety features of a car (safety appeal).

Other researchers who carried out research into advertising appeals have developed different lists of possible values, often because they only tested for certain appeals rather than a complete set of appeals. For example Mueller (1996) and Cheng & Schweitzer (1996) used limited lists developed by them to reflect their line of enquiry. However, both take their definitions from Pollay’s original work.

As such, Pollay’s framework is the most complete set of possible appeals with definitions. It is also “pre-tested” as it is derived from previously published material, and is generally considered to be complete. As such may be the most suitable instrument both for probing a complete set of appeals, if used as a whole, or a limited set of appeals, if used in parts.

Clearly, in order to be effective, advertising has to appeal to the positive values that are held in the target group, or taken at large, the target society. If advertising is “out of touch” with the target group, it may alienate the target group, as the consumer can no longer identify with the product.

It is hence essential for the advertising to reflect at least a proportion of the values held by the target group, or society at large.

As Hofstede and others have demonstrated, values can vary considerably between cultures.

Some cultures may be comfortable with a relatively high level of uncertainty – if expressed in appeals, then it can be expected that advertising in these cultures will make less use of safety appeals than advertising from a culture where the culture is less comfortable with uncertainty.

Equally, in a society that holds highly individualistic values, it can be expected that advertising in general will use more appeals to individual achievement than in a society that holds dominantly collectivist values.

As such, advertising appeals are not a mere representation of a culture’s values at large, but they represent a selective sample of positive and desired values of that culture. They are in fact a “distorted mirror”, a mirror that represents idealistic, rather than realistic, values.


Prof. C.J.M. Beniers

NL Zoetermeer


About Professor C.J.M. Beniers

Prof. C.J.M. Beniers is a well known authority in the field of modern and international communication techniques. He developed the Six-Component-Model. This model enables companies, institutions and politicians to communicate and negotiate with counterparts from all over the world successfully. His career began as international manager at Philips and later he earned his doctorate as professor in communication. He has more than 35 years experience as manager and management trainer. Thus he knows both sides – theory and praxis – very well. As scientist, Prof. Beniers conducts frequently research in the field of intercultural communication. The results of his interesting research can be found in news articles, free pod casts, audio books and his E-books such as “Bridging The Cultural Gap.” Here, modern managers learn how to prepare for business meetings with people from different cultures; they acquire the techniques and tools to handle situations in times of crises successfully, master intercultural barriers, country-specific communication patterns, looking into personal cultural values & systems. Knowing all this, men can prevent cultural misunderstandings and misinterpretations – not only in business but also in private life.


Prof. C.J.M. Beniers

Amaliaplaats 2, 2713 BJ

Zoetermeer The Netherlands

Telefone: +31 (0) 79 – 3 19 03 81 Mobile: +31 (0) 6 2 061 8494




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