A study of target receivers' perception of the process of endorsement in advertising
This study examines a currently popular advertising technique known as endorsement, which involves the use of a third party to give 'support' to an advertiser's product or service. In Britain, the technique has been used in various forms for well over two centuries now. Notwithstanding this continuous history of practice, there has to date been little documentation of either the major considerations bearing on practitioners' choice of endorsers or the factors likely to explain endorsers' relative 'persuasiveness'. Hitherto, the discussions of practitioners about the endorsement process have been fragmented and seemingly based on "intuition", "speculation", "experience of usage", and so-called "proprietary research" which cannot be made public. Further, the absence of specific knowledge about endorsement has led both practitioners and academics to 'borrow' from the findings of source effect studies. However, these were conducted in a context, referred to in this study as "social persuasion", that differs markedly from the typical advertising setting. The importance of the differences has recently been underlined by a number of studies which have examined some aspects of the endorsement process. Their overall conclusion is that characteristics proposed by social persuasion studies as explaining the relative persuasiveness of a source, do not appear to be either as relevant or important in endorsers of advertising messages. But, these studies fail to offer any alternative characteristics to those utilised or tested. To fill this gap in the present knowledge a two-stage methodology was developed in the 'real world' setting. Stage one consisted of 8 group discussions in which general perceptions of target receivers were elicited about the process. Stage two involved a questionnaire survey, in which 500 questionnaires were administered. Several significant results were obtained. The most significant is that tentatively suggesting that target receivers perceive endorsers mainly in terms of their "celebrity context". Further, contrary to the 'credibility' mechanism suggested by social persuasion studies, results indicate that endorsers produce effects, if any, on a mechanism largely predicated on the identified celebrity context. The main conclusion of the study is that the social persuasion framework must now be abandoned in favour of one developed in the endorsement advertising setting.