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Chinese Generation Xers’ Attitude toward Advertising: Evidence from Hong Kong and Shanghai Consumers

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The purpose of this study is to examine Chinese Generation Xers’ attitude toward advertising and whether the ranking for ad likeability and dislikeability attributes are the same across Hong Kong and Shanghai. A telephone interview of 200 respondents in each city was conducted using a strategy of matched samples. The results show that the respondents from both cities find advertising ‘interesting and entertaining’, but ‘devious’. In terms of likeable attributes, they like ‘entertaining’, while ‘style’ is the most disliked attribute. The main difference between the two groups was found in attribute rating. The study concludes by offering several explanations for these variations.
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Chinese Generation Xers’ Attitude
toward Advertising:
Evidence from Hong Kong and Shanghai Consumers
Kim-Shyan Fama1, Laszlo Jozsab, Andrea Solyomc, Ernest Cyril de Rund , Hiram Tinge
a School of Marketing and International Business, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; kim.fam@vuw.ac.nz
b Department of Management and Marketing, Szechenyi Istvan University, Gyor, Hungary; jozsal@vnet.hu
c Department of Management and Marketing, Szechenyi Istvan University, Gyor, Hungary; andrea.solyom1@gmail.com
d Faculty of Economics and Business, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia; drernest@feb.unimas.my
e Faculty of Economics and Business, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia; hiramparousia@yahoo.co.uk
1 Corresponding author
Abstract - The purpose of this study is to examine Chinese
Generation Xers’ attitude toward advertising and whether the
ranking for ad likeability and dislikeability attributes are the
same across Hong Kong and Shanghai. A telephone interview
of 200 respondents in each city was conducted using a strategy
of matched samples. The results show that the respondents
from both cities find advertising ‘interesting and entertaining’,
but ‘devious’. In terms of likeable attributes, they like
‘entertaining’, while ‘style’ is the most disliked attribute. The
main difference between the two groups was found in attribute
rating. The study concludes by offering several explanations
for these variations.
Keywords - Likeability, Dislikeability, Entertaining, Generation
Xers, China
I. INTRODUCTION
The Generation X cohort (Generation Xers)’ is comprised
of those born between the years of 1961 and 1981. To date
there has been significant conjecture about them in the
literature 123. In Asia, Generation X comprises the
largest group of ‘shoppers’ [3] and so therefore makes up a
key consuming group. Generation X as a group has been
described as enjoying more educational and personal
development opportunities than those before, and has a
strong interest in self-indulgence and personal entertainment,
also tending to hold materialistic values [4]. They have been
well exposed to Western popular culture through their
experience with foreign music, movies and television shows.
The literature also postulates that Gen X audiences are
sophisticated and cynical, yet inconsistent in their use of
mass media. This generation is consistently being touted as
the most media-savvy, relentlessly cynical, and terminally
apathetic.
This study focuses on Generation Xers residing in Hong
Kong and Shanghai. These two consumer markets are
comprised of adults in their active years of wealth accrual
and consumption and therefore are very attractive to
advertisers and their entreaties. Furthermore, as these
consumers are more educated, share similar interests and
prefer visual imagery over written word, advertising design
and affect are important considerations. These two cultures
are also now politically more uniform that at any other
previous time. Over time it is very feasible they will grow
to share increasingly similar economic and business
structures and therefore be exposed to the same goods and
services.
As advertising is a key communications vehicle through
which these consumers might be reached, the more that is
known about how advertising effectiveness can be increased,
the greater the likelihood of brands succeeding in this
generational group will be. Therefore it is well worthwhile
determining how messages are conceived within the two
groups. It will also be valuable knowing the extent to which
advertising can be generalized between young Chinese and
Hong Kong consumers or needs to be culturally or context
specific may be known. Therefore, the current study
examines firstly whether consumer beliefs about advertising,
hold and secondly, whether the ranking for ad likeability
and dislikeability attributes remain the same between the
two cities.
II. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
AND HYPOTHESES
Different cultures groups may respond to advertising in
different ways based on their cultural dimensions [5][6].
For instance, Fam [6] found that culture and religion were
significant possible influences in variations in advertising
affect between five different countries studied. The concept
of advertising standardization versus customization across
different cultures has been discussed vigorously in the
literature. Polegato and Bjerke [7] recommend that in order
to get consumers involved with standardized advertising
messages, and more importantly, to like them, advertisers
need to be familiar with which elements in particular
contribute to the overall likeability of the advertisement.
In a study on Asian students’ beliefs about advertising,
Ramaprasad [8] found that pleasurable and information
aspects of advertising were the most favourable, followed
by beliefs about its economic benefits. Attitudes toward the
institution of advertising versus towards its instruments,
responses to advertising by different population groups, and
measurement of beliefs have also been widely studied
across countries with distinct cultural values. Several
studies relating to advertising beliefs in China were
undertaken in the late eighties [9][10][11]. In these studies,
the researchers found Chinese managers were uneasy about
the social effects of advertising, but held confidence in its
economic effects.
China is a country that has undergone a great
transformation since the late 1970s, and among the changes
has been a massive growth in the advertising industry with
the influx of foreign advertisers, and the development of
regional and global media, such as satellite television and
the Internet. Although Hong Kong and Shanghai are cities
within China, the former’s advertising industry, economic
infrastructure, and income are more advanced than the latter.
Hong Kong also has a rich Western heritage. Given the
economic differences that exist currently, Generation Xers
in both cities are bound to view advertising differently.
Hence, we posit that:
H1: There are differences in advertising beliefs among
Generation Xers’ between Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Liking relates to a feeling that you like, enjoy, or
satisfied of something [12]. According to Alwitt [13],
liking is attributable to response factors reflecting
engagement with the advertising, relevant news, novelty,
visual imagery, and production quality. In most cases, many
consumers will make a conscious effort to avoid advertising
communications. Researchers of advertising
communications claim television commercials and prints
that annoy gain less attention and score lower in persuasion
than likeable ads (see
[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25]).
Furthermore, knowing which ad attribute is liked by the
consumers is important as advertisements that are liked are
given greater mental processing effort than those that are
disliked. Liked advertisements can directly affect feeling
towards the advertised brand which might subsequently
increase purchase intention [16]. From 1970 to date, six
attributes of ad likeability have been identified by numerous
researchers using mostly American based television
commercials and print advertisements [26]. This study
explores whether the same six attributes can be identified
from a sample of television commercials shown in two
Chinese cities with distinct economic development stages,
histories, but with somewhat similar cultural values
[27][28][5]. Lin [29] claims advertising is a cultural product
in its own right. On this ground, advertisers must understand
the local culture and tailor advertisements to reflect its
values because advertisements reflecting some local cultural
values are more persuasive than those that ignore them
[30][31][32][33][34][35].
According to Alwitt and Prabhaker [36], the dislike of
television advertising cuts across demographic boundaries.
Disliking television advertising is more to do with television
programs and televsion advertising, than solely on viewer
demographics. They suggest that for advertisers to be
successful, marketers need to identify the appropriate
reasons for the dislike and address the reasons accordingly.
For instance, if the reason was due to television advertising
being perceived as repetitious, then the advertisers ought to
consider a shorter version of the commercial. In support of
Alwitt and Prabhaker’s [36] suggestion, Cummins [37]
asserts that advertising and its associated creativity relies
upon the audience for success. However, it is important to
note that advertising is more often than not perceived to be
an unwelcome intrusion, regarded by many consumers as a
constant source of irritation, and many consumers often
make a conscious effort to avoid advertising
communications. In fact both academics and practitioners
contend it has become second nature for consumers to ‘zap’
or ‘flick’ television channels, and that that young audiences
are sophisticated and cynical, yet inconsistent in their use of
mass media [38][39]. Consumers’ dislike of advertising has
been observed for years by several researchers (see
[40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47]. The literature suggests
that in general, consumers dislike television advertising and
that they differ in their degree of dislike. Thus, it would be
useful if the attributes these consumers dislike could be
identified in order to increase their receptivity to advertising
messages.
Despite the rich history of research in advertising, very
few studies have examined what contributes to ad
likeability/dislikeability, and whether there are differences
in the rating of likeability/dislikeability attributes between
Generation Xers residing in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The
literature on Generation Xers claims that people of the same
generation enjoy similar educational and personal
development opportunities, share similar music, movies,
and television shows, have a strong interest in self-
indulgence and personal entertainment, and tend to hold
materialistic values [4].
However, even though Hong Kong is now part of China,
and both are considered world cities, its history of British
rule has imbued the city with many distinctive features and
introduced elements that continue to shape its culture and
society. These differences, as well as similarities, between
the two cities, are discussed in turn to provide the context
and justification for exploring the effectiveness of different
ad appeals among the young, urban adults who live there.
First, religious and spiritual beliefs of China’s two
wealthiest cities are quite similar. Buddhism and Taoism are
practiced by the majority of citizens in both cities, even
though the People’s Republic of China is officially secular
and atheist. Not surprisingly, Confucian values also have a
strong influence on the residents of Shanghai and Hong
Kong [48]. Linked to its Western heritage, 10% of Hong
Kong’s 6.94 million inhabitants are Christian [49]. Second,
as China’s largest city, the municipality of Shanghai is part
of the one-party Communist government. The president of
the Central People’s Government is elected by Communist
party ‘delegates’ for a five-year term. Hong Kong’s
government structure differs from the city of Shanghai as it
is considered a special administrative region (S.A.R). Since
the hand-over from Britain in 1997, a Chief Executive, as
head of the territory, governs an 800-member electoral
committee appointed by the Chinese Government.
Third, in terms of wealth and quality of living, Hong
Kong residents enjoy a higher per capita income
(US$27,670) than the residents of Shanghai (US$3,311)
[49][50]. Over the years Hong Kong has developed to
become a highly-developed capitalist economy built on a
policy of free market enterprise with low taxation and no
government intervention. Consequently, it is a global hub
for international trade and finance. Textiles, clothing,
tourism, banking and shipping dominate the city’s industrial
activities and exports. Shanghai is also a major trade and
financial hub with the largest cargo port in the world and
both cities are jostling for position as the economic centre of
China. However, in contrast, Shanghai’s businesses operate
within a rigid political and economic framework under
communist party control, despite its free-market status.
Shanghai’s main industries include textiles and apparel, iron,
steel, mineral and oil refining and manufacturing [51][52].
Therefore, our argument is that the Generation Xers
residing in Hong Kong are different from Shanghai.
Although both are Chinese cities, Hong Kong has inherited
a capitalist culture while Shanghai until recently was very
much a communist oriented society. Since culture is learnt
from a variety of sources and institutions such as family
teaching, imitating the behavior of selected others such as
friends, sporting heroes, teachers, religion and the courts,
we posit the following two hypotheses:
H2: There are similar ad likeability attributes between
Hong Kong and Shanghai Generation Xers, but their
rating is different in each city.
H3: There are similar ad dislikeability attributes between
Hong Kong and Shanghai Generation Xers, but their
rating is different in each city.
III. METHODOLOGY
City Selection
Information on beliefs about advertising and the construct
of ad likeability and dislikeability were obtained to address
the three research hypotheses. A questionnaire, which was
used as part of a larger study, was designed to provide
information for this study. Data was collected from two
cosmopolitan Chinese cities - Hong Kong and Shanghai
with notable historical, political, economic and cultural
differences.
Questionnaire Design and Data Collection
Four items were used to measure beliefs in advertising.
These items were anchored with 1 = strongly disagree to 6 =
strongly agree. The items were obtained from Ramaprasad
[8] with adjustments to suit the context of this study. The
relevant ad likeability and dislikeability dimensions were
derived directly from consumer perceptions. In a first step,
respondents recollected television advertisements they
liked/disliked and explained why they liked/disliked them.
Specifically, respondents were asked to nominate three
advertisements that they liked/disliked. Next, they gave as
many key reasons as possible why they liked/disliked the
advertisements. Respondents lastly provided demographic
information about themselves, including gender, age,
personal income, and education.
This study followed the strategy of matched samples [5].
This strategy involves the matching of samples in regard to
age, gender, education and percentages in higher managerial
ranks and is useful in studies involving cross-cultural
consumers across different countries [5][53]. .Rather than
trying to draw representative samples from the populations
of the two cities, the study surveyed well-defined and
homogeneous samples which differed in city residence but,
were alike in as many respects as possible. Therefore, the
criteria used to select the 200 young adults in each city for
the telephone interview were as follows: every third person
listed in the local telephone directory aged between 25 and
35 years-of-age who spent at least five hours or more on
average watching television each week. In essence, these
Generation Xers were selected because they had the
economic ability to purchase the advertised brands. A
checklist was given to each interviewer to ensure that the
selected respondents met the criteria set out for each city.
To ensure an even split of males/females and age groups
(25-30; 31-35 years), interviewers were instructed to stop
interviewing respondents once their quota was met.
The project’s sponsor, Lowe Advertising (HK) Ltd [54]
engaged a professional research agency with local
subsidiaries in each city to carry out the research. The
length of the questionnaire was therefore reduced.
Telephone interviewing was deemed to be the most suitable
method for this study because it allowed respondents to
offer interviewers their thoughts about the advertisement/s
that they liked/disliked. The respondents’ thoughts relating
to the advertisements were measured by these questions: “I
would like you to think about advertisements you have seen
recently on TV which you liked/disliked”; “Could you
please describe for me the first advertisement that comes to
mind that you like/dislike?”, “Just briefly tell me what it is
about?”; “Now, think of the next advertisement that comes
to mind that you like/dislike, could you please tell me what
it is about?”; “Thanks. Is there any other advertisement that
you like/dislike? Please tell me what it is about.”
Coding Procedure for Ad likeability/Dislikeability
The 400 (200 per city) young adults interviewed by
telephone and the responses were coded by the first author
with the assistance of three independent judges (graduate
students of Marketing, English and Economics). The judges
were given training sessions and instructions, then requested
to reduce the reasons for like/dislike of commercials. The
four judges including the first author were divided into two
groups. Both groups then set out to construct the likeable
and dislikeable attributes. The two groups met on three
occasions and eventually arrived with seven likeable and
seven dislikeable attributes. The inter-judge reliability
averaged 88% for Hong Kong and Shanghai which
exceeded the 85% recommended by Kassarjian [55, p. 14].
IV. RESULTS
Beliefs about Advertising
As shown in Table 1, four items were used to measure
beliefs about advertising. All four items returned a
statistically significant difference between Hong Kong and
Shanghai. Hence, Hypothesis 1 is supported. Overall, the
results indicate that the Generation Xers in both Hong Kong
and Shanghai found advertising is relatively entertaining on
the one hand, and devious on the other.
TABLE 1
BELIEFS ABOUT ADVERTISING (STANDARD DEVIATION IN
PARENTHESIS)
1= strongly disagree, 6=
strongly agree HK
N=491 SH
N=429
F-Value
0.001**,
0.05*
I find advertising interesting and
quite often it gives me something
to talk about.
3.89
(1.22)
3.66
(0.12)
3.447
0.038*
Quite often I find TV advertising
more entertaining than the
programs.
2.41
(0.85)
2.19
(0.92)
14.433
0.000**
I find nearly all advertising
annoys me.
3.03
(1.21)
2.69
(1.19)
74.546
0.000**
To me quite a lot of advertising
is devious.
4.06
(1.01)
4.21
(1.14)
4.253
0.045*
Likeable Ad Attributes
Table 2 shows the seven likeable attributes. The number
ascribed to each attribute reflects the number of likeable
reasons assigned to the attribute as given by the respondents.
The seven likeable attributes that are identified in both cities
include: ‘Entertaining’, ‘Warmth’, ‘Soft Sell’,
‘Strong/Distinctive/Sexy’, ‘Relevant to Me’,
‘Trendy/Modernity/Stylish’, and ‘Status Appeal’. Hence,
Hypothesis 2 is supported. Noteworthy of mention is that
three of the attributes ‘Entertaining’, ‘Warmth’, and
‘Relevant to Me’ are identified in prior studies conducted in
America and Europe (see [14][15][16]). The remaining
attributes (‘Soft Sell’, ‘Strong/Distinctive/Sexy’,
‘Trendy/Modernity/Stylish’, and ‘Status Appeal’) are
considered uniquely ‘Asian’.
The number one position of the ‘Entertaining’ attribute
clearly supports earlier studies (see [16][56][37][57]) which
claim that for a television commercial to be liked it has to
be ‘Entertaining’. In fact, across the two cities, the
‘Entertaining’ attribute registered more than 31% of the
total mentions. Hong Kong recorded the highest proportion
at 37% (504/1349, see Table 2), leading Shanghai at 24%
(266/1124, see Table 2). The low liking mentions in
Shanghai correspond with respondents’ high rating on the
question “To me quite a lot of advertising is devious”.
Nevertheless, the rating of the ad likeability attributes
however is quite different. For instance, although the
‘Entertaining’ and ‘Warmth’ attributes are ranked first and
second in Hong Kong and Shanghai, the remaining
attributes are not. Reasons for this are explained later.
Table 2 also summarizes the adjectives for each of the
attributes. For Hong Kong, the ‘Interesting’ adjective is the
primary contributor to an entertaining commercial. In
Shanghai the ‘Creative/Clever’ adjective is most important
in creating entertaining commercials. Respondents in Hong
Kong and Shanghai preferred happy and comfortable
feeling for the ‘Warmth’ attribute in commercials. The third
likeable attribute has a lot to do with feeling and emotion
(‘Soft Sell’). In both cities, the respondents nominated
‘Adorable/Cute’ executions like a cute baby, a baby falling
asleep and commercials that rekindled past memories as
their favorite. The ‘Strong/Distinctive/Sexy attribute was
related to beauty and sexy female celebrities while
‘Masculine’ related to the use of macho looking male
celebrities in the commercials. ‘Beauty’ is the top reason
given by the respondents from Shanghai, while Hong Kong
respondents preferred ‘Strong/Distinctive/Sexy
commercials that portrayed ‘Unique/Special/Original’
messages.
The ‘Relevant to Me’ attribute consisted of
‘Simple/Clear/Relevant’, ‘Meaningful/Believable’,
‘Effective’, and ‘Informative’ messages. The first adjective
is most liked by respondents in both cities. It seems that
television commercials that are simple and reflect the local
way of life tend to resonate well with these respondents. For
the ‘Trendy/Modernity/Stylish’ attribute, the likeable
adjectives are ‘Elegant/Classical/Youth’, ‘Modern/High
Tech’, and ‘Stylish’. Hong Kong respondents preferred
commercials that depicted ‘Elegant/Classical/Youth’ (such
as the main characters having either a youthful look or
action that is elegantly performed). Shanghai respondents’
preferred ‘Stylish’ commercials where a slick new car or
stylish jewelry was shown. ‘Status Appeal is related to
‘Foreign Appeal’, ‘Celebrity Endorsement’ and
‘Charismatic Appeal’. The ‘Foreign Appeal’ implies that
the advertised brands have Western connotations like music,
lifestyle, and restaurant scenes. Charismatic Appeal referred
to the use of role models in commercials like famous local
singers, actors and actresses. This study found that
commercials depicting celebrity endorsed brands were most
preferred in both cities relative to status or charismatic
appeal.
TABLE 2
NUMBER OF AD LIKEABILITY ADJECTIVES FOR EACH
ATTRIBUTE IN EACH CITY
Attributes Hong Kong (HK)
N= 1349 Shanghai (SH)
N= 1124
Entertaining
(n = 770, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
504
266
- interesting 32% 16%
- amusing 24% 8%
- funny 21% 15%
- creative / clever 17% 42%
- exciting / lively
/exaggerating / fantasy 6% 19%
Warmth
(n = 461, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
226
235
- affection 19% 24%
- happy/comfort 53% 32%
- well-done /appreciation 15% 14%
- colorful / naturalness 4% 18%
- refreshing 9% 12%
Soft Sell
(n = 351, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
150
201
- emotion 16% 19%
- innocence of children 3% 10%
- adorable / cute 80% 64%
- patriotism 1% 7%
Strong / Distinctive / Sexy
(n = 339, 2 Sig. at 0.000) 214
125
- beauty 46% 63%
- masculine 1% 3%
- unique / special /original 53% 34%
Relevant to Me
(n = 294, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
124
170
- simple / clear / relevant 79% 75%
- meaningful / believable 9% 13%
- effective 8% 11%
- informative 4% 1 %
Trendy / Modernity /
Stylish
(n = 139, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
54
85
- elegant / classical / youth 54% 37%
- modern / high-tech 0% 15%
- stylish 46% 48%
Status Appeal
(n = 119, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
77
42
- foreign appeal 0% 9%
Attributes Hong Kong (HK)
N= 1349 Shanghai (SH)
N= 1124
- celebrity endorsement 95% 74%
- charismatic appeal 5% 17%
Dislikeable Ad Attributes
All the independent judges were unanimous in agreeing
that there are seven disliked attributes in each city, thereby
supporting Hypothesis 3. They include ‘Style’,
‘Meaningless/Difficult to Understand’, ‘Character’,
‘Scary/Indecent/Violent’ ‘Exaggerated/Unrealistic’,
‘Irresponsible/Negative Impact’, and ‘Feeling Bad/Hard
Sell’ (see Table 3). For both cities, ‘Style’ has the highest
number of disliked mentions by Generation Xers. In fact,
almost 45% (113/253) of the disliked mentions in Shanghai
can be identified as the ‘ad being old-fashioned, repetitive,
boring or annoying compared to 33% (72/214) in Hong
Kong. ‘Style’ dominates the reasons for disliking television
commercials in each city. ‘Style’ refers to being old
fashioned, boring, childish or ordinary. Next is
‘Meaningless/Difficult to Understand’ by Generation Xers
residing in Hong Kong, while their counterparts in Shanghai
nominated ‘Exaggerated/Unrealistic’ as the second most
disliked commercials. ‘Meaningless/Difficult to
Understand’ commercials are those that did not have a
storyline, were difficult to understand or the ad was
irrelevant to the product. ‘Exaggerated/Unrealistic’
commercials portrayed unreal facial expressions or
exaggerated benefits.
The several demographic variables underwent 2
statistical tests. There were detected no statistically
significant differences detected in the seven
likeable/dislkeable attributes between married and single
respondents, high and low income groups, and the below 30
and above 31 age groups. However, statistically significant
difference between male and female in relation to these
attributes were found: ‘Status Appeal’,
‘Strong/Distinctive/Sexy’, and ‘Soft Sell’. Specifically,
female respondents in Shanghai preferred the ‘Soft Sell’
attribute than their male counterparts (2 values = 7.405, df
= 2, p<0.05).
TABLE 3
NUMBER OF AD DISLIKEABILIT ADJECTIVES FOR EACH
ATTRIBUTE IN EACH CITY
Attributes HK
N=214 SH
N=253
Style- the ad is old-fashioned, repetitive, boring or
annoying (n = 185, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
72 113
Meaningless/Difficult to Understand-the ad is
irrelevant to the product, does not have a storyline
or is difficult to understand. (n = 69, 2 Sig. at
0.000)
37 32
Character-characters have bad appearances or look
stupid / ugly (n = 50, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
30 20
Scary/Not Decent/Violent-the ad (character /
setting) is scary, violent, indecent, or contains a
pornographic element. (n = 29, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
27 2
Attributes HK
N=214 SH
N=253
Exaggerated/Unrealistic-the ad is exaggerated
(characters have bad appearances or look stupid /
ugly content / tasteless facial expressions),
exaggerates the product effectiveness, or is
irrational / unrealistic. (n = 75, 2 Sig. at 0.000)
26 49
Irresponsible/Negative Impact-the ad has an
unhealthy concept, misleads youngsters / people, or
denigrates the female image. (n = 29, 2 Sig. at
0.000)
21 8
Feeling Bad/Hard Sell-the ad / slogan made people
feel bad / resentful towards it, too hard sell, or too
directly criticized their competitor. (n = 130, 2 Sig.
at 0.000)
1 29
V. DISCUSSION
This study of Generation Xers in Hong Kong and Shanghai
reveals their beliefs about advertising. The study found that
both groups generally consider advertisements interesting. In
Hong Kong, advertisements tended to give the audiences
something to talk about. This could be attributed to Hong
Kong being a more sophisticated city, hosting many regional
offices of multinationals compared to Shanghai. These
multinationals in turn tend to engage the services of
internationally acclaimed advertising agencies that will
produce commercials to meet the demands of the sophisticated
local market. With gross personal income more than double
that of Shanghai, the Generation Xers in Hong Kong should
be more discerning about what they watch and the level of
intellect imbued in each advertisement. Despite the added
value the commercials in both cities offered to their audiences,
television advertising is still less entertaining than the
programs. There are two reasons for this standpoint. First, the
Generation Xers in both Hong Kong and Shanghai are
educated and have more exposure to Western media [4]. As
such, they are able to differentiate an advertisement from a
program. Second, being large metropolitan cities, there are
additional forms of entertainment to meet amusement needs,
such as cinemas, video arcades and amusement parks to visit,
rather than entertaining oneself with television commercials.
It has been inferred that the concept of advertising as a
whole (rather than a particular advertisement) is disliked,
which leads consumers to ‘switch off’ [22][37]. As leisure
time becomes increasingly limited and, therefore, precious
to consumers, people will not waste time they perceive as
valuable or effort bestowing attention upon advertising.
Additionally consumers are very alert and savvy, as
technology and the knowledge of choice surround them. In
fact, many consumers have become cynical by resenting the
manipulative techniques of advertising and rejecting them
as being the ‘accepted norm’ [38][39]. Such views are
reflected in the findings. For instance, Generation Xers in
both cities find advertising devious and relatively annoying.
The higher rating given by Shanghai respondents to the
question on devious advertising can be attributed to the
relatively lax patrolling of advertisements in China. Liu and
Nan [58] claim that everyday in China there are countless
illegal, deceiving and misleading advertisements. This
might explain why the Generation Xers in Shanghai have a
lower tendency to trust the advertisements. Another reason
could be most Generation Xers have been brought up with a
stronger sense of their self-worth as individuals.
Subsequently, they now respond to such beliefs by refusing
to react to advertising messages that address the masses.
The second aim of this study was to identify and compare
the ad likeability in two Chinese cities. In both cases,
advertising likeability was demonstrated to consist of seven
like attributes. The number of reasons for liking each attribute
was fairly similar in each city, despite their varied cultural,
economic and political profiles. In particular, two attributes -
‘Entertainingand ‘Warmth’ were consistently rated first and
second in both cities and gained relatively more reasons for
liking than the other attributes. Even though the other
attributes are less frequently mentioned, they consistently
emerged in each city. Differences in their rating of importance
can be explained by the use of a single cohort of Generation X
shopping consumers. This cohort is characterized by a diverse
group of people who are well educated and exposed to
Western popular culture, open minded, family oriented, and
often focus on shopping and material possessions [59][60][4].
Specifically, Asian ‘Xers’ are eager recipients of advertising
[61]. Thus, the consistency in appearance of the seven
attributes in each city is partly explained by members of the
same cohort sharing the same values [62]. Additionally,
mass media advertising is not just a means to raise
awareness and preference for products and services, but a
powerful vehicle of cultural values [63]. As collectivist/high
context societies, there is an emphasis on group orientation,
conformity, non-direct confrontation and non-verbal mode
of communication in both Chinese cities [64][27][5][65].
Further, the cohort examined in this study, Generation Xers
are concerned about the opinions of others [66]. Since
entertainment does not have a ‘language’, it is free of
connotations with local values that might cause disharmony
among the purchasers.
Similarities aside, differences in the importance of attributes
rating can be explained by various macro forces such as
culture, and, to a lesser extent, economic factors - in each city.
For instance, whereas Shanghai respondents rated ‘Soft
Sell’ as their preferred attributes, Hong Kong respondents
rated ‘Strong/Distinctive/Sexy’ in this position. Hong Kong
is relatively more masculine [5][67] and as such children in
masculine societies learn to admire the strong and value
achievements [68]. Furthermore, women are viewed as a
‘medium’ for selling products in masculine societies
[69][70].
‘Style’ is the dominant attribute that drives the disliking
of certain television commercials. This unanimous
agreement could be due to the ‘homogeneity’ of the
respondents in each city. Given that the majority of the
respondents are professionals (white-collar workers), they
are less likely to tolerate commercials that are old fashioned,
repetitive, boring or annoying. In addition, these
professionals might have exposure to Western media and
commercials in their daily work and as such are more likely
to be able to distinguish an innovative or stimulating
advertisement from an old-fashioned ad or bad taste ad.
Certainly these respondents disliked commercials that
‘placed’ them in the same category as those commercials
that are targeted at housewives or blue collar workers.
Differences in the drivers of disliked ads were also
revealed. Shanghai respondents disliked ‘Scary /Not decent/
Violent’ ads more than those in Hong Kong. Additionally,
this first group did not prefer ‘Exaggerated/Unrealistic’
commercials, especially those containing misleading
information about product effectiveness. This dislike might
be explained by the pragmatic moral codes of Confucianism
and Taoism (a philosophical system in China stressing
mystical experience and harmony with nature) which
advises against wasting vital energy and rediscovering the
perfect simplicity of living naturally[71]. For respondents in
Hong Kong, ‘Meaningless/Difficult to understand’ ads were
disliked and this might be explained by the fact that these
commercials made viewers feel and look stupid.
Overall, in order to get more mileage out of their
advertising budget in these two cities, advertisers are
recommended to take into account the local cultural values
of their target audience. Knowing what the Generation Xers
want from an advertising message is a battle half won.
Another suggestion is that advertisers should not treat their
target audience as if the latter is ignorant of new
developments. Generation Xers are tech-savvy and they
have more exposure to world media and opportunities to
travel. In their travel, these Generation Xers are able to
observe and experience new things which they may want to
see in their local advertisements.
VI. CONCLUSIONS
From the results, several important outcomes were
determined. Firstly, the findings indicate that Generation
Xers from these two cities believed advertising is
entertaining and yet devious. Secondly, the study found,
both cities possessed seven likable and dislikeable attributes
of ads. ‘Entertaining’ and ‘Warmth’ consistently emerged as
first and second most important likeable attributes
respectively, while ‘Style’ is the most disliked attribute in
both cities. The consistency could be attributed to the same
social values shared by the Generation X cohort in
metropolitan China. Thirdly, the study also revealed
possible reasons for Generation Xers’ high ranking of the
‘Entertaining’ attribute in the two cities. Two reasons were
forwarded as possible explanations. The first is the possible
influence of cultural values. China is characterized by a
collectivist/high context society and as a result, consumers
were more inclined to like commercials that neither
confront nor create social disharmony. The second reason is
linked to city life where life is fast paced, full of pressures
and stress. A sense of ‘Fun/Escapism’ is understandable for
these city dwellers. In conclusion, this study offers insights
into beliefs about advertising, ad likeability and
dislikeability among metropolitan Chinese Generation Xers
and its cultural and environmental influences. This study
has shown that culture, and to a lesser extent environment,
are dominant forces in media consumption and consumer
behavior among Generation Xers in both Hong Kong and
Shanghai.
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The authors report the findings of an experiment comparing the effectiveness of television commercials with varied levels of information content (high vs. low) in the United States and the Republic of Korea. Cultural differences were used as a basis for the hypotheses. Consistent with expectations based on those cultural differences, the U.S. subjects responded more favorably to commercials with high information levels than did the Korean subjects.
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