Buy, boycott or blog: exploring online consumer power to share, discuss and distribute controversial advertising messages

Gayle Kerr, Kathleen Mortimer, Sonia Dickinson, David S Waller

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - The purpose of this study is to examine the concept of consumer power, in particular the power or bloggers in the online environment and how this might be applied to the regulation of advertising. Design/methodology/approach - Utilising Denegri-Knott’s (2006) four on-line power strategies, a content analysis of weblogs of Tourism Australia’s "Where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign is undertaken. Blogger behaviour towards this controversial campaign is documented and consumer power strategies are examined. Findings - This study reveals that bloggers are circumventing the traditional self regulatory process by distributing information, opinion, and even banned advertising material, thereby forming power hubs of like-minded people, with the potential to become online pressure groups, augmenting the traditional powers of consumers in the self regulatory process. Research limitations/implications - Limitations include a single case context and its exploration of a single media tool (weblogs). Also, bloggers are not representative of the general public, but do provide an alternative to the general category of complainants. Practical implications - The paper provides evidence that bloggers are defacto regulators in the online environment providing judgements on advertising campaigns, supporting those with like-minded views and disciplining others, and even making banned advertisements publicly available. Advertisers should be mindful of this activity in developing campaigns, especially in formulating controversial campaigns aimed to be disseminated online. Originality/value - The paper is the first to relate consumer power in the online environment to self regulation. It is also first to study a new group of advertising complainants – the bloggers
Original languageEnglish
Article number3/4
Pages (from-to)387-405
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number3/4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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