Understanding advertisements: how difficult should it be?

Kathleen Mortimer, Stephen Lloyd, Eric Haley (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperpeer-review


Although it has been recognised that implicit messages in magazine advertisements can be effective, little research has been undertaken on the impact of different levels of implicity. This study looks specifically at metaphors in advertising and examines the impact that an implied message has on comprehension and likeability. The results indicate that likeability can be high when the challenge of understanding the advertisement is moderate but if the advertisement is perceived to be either too easy or too hard to understand likeability levels drop, suggesting a quadratic relationship between these two variables. The implications of these finding are discussed. Magazine advertisements have become increasingly implicit in the way that they communicate their messages. A study by Phillips and McQuarrie (2002) who examined advertising from 1954 to 1999, found that there was a gradual reduction in the amount of explanation provided and an increase in the use of a rhetorical approach such as puns, metaphors and irony. Such advertisements have been referred to by some as 'post-modern' (Procter, Procter and Papasolomou 2005; Bulmer and Buchanan-Oliver 2004). The purpose of this paper is to examine this phenomenon to establish how implicit a message can be before it has a negative impact on levels of comprehension and/or likeability
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


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