Literal versus extended symbolic messages and advertising effectiveness: The moderating role of need for cognition



The authors classify an advertisement as an extended symbolic message (ESM) when the ad's subject and message are presented in a nonliteral format. The study compares the advertising effectiveness of the ESM with that of a literally equivalent message (LEM) when the ESM contains either a salient cue (Experiment 1) or subtle cue (Experiment 2) to a nonliteral interpretation. The results indicate that the audience's need for cognition moderates the effectiveness of the ESM. In comparison with an LEM, exposure to the ESM that contained a salient cue resulted in fewer counterarguments and a more favorable attitude toward the ad and brand among high-NFC subjects in experiment 1. These results were replicated in experiment 2 among high-NFC subjects who successfully comprehended the non-literal subject of the ESM that contained a subtle cue. The implications of these results and directions for future research are discussed. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.