Taking Advantage of a Vulnerable Group? Emotional Cues in Ads Targeting Parents

Authors

  • JULIE V. STANTON,

  • DEIRDRE T. GUION


  • Julie V. Stanton (jvs11@psu.edu) is an Associate Professor of Marketing at The Pennsylvania State University and Deirdre T. Guion (dguion@nccu.edu) is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at North Carolina Central University.

Abstract

Parents of small children regularly face challenges that are new to them, creating uncertainties and stress that complicate their decision-making processes. In this vulnerable state, parents may be susceptible to emotional appeals in advertisements in ways that influence their knowledge formation, food choices, and perceptions of self. In this study, we use a combination of content analysis and interviews to examine the use of emotional appeals, particularly guilt and fear, in food ads and how parents respond to them. We find that guilt is more frequently used in ads that target parents than has been shown for other audiences, and that parents often express negative self-images and coping strategies when viewing them.

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