NEWS21 January 2016

New study questions relevance of traditional advertising theory

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US — A new study testing the popular and long-used Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) suggests that it no longer reflects the way that consumers think in a digital world. 


The Elaboration Likelihood Model was developed in the 1980s and describes behavioural and attitudinal change via two routes: central and peripheral. These routes encompass both careful and thoughtful consideration and more automatic associations made with positive and negative cues. 

The new study, Does Traditional Advertising Theory Apply to the Digital World? A Replication Analysis Questions the Relevance of the Elaboration Likelihood  Model, published in the Journal of Advertising Research, involved five authors in three global locations empirically testing the ELM. They concluded that "practitioners should question planning frameworks that use traditional advertising models such as the ELM, as they likely do not reflect how consumers think in a digital world". 

The authors reason that the world, and advertising, has "changed radically" since the days of mass media dominance, where television had the power to build emotional connections. They point to changing advertising expenditure figures — growing in North America and Europe, flat in continental Europe and soaring in emerging markets — as a measure of this. 

"The onus is on the marketing research industry and academia to question advertising theory: when everything around it has changed, why should any particular theory stay the same?" the report says. "And if advertising theory is not questioned, subsequent advertising research will become increasingly irrelevant."