CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARD CELEBRITY ADVERTISING: ANALYSIS THROUGH BALANCE THEORY
Firms often use celebrities as advertising endorsers in Japan because they are attractive or give brilliant performances and thus are perceived as appealing. However, if a celebrity’s image is compromised, for example by scandal or controversial behavior, consumers may change their attitude toward that celebrity and thus toward the ads in which s/he appears or the products s/he promotes. Heider’s balance theory explains this triangular relationship among ad, celebrity, and audience. However, a consumer’s attitude toward a celebrity is less likely to change when s/he closely identifies with that celebrity. This paper makes and empirically tests two hypotheses regarding these phenomena. The t-test reveals that (1) in cases of high identification with a celebrity, a person’s attitude toward an ad involving that celebrity will become more negative after the celebrity incurs scandal, and (2) in the case of low identification with a celebrity, attitude toward the ad will not change. Subsequently, this study divides celebrities into attractiveness-based and performance-based categories, and finds that in describing attitude toward ads with performancebased celebrities, the triangular relationship under balance theory can be extended to a square relationship among the ad, celebrity, audience/consumer, and celebrity’ performance. The t-test then reveals that (3) in the case of low identification with celebrity, audience attitude toward the ad become more negative after scandal, in contrast to the lack of effect for celebrities overall in (2). This paper thus provides a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of celebrity advertising and successfully explains change in audience/consumer attitude toward an ad and perhaps product after celebrity endorser scandal through an extension of balance theory.
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