Preliminary investigation of the communication effects of “taboo” themes in advertising

Abstract : Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to fill a gap in the literature of taboo imagery in advertising by drawing on cognate disciplines to build a conceptual framework and identify the characteristics of taboo-challenging advertisements and the audiences who react to them. Design/methodology/approach – Data collected by 22 in-depth individual qualitative interviews in Morocco and France were subjected to two-stage formal content analysis. Findings – This study reveals the importance of normative social influence, the properties of the taboo, contagion from the content of the ad to the brand and to customers, and ambivalent emotional reactions. The valence and the intensity of the responses to such advertising depend on personal, interpersonal and situational factors. Research limitations/implications – The conclusions are based on findings from a relatively small number of respondents reacting to one type of taboo only, but they offer a useful theoretical framework and an empirical basis for future research on the communication effects and effectiveness of taboo in advertising. Practical implications – The study offers advertisers a better understanding of the factors and processes likely to influence consumers’ reactions to the strategy of invoking taboo themes in advertising campaigns, with positive implications in terms of audience segmentation and media selection. Originality/value – Despite the prevalence of “taboo advertising”, little research-based analysis has so far been available to academics or practitioners.
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Journal articles
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Ouidade Sabri. Preliminary investigation of the communication effects of “taboo” themes in advertising. European Journal of Marketing, Emerald, 2012, 46 (1/2), pp.215-236. ⟨hal-01123528⟩

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