Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Business Administration

First Advisor

Balasubramanian, Siva

Second Advisor

Clark, Terry

Abstract

Though research has shown that social context influences behavior, research on product placement is yet to incorporate such effects. This is a very significant research gap since product placements are often consumed as part of a shared viewing experience. To address this gap, this dissertation examines social contextual influences on consumer behavior associated with the coviewing of product placements. Two aspects of social context were examined in a 2 (group composition: friends versus strangers) x 2 (coviewing context: interactive versus passive) experimental design. Data were collected during a laboratory experiment in which participants in dyads first viewed a 22-minute Seinfeld sitcom episode and then completed an online survey, designed to collect data on the variables in this study. Since the data were hierarchical in nature, i.e., individuals nested in groups, multilevel modeling was used to analyze the data. Results showed that friends recalled significantly more placed brands than did strangers. Friends also held significantly stronger, more positive attitudes toward the audiovisual, very prominently placed brand, Gore-Tex. However, there was no significant difference between interactive and passive coviewers on recall of and attitudes toward placed brands. Results suggest that the impact of individual-level variables on brand recall and on attitude toward placed brands did not significantly depend on social context. The exceptions were for the effects of: (1) brand familiarity on attitude toward Gore-Tex, which was stronger for strangers than friends, and (2) parasocial attachment on attitude toward the visual only, very subtly placed brand, Coca-Cola, which was stronger for interactive than passive coviewers. The results hold implications for marketing theory, methodology, and practice. Results suggest that to the extent marketers can create, encourage, and maintain social contexts that favor friendship effects, they stand to benefit with desired outcomes. Results also suggest that interaction during coviewing may not cause a significant enhancement in or decrement to recall of and attitude toward placed brands. This study is the stepping stone for research on social contextual influences in product placement research. There is still much to be done on research in this area, particularly since social contextual influences are expected to play a major role in the future of marketing.

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