Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication and Information

Major Professor

Eric Haley

Committee Members

Ron E. Taylor, Roxanne Hovland, Michael Olson

Abstract

The present study assesses the effect of financial services advertising on investors’ decision-making by adopting a two-sided approach: a stimulus-side analysis to document the nature and prevalence of advertising strategies and advertising disclosures being used and a response-side investigation to examine the investors’ processing of and receptiveness to financial services advertising. By performing a content analysis of recently published financial services magazine advertisements, this study provides a contemporary look at whether and how financial services companies inform, persuade, and communicate with average investors. Results from this content analysis method is also used as a foundation to help design realistic test ads in the subsequent experimental design as a response-side approach. Combined with stimulus-side data, a between-group experimental design allows an empirical test of how the interaction between investors’ exposures to different advertising practices (i.e., advertising strategies and advertising disclosures) and individual regulatory focus might affect the ways investors perceive and evaluate the advertised financial product. In this stage, the likely processing and persuasive differences between advertising strategies and advertising disclosures and the potential moderating role of investors’ regulatory focus form the basis of the response-side approach to complement the content analysis phase. Results from the content analysis show that financial services companies increased informational advertising strategies and presented more advertising information during the three-year (2007-2009) period of interest. Findings indicate that financial services companies might play a role in enhancing the role of communication, information, and advertising in the marketplace for financial literacy. However, in order to adequately evaluate the range of investor’s response to advertising strategies and advertising disclosures, this study employs a two advertising strategies (information versus transformational) x two advertising disclosures (complete disclosure versus non-disclosure) x two regulatory focus (promotion-focused versus prevention-focused) between-subject, randomized, experimental design. Findings from the experimental design reveal that investors’ financial decision-making may be affected by internal characteristics (i.e., regulatory focus) as well as external information (i.e., advertising strategies and advertising disclosures). Especially, regulatory focus was found to be function as a moderating variable that can influence the direction and strength of relationship between different financial services advertising practices and the outcome variables of financial decision-making such as risk perceptions, product attitudes, and purchase intentions. Finally, theoretical, managerial, and policy implications are discussed and opportunities for the future research are identified.

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