Date of Award

5-2003

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication

Major Professor

Sally J. McMillan

Committee Members

Ronald E. Taylor, Eric Haley, David W. Schumann

Abstract

Although numerous research has examined Web-based interactive advertising (WIA) in recent years, few studies have approached this topic from the consumers’ own perspectives. Much of the literature employed managerial perspectives to examine the effectiveness of WIA with the aim of improving practitioners’ performance. Studies that did deal with consumers often merely measured their uses of WIA and motives for using it without viewing the phenomenon from the consumers’ point-of-view. Unfortunately, this one-sided research trend provides little insight into how consumers deal with interactive advertising in the World Wide Web environment and cannot answer a basic question - do consumers really care about WIA.

This study aimed to examine consumers’ perspectives toward Web-based interactive advertising. Specifically, the study explored what WIA meant to consumers and how they interacted with it through the actual navigation process. One differentiating characteristic of WIA is that it enables consumers to have an active role in the communication process; therefore, it is necessary to investigate their thoughts and behaviors regarding WIA.

To pursue the research purposes, the following research questions were posed.

1) What does Web-based interactive advertising (WIA) mean to consumers?

2) How do consumers navigate through and interact with WIA in Web-based environment?

Qualitative research was employed to explore the research questions. Two specific methods were used for data collection: participant observation with an articulation procedure and depth interview. Throughout the participant’s navigation process, the researcher observed how participants interacted with Websites, heard how they articulated their specific navigation behaviors, and had sporadic short interviews regarding specific actions they made. Upon completing the navigation process, the participants were interviewed about their behavior and thoughts regarding how they dealt with WIA throughout the navigation process and what they thought about WIA.

Analysis was performed as the data collection was processed. Changes in data collection tactics were made based on the findings from analysis. Using scripts of interviews, articulations, and memos from observations, the consumers’ perspectives were captured and analyzed. Thematic analysis was made with open, axial, and selective coding methods.

Nine themes representing consumers’ interaction with and thoughts about WIA were found. They are ‘Intrusive,’ ‘Annoying,’ ‘Informative,’ ‘Easy,’ ‘Controllable,’ ‘Relevant,’ ‘Fun,’ ‘Real-Time Communication,’ and ‘Reliable & Honest.’ Each of these themes was interrelated with some of other themes, and most of them either positively or negatively related to consumers’ evaluation of WIA. Various WIA formats emerged in addition to traditionally recognized formats such as banners and pop-ups. Two formats, ‘Customer review’ and ‘News stories about products,’ appeared frequently. The relationship between themes and WIA formats was also examined; in fact, each theme emerged with certain WIA formats. For example, ‘Intrusive’ was mentioned with traditional WIA formats such as banners and pop-ups, while ‘Relevant’ frequently emerged with corporate Websites and customer reviews.

This study found that consumers are very active when using the Web. Any forced-exposure or forced-viewing was actively avoided. With the benefit of taking consumers’ perspectives, some valuable insights were also captured. For example, highly informative and interactive Web content about products usually had a positive influence on preference for WIA (this also usually translated to positive attitude toward the site or banners); however, the preferable amount of information and preferable level of interactivity varied by consumers.

The study produced some valuable implications for a variety of stakeholders. Researchers can take full advantage of the findings in helping their theory building, and marketing professionals can apply the consumers’ voices to their strategic planning for interactive marketing. College teachers can integrate the findings into their Internet advertising classes as they develop consumer-based modules in these newly popular classes.

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