The Use of Nostalgia in Television Advertising: A Content Analysis

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<ul><li><p> Quarterly</p><p>Journalism &amp; Mass</p><p> online version of this article can be found at:</p><p> DOI: 10.1177/107769909106800304</p><p> 1991 68: 345Journalism &amp; Mass Communication QuarterlyLynette S. Unger, Diane M. Mcconocha and John A. Faier</p><p>The Use of Nostalgia in Television Advertising: A Content Analysis </p><p>Published by:</p><p></p><p>On behalf of: </p><p> Association for Education in Journalism &amp; Mass Communication</p><p>at: can be foundJournalism &amp; Mass Communication QuarterlyAdditional services and information for </p><p> Alerts: </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> What is This? </p><p>- Sep 1, 1991Version of Record &gt;&gt; </p><p> by guest on November 24, 2014jmq.sagepub.comDownloaded from by guest on November 24, 2014jmq.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>The Use of Nostalgia in Television Advertising: A Content Analysis </p><p>By Lynette S. Unger, Diane M. McConocha, and John A. Faier </p><p>Nostalgia was used by means of theme, copy, or music about 10% of the time according to a content analysis of more than a thousand commercials sampled from ABC, CBS, and NBC. Nostalgic references were to family activi- ties or to the "olden days," among other themes, and were most likely to be used with food and beverage com- mercials. The study suggests nostalgia may be especially important in a changing world because it connects us with our past. </p><p>&gt;Advertising agencies continually face the challenge of finding new creative tactics that break through the 'clutter" in order to attract and persuade audiences. In recent years, the utilization of nostalgic ele- ments in television ads appears to be such an attempt.' This paper dis- cusses the sociological relevance of nostalgia, as well as its potential usefulness as a means of achieving advertising objectives, and provides a content analysis of the frequency and types of nostalgic elements employed for various products in television advertisements. The discus- sion section proposes some possible explanations for the use of nostal- gia by advertisers of particular product categories. </p><p>Nostalgia was selected as the creative tactic of interest because of its relevance to a large demographic segment of the media audience. Baby Boomers have long been the target of marketing and media organiza- tions because of their sheer numbers. As this group approaches middle age ( a transition period during which one looks back), they appear par- ticularly susceptible to nostalgia. Evidence of the relevance of nostalgia pertaining to the 19% and 1960s (the childhood, teen, or college years of Baby Boomers) can be seen in products (e.g., Timex watches and Keds sneakers), movies (e.g., T h e Big Chill" and 'Back to the Future"), television programs (e.g., T h e Wonder Years" and reruns of 'Donna Reed", and "Bewitched?, and comeback tours of rock groups such as the Rolling Stones. Interestingly, not only are those who experi- enced the original versions attracted to these themes/appeals, but also are the younger generations. High school sock-hops, for example, fea- ture music from those decades. The impact of nostalgic tactics may therefore be broader than its obvious appeal to a particular group. </p><p>&gt;Professor Unger is Associate Professor and Professor McConocha is Associate Professor in the Marketing Department of Miami University and Mr. Faier works with Omni Tech Consulting Group, Inc., in Chicago. </p><p>Vol. 68, No. 3 (Fall 1991) 345 by guest on November 24, 2014jmq.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>346 JOURNALISM QUARTEFU,Y Social Psychological Relevance of Nostalgia </p><p>Coined from the Greek words for "home" and 'pain," nostalgia is an emotional yearning for or fond remembrance of a better time and place.2 Nostalgia thus involves reflections on past events or experiences. Private nostalgia, individually experienced, is the reflection on previous personal episodes. Like a scrapbook, the mind holds a collection of frag- ments of past personal life. These sentimental fragments of positively distorted memory are called up by the individual who seeks continuity in his or her life. Examples of private nostalgia include reflecting on the great days of high school or remembering the fond hug of a grandpar- ent. It has been shown that individuals tend to be more nostalgic during the transitional stages of the life cycle such as a new job, marriage, new baby, and retirement. </p><p>However, not all nostalgic emotions relate to personal or private experience. Feelings of joy, pleasure, and security can be elicited by images that relate to historic events or times that are socially or collec- tively held to be of value. For example, some Southerners may feel nos- talgic about the Confederate flag or the 'Gone with the Wind" planta- tion lifestyle, although they did not personally experience the Civil War or the AnteBellum South. This form of nostalgia is referred to a s public nostalgia. </p><p>It is through public nostalgia that society can make the attempt to escape the social worries of the day. It is the positive reflection on the past that provides society with continuity in a changing world. Today's society may be more prone to nostalgic feelings in reaction to current social change (radical changes in the family, major shifts in demograph- ics, and other lifestyle changes). Furthermore, the more rapidly social change occurs, the more nostalgic society can b e c ~ r n e . ~ </p><p>The interaction between private and public nostalgia is important, particularly in advertising appeals. Many of the symbols and images that convey mainstream public nostalgia are part of private nostalgia. Baby Boomers, for example, may look back to the 1950s when they were growing up and feel very nostalgic about their childhood or teen years. Similarly, these feelings of private nostalgia about the 1950s translate well on a social level. Society can also look back on 'happy days" and feel nostalgic about the music, the clothes, or the food from that period. By being nostalgic, both the society and the individual can maintain continuity in a threatening environment. </p><p>Nostalgia as a Tactic: Achieving Communication Objectives Models of communication objectives generally assume that expo- </p><p>sure, attention, comprehension, receptiveness, and retention are the desired goals of persuasive messages.' Nostalgic elements may poten- tially work to help achieve these goals for television advertisements. </p><p>Advertisers try to overcome selective attention by appealing to needs or by arousing curiosity. The need to escape the pressures of the p r c </p><p>1. Bill h s . li Logic in Ads Doesn't Sell, Try a Tug on the Hen- 7 h WOU SInd /and, April a 1982, p. 27; Ronald Alsop. 'Ad Agencies Jazz Up Jineles by Raying on 1960s Nostllgio' WOU Yrrrtjounol. April 8,1985, p 31, Jpv Cocks, Wanna Buy a Revolution? Time, May 18.1967, p. 78, a d Joa~me Upmm, %ding Nostalgia Wave, Old Ads Get a Shot at L k i i Aired Again.' WaU Slnd /and, August 25,1989, p. B3. </p><p>2. Fred Dan's. Ylaning F a Yalrrday, A SOcMlw ofNmlo4?ia @Jew York: ?he Free Press, l979). 3. hid. George Jones, T h e Great Nostalgia Kick.' U.S. Ncms &amp; WoddRlpat , March 22,1962. pp. 5760. 4. Wayne M. DeLozier, 7ke M d f i n # Cmnvricolhs Rocm @ew Yo&amp; Mccrrw-HiU. 19'77). and Junes F. Engd </p><p>and Roger D. Blackwell. Cmrumn&amp;hooiorlU Editim (Chicago: Dryden Press, El&amp;?). by guest on November 24, 2014jmq.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>The Use of Nostalgia in Television Advertising: A Content Analysis 347 sent, particularly during periods of instability on either the personal or public level, can be met by daydreaming about the future or by glorify- ing the past. Ads that call up nostalgic images and feelings help to draw the viewer back to that seemingly more pleasant time. The sociology of nostalgia would appear to suggest that current threats would induce an emotional readiness for indulging in nostalgia. </p><p>Additionally, the use of nostalgic elements may arouse curiosity- based attention. As long as the tactic is perceived to be novel, it may facilitate such curiosity. However, there are two drawbacks to the use of novelty. The first is that it may detract from the message so that the tac- tic is remembered but the brand or benefit is lost. Second, novelty is lost when repeated or imitated frequently. The prolieration of nostalgic appeals could, therefore, reduce their impact as a curiosity-based means of gaining attention. </p><p>Message comprehension may be augmented by employing nostalgic elements to create cognitive associations between images of bygone times and product characteristics. The use of older p e o p l e for exam- ple, Orville Reddenbacher- as spokespersons for food and beverage products might convey old-fashioned flavor or goodness. Far from dis- tracting from the main message, the characters and settings reinforce the meaning to be attributed to the product. </p><p>Receptivity to an ad may involve either affective or cognitive accep tance of the message. While affective response is often excluded from information processing models, nostalgic ads may create an emotional response that enhances receptivity. h k e r , et aL5, for example, found that warmth in advertising impacts positively on attitude toward the ad and purchase likelihood. Some nostalgic appeals fit well into the defini- tion of warmth used in that study. </p><p>Credibility or persuasiveness in an ad is enhanced by backing up the claim or distracting the viewer to prevent counterarguing. Where posi- tive associations, as described in regard to message comprehension, have been created strategically, the credibility could be enhanced. On the other hand, if the nostalgic elements are merely distractions, they could hamper comprehension, and receptiveness would be a moot issue. </p><p>Nostalgic elements may aid in retention of the ad message Ci com- prehension was not impaired by the tactic). To the degree that such ele- ments relate to the individuals need for escape, they could be more likely to be remembered. Additionally, those which are novel or inter- esting enough a r e likely to be discussed with others and such rehearsal further enhances memorability. One study has shown nos- talgic ads to have a retention power superior to nonnostalgic counter- part ads! </p><p>Research Questions The preceding rationale for why advertisers might employ nostalgia </p><p>tactics and the explanation of how nostalgia functions in a general social-psychological sense suggest investigation into three key issues: </p><p>1) How is nostalgia in advertising defined? Might there be a taxone 5. David A Aaka, b u d a s M. Slayman and Michael R Haeerty. Warmth in Advertidno: Meamremen\ hpaa </p><p>6. Diane M. N e b , John A Faia and Lyneae S. Unger, ?he Effed of Nostalgic Advertising: An Experiment, in and S e q u s r e E [ k c t 4 J a n d o / C ~ r R ~ ~ , 12:365381, (Mmh 1986). </p><p>RiwdiWJlwlk Sndbrrlrn Mhtiw Cm/mru (1989). by guest on November 24, 2014jmq.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>348 JOURNALISM QUARTERLY my of different nostalgic appeals? </p><p>2) How often do nostalgic advertisements actually appear on televi- sion? Which types of nostalgia occur most often? </p><p>3) Are nostalgic ad appeals used more frequently for certain product categories? </p><p>In this study, Phase I of the method focused on the first research question. Phase 11, a content analysis of television commercials, addressed the second and third questions. </p><p>Method Phase I. The f i s t step in defining and measuring a concept is to speci- </p><p>fy its d ~ m a i n . ~ In the case of nostalgia, this was done by asking a conve nience sample of undergraduate advertising students (n = 154) to pro- vide written responses to the following openended question: </p><p>Many advertisements that we see today are nostalgic or contain elements of nostalgia. Please describe any nostalgic ads you can think of and tell what in the ads makes them nostalgic. </p><p>The responses were then coded and tabulated by one judge. Seven different nostalgic elements were identified, as shown in Table 1. </p><p>Given the recognized weaknesses of student samples, even in pilot research, a sample of ten expert judges (advertising and marketing pro- fessors) was then asked to assess the seven dimensions. They were posed the following questions: </p><p>1. Do you think this is a complete list, or can you add any other ele ments that make an ad nostalgic? </p><p>2. Do you think that any of these elements do not belong? Agreement by half of the expert sample would justify adding or dropping a dimen- sion. </p><p>Phase ZZ. For the content analysis phase, spot and network television advertisements were selected during a two-week period in February 1987. Threehour time periods (9:OO a.m. - 12:OO noon, 1:OO - 490 p.m. and 8:OO - 11:OO p.m.1 were sampled across all three networks. Weekday morning programming accounted for 23% of the ads. Some 37% were taken from weekday afternoon, 25% from weeknight and 16% from weekend programming. ARC was slightly underrepresented. Some 29% of the ads were sampled from that network, while 35% and 36% were taken from CBS and NBC respectively. Total sample size was 1,031 ads. Some ads (202) were duplicates. However, these were retained in the sample, because there was no significant difference in the frequency of nostalgic appeals between duplicates and the whole sample o&gt; &lt; .01). Moreover, duplication of certain ads simply indicates greater media weight, and they consequently should be included. The sampling plan was comparable to other television content analyses conducted by advertising researchers.' </p><p>Two judges separately assessed each ad for the six elements of nos- talgia (reflections on past experiences with family and friends, olden </p><p>M , I M ~ ~ R C W O ~ L . i 6 s n (1~9. 7. Cimert A Churduil, Jr., 'A Paradigm for Developing Bet&amp; M c m m for Markcring Corrahucb.'Jarrd cf </p><p>8. Ronnld E Bush. Paul I. Solomon d Joseph E Hair, Jr.. 'A Content Analysis of the Porbaypl of Blrk Models in Magazine Mvertiaing,' in M d r f i w g k the 8~2: Chumga and Chalkages. I? Begoni, e t d., e d i m (197?). md Joecph R. Dominick and Bradley S. Greenberg, 'Three Seasons of Blvks on Television'Jarnal o/Adwrfuirg Rruorr*, 1021-27 (April 1970). </p><p> by guest on November 24, 2014jmq.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>The Use of Nostalgia in Televbion Advertising: A Content Analysis 349 days, period symbolism,...</p></li></ul>


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