I laugh at your pain: Effects of violation of social norms and affect on evaluation of ads that are both humorous and violent

Alexandra Frank (Ph.D. student), Glenna Read, Geoff L.Duncan (PhD student), Weinberger, M. G., & Gulas, C. S. (to be presented 2023). “I laugh at your pain: Effects of violation of social norms and affect on evaluation of ads that are both humorous and violent.” American Academy of Advertising. Denver, CO, March 2023.

Abstract: From nighttime talk shows to candy bar ads, violent humor captures audiences’ attention and elicits both positive and negative emotional responses. Research demonstrates the effectiveness of violent humorous ads in increasing consumers’ attention and recall. However, at a certain “tipping point” these ads can also alienate consumers and increase negative attitudes toward the ad, brand, or product. We examined this tipping point, and the mechanisms underlying it, using a 2 (violence level: high, low) x 2 (violence provocation: present, absent) between-subjects online experiment. Participants (n= 394) viewed an ad, then answered questions to assess perceptions of violation of social norms (VSN), affect and arousal, attitudes toward the ad and brand, and purchase intention. Interaction analyses revealed that ads with high unprovoked violence elicited the greatest VSN and negative affect. VSN predicted attitudes toward ad and brand and purchase intention while negative affect only predicted purchase intention, indicating different mechanisms underlying these consumer outcomes. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.