Alex Pfeuffer, Haley Hatfield (Ph.D. student), & Jooyoung Kim. “Will Brands Make it if They Fake it? Exploring the Effects of CGI Influencer Disclosures in Sponsored Social Media Posts.” Paper to be presented at the American Academy of Advertising Annual Conference 2023 in Denver, CO.
Abstract: CGI (computer-generated imagery) influencers have become a popular tool for brands to promote their products, as they can be made to look, act, and communicate as brands please. However, CGI influencers’ existence has prompted questions and concerns among consumer protection advocates and regulators, as these virtual influencers cannot always be readily discerned from their human counterparts, and their profiles can reflect unrealistic or inhuman body proportions. Consumers may be misled if they do not know that an influencer endorsing a product is not human and experience harmful effects if they compare themselves to unattainable beauty standards. While regulatory approaches exist in some countries to require disclosure for edited and manipulated images on social media posts, the practice of computer-generating influencers does not require disclosure. The present study draws on the theoretical frameworks of persuasion knowledge and Signaling Theory as well as the theoretical construct of trust to examine the effects of CGI influencer disclosures. Results show that such disclosures hold the potential to activate consumers’ persuasion knowledge and reduce body comparison, but also lead to less favorable perceptions regarding the influencer and brand. Implications for various stakeholders, including scholars, regulators, brands, and content creators are discussed.
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to examine how influencers’ visual content affects consumer attitudinal and behavioral responses to influencer advertising. The proposed model includes smile intensity of influencers as the independent variable, warmth and admiration as the mediators, and product category (Study 1) and orientation of advertising messages (self vs social, Study 2) as the moderators. Design/methodology/approach: Two experimental studies (Study 1 and 2) were conducted. A total of 337 online panelists were collected via Qualtrics in Study 1 and responses from 409 online panelists were collected via Qualtrics in Study 2. Findings: The results of two experimental studies showed that smiling influencers increased perceptions of warmth and feelings of admiration, thereby evoking positive consumer attitudes and behavioral intention. The strong positive impact of smiling on responses to influencer advertising was present regardless of product categories (Study 1) and the orientation of advertising messages (Study 2). Originality/value: This study empirically examined the role of visual content on consumers’ attitudinal, emotional, and behavioral responses to influencer advertising by adopting theoretical models in social psychology. This paper also provides strong managerial implications for marketers who seek the most effective strategies for leading consumers to evaluate influencers positively and ultimately, accepting marketing messages favorably.
Abstract: Through an online experiment with a 2 (no ad disclosure/standardized ad disclosure ’paid partnership with the (brand)’) x 2 (single exposure to the influencer content/multiple exposure to the influencer content) between subjects design (N= 195), the current study examines 1) the effects of multiple exposures to Instagram Influencer content and disclosure presence on persuasion knowledge skepticism and para-social interaction (PSI) and 2) how these psychological processes impact attitudinal and behavioral outcomes 3) over time. Results showed that advertising disclosure on both Instagram posts and stories didn’t directly increase skepticism. Conditional indirect effects showed that only in the case of a single exposure did an ad disclosure, via skepticism, negatively affect brand attitudes and purchase intention. In support of a relative sleeper effect, attitudes and intentions measured at a second data collection point showed the most improvement when initial skepticism was high. Implications for researchers, practitioners, and advertisers are discussed.
Taeyeon Kim (Grady PhD Student) was awarded the 2018-2019 American Academy of Advertising Dissertation Award ($2,500) for her proposal “The Effects of Influencer Type (Micro vs. Macro Influencer) and Brand Placement Type of Consumer Responses to Influencer Advertising.”