Effect of Brand-Content Connection on the Effectiveness of Native Advertising


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date27 Aug 2020


Native advertising has become prevalent in advertising practice today. It is a communication technique that packages a commercial message as non-commercial content and presents it to media users. Examples include sponsored posts and editorial articles in the social media environment. This research focuses on a particular form of native advertising, namely, article-form native advertising, that (1) provides informative or entertaining content in an article form; and (2) explains the connection between brand message and content theme using transitional paragraphs and appropriate reasoning, which is referred to as brand-content articulation in this research.

This dissertation aims to better understand how article-form native advertising works by (1) demonstrating the efficacy of native advertising compared with overt advertising and elucidating its underlying mechanism; (2) identifying the impact of two types of brand-content articulation, namely, coherent articulation and unexpected articulation on the effectiveness of native advertising, and explicating the underlying mechanisms; and (3) investigating the effect of content informativeness and demonstrating how it interacts with brand-content articulation (i.e., coherent articulation) in influencing the effectiveness of native advertising. Six studies, including a content-analytic study with actual engagement data, a field experiment, and four controlled experiments are conducted to examine the research questions.

To be specific, this work first identifies the efficacy of article-form native ads on advertising effectiveness. Compared with banner ads, article-form native ads create a greater brand-content fit, favorable advertising attitude, and higher purchase intention. This work also confirms that the positive effect of ad type on advertising effectiveness is mediated by the “aha” experience, which refers to a flash of insight in which the relation and connection shared by the brand message and content theme are realized.

Second, this work examines the efficacy of articulation coherence, its interaction effect with content informativeness, and the underlying mechanisms of the effectiveness of article-form native advertising. Building on conceptual coherence theory, this work finds that a coherent articulation leads to a positive brand evaluation when compared with a less coherent articulation in article-form native ads. More important, this work determines that the indirect path from articulation coherence to brand evaluation, via transportation experience and resistance to persuasion, is moderated by content informativeness. When a person reads a piece of low-informative content, a sensible explanation of the relationship between brand message and content theme will increase their transportation experience and will simultaneously decrease their resistance to persuasion. However, the effect of articulation coherence does not emerge in the high-informative content condition.

Third, applying incongruity theory, this work confirms that an unexpected brand-content articulation results in a more favorable advertising attitude and higher willingness to pay (WTP). The main effect of unexpected articulation on advertising effectiveness is mediated by the extent to which a person is immersed in the content consumption experience, namely, transportation experience.

Taken together, the findings contribute to the native advertising literature regarding brand-content relationship and content characteristics. Additionally, they illustrate the uniqueness of the articulation effect on the effectiveness of article-form native advertising. In addition to theoretical implications, the findings have managerial implications for digital marketing communications with native advertising techniques.

    Research areas

  • native advertising, brand-content articulation, incongruity theory, “aha” experience, content informativeness, transportation experience, persuasion knowledge, WeChat advertising, equity theory, conceptual coherence