Regulatory congruence effects in two-sided advertising: The mediating role of processing fluency and processing depth.

Year of publication: 2013
Author(s): Cornelis, E.; Cauberghe, V. & De Pelsmacker, P.
Appeared in: European Journal of Marketing


Purpose: This study aims to contribute to previous research by investigating the principle of regulatory congruence in two-sided advertising messages. Additionally, it addresses the underlying mechanisms of the congruence effect. Methodology: The study encompasses two experiments: (1) a two-level between-subjects design, manipulating the message’s frame (prevention versus promotion), while measuring respondents’ chronic self-regulatory focus (prevention versus promotion), and (2) a 2 x 2 between-subjects design, manipulating processing depth (central versus peripheral) and message frame (prevention- versus promotion-oriented), while measuring individuals’ chronic self-regulatory focus (prevention versus promotion). Findings: Study 1 shows that in two-sided messages, the effect of regulatory congruence on attitudes toward the message depends on individuals’ self-regulatory focus: a congruence effect was only found in promotion-focused individuals. This congruence effect was driven by processing fluency. The second study builds on the first one by exploring the absence of a congruence effect found in prevention-focused individuals. Its results show that in prevention-focused individuals, processing depth influences regulatory congruence effects in two-sided messages. Under peripheral processing, prevention-focused individuals have more positive attitudes toward the issue when two-sided messages are congruent with their self-regulatory focus. Under central processing on the other hand, a regulatory incongruence effect on attitudes occurs. Originality: This study complements prior research by examining the validity of the regulatory congruence principle in the context of two-sided messages. Moreover, it addresses the underlying mechanisms driving regulatory (in)congruence effects. As such, our study contributes both to the existing research on two-sided messages, as well as that on regulatory focus.

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