The Games People Play: How the Entertainment Value of Online Ads Helps or Harms Persuasion

 
The Games People Play:
How the Entertainment
Value of Online Ads Helps
or Harms Persuasion
Jae Min Jung
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Kyeong Sam Min
University of New Orleans

James J. Kellaris
University of Cincinnati

ABSTRACT

This research examines consumer reactions to online ads varying in
levels of entertainment value. Results show that more favorable
brand attitudes and more positive purchase intentions are formed
when consumers are exposed to an ad that generates a high (game
ad), rather than a low (banner ad) level of entertainment value. How-
ever, such effects are qualified by consumers’ shopping goals. When
consumers have access to their goals to seek specific product infor-
mation, affect transfer is impaired, such that the advantage of enter-
taining ads dissipates. This research also documents moderating
roles of individual differences in need for cognitive closure and
Internet usage versatility. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

In-game advertising refers to the placement of products in a game (Lee & Faber,
2007; Yang et al., 2006). In typical in-game ads, product information is second-
ary to the game as players devote primary attention to entertainment content

Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 28(7): 661–681 (July 2011)
View this article online at wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/mar
© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/mar.20406
                                                                             661
(e.g., the Cheerios cereal brand inserted into a NASCAR online game). Research
shows that such ads can result in low brand recall (Yang et al., 2006). Alterna-
tively, in-game ads can be constructed such that the brand and message are the
focal objects of the game (e.g., the Cheerios brand name used in a singing Chee-
rios online game), eliminating concerns for game players’ limited cognitive
resources (Lee & Faber, 2007). This type of in-game ad can be thought of as a
seamless integration of a brand into a game. Such in-game ads can be effective
due to interactivity and the entertainment they confer to browsers, who encounter
game ads while browsing casually on the Internet looking for fun without a spe-
cific information search goal (Schlosser, 2003). What is potentially more intrigu-
ing about in-game ads is that their effectiveness could reach beyond mere
browsers. That is, in-game ads may also be effective for searchers who encounter
ads while surfing the Internet with a specific shopping goal in mind, provided
such ads do not interfere with the shoppers’ information search goal. The cur-
rent research investigates how and why playing an online game can increase lik-
ing for a brand that is placed as the focal object of the game by comparing an
in-game ad with a banner ad, which has less entertainment value.
   The role of interactive technology in persuasion and consumer decision mak-
ing has been a vital research interest across various disciplines, including psy-
chology, communications, and marketing. Research on interactive technologies,
including Web sites, electronic agents, handheld devices, and Internet ads, has
focused primarily on utilitarian, informational, or functional benefits, such as
ease of use and usefulness (e.g., Bélisle & Bodur, 2010; Daugherty, Li, & Biocca,
2008; Diehl & Zauberman, 2005; Gershoff & Johar, 2006; Sohn, Ci, & Lee, 2007;
Sun, Tai, & Tsai, 2010). Such research is particularly useful for explaining the
behavior of consumers who are searching for specific information. However,
such research does not fully explain consumer reactions when consumers are
seeking hedonic benefits (fun) in addition to utilitarian benefits (product infor-
mation) (e.g., Huang, Lurie, & Mitra, 2009)—particularly when consumers’ cur-
rent goals are not congruent with their actual experience with an ad. Thus, this
research focuses on the role of entertainment value in interactive online adver-
tisements (i.e., in-game vs. banner ad).
   Prior research has shown that consumers can form positive attitudes in at least
two distinct ways. One way is when consumers learn about the association
between a pleasant ad and a product (Gibson, 2008). For example, consumers are
likely to form favorable attitudes toward the brand if they find its ad enter-
taining and visually appealing. The other way is when consumers learn that ad
messages are useful to achieve their goals (Kruglanski et al., 2002). For exam-
ple, shoppers are likely to form positive brand attitudes if they discover that
product information in the ad is helpful in meeting their shopping goals. Although
both the hedonic value of an ad and search goal–compatible external informa-
tion appear to shape attitudes independently, the goal accessibility model (e.g.,
Glasman & Albarracin, 2006; Feldman & Lynch, 1988; Reed, Wooten, & Bolton,
2002) presents a more comprehensive framework suggesting that both factors
can jointly influence attitudes. According to the goal accessibility model, a salient
goal often determines which of these two factors plays the primary role in atti-
tude formation. If consumers are looking for specific information, the external
information within an ad is likely to be what influences their attitudes. If they
are looking for entertainment, it is likely to be their hedonic, direct experience
of an ad that influences attitudes. Effectiveness of an ad depends on whether the
consumer goal accessed is congruent with the perceived benefit from an ad.

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                                                Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
By the same token, Schlosser’s (2003) object interactivity model shows that
consumers’ attitudes are influenced by congruence between their goal and prod-
uct usage experience in the context of virtual interaction with a product. For
example, consumers who simply browse a Web site (“browsers”) form more favor-
able attitudes toward the brand, compared to consumers who actively seek prod-
uct information (“searchers”), when information is presented in an interactive
way. Browsers are generally less task oriented (e.g., Hamilton & Chernev, 2010),
and thus they are more likely to focus on how much engaging experience they
can have, rather than how much information they can obtain from the Web site.
Web sites with interactive features generate more recreational and engaging
experiences than Web sites without such features. In contrast, searchers form
more positive brand attitudes than browsers when the information is presented
in a passive format without any interactive online features. Searchers are more
interested in acquiring specific product information, rather than having an
entertainment experience from the Web site. Web sites with interactive features
are more likely to inhibit them from efficiently searching for product informa-
tion than Web sites with simple text information (Peracchio & Meyers-Levy,
1997).
   Hence, the present study examines how the entertainment value of an ad
and shopping goal accessibility influence persuasion jointly. Specifically, the
main purpose of this research is to extend Schlosser’s (2003) goal congruency
effect to advance current understanding in three ways. First, this study employs
a new medium to generate an interactive virtual experience. Whereas Schlosser
makes use of simulated product usage experiences at a popular camera Web
site (e.g., pressing a telephoto button to zoom in and take a picture), the current
study uses an online game ad featuring a detergent brand (e.g., dragging and
dropping puzzle pieces to complete a picture of a brand). That is, whereas
Schlosser focuses on facilitating a simulated virtual product trial experience
via interactivity, this research looks beyond interactivity and examines how the
entertainment value of an interactive medium impacts persuasion. This study
identifies situations wherein higher level of interactivity does not necessarily
impede persuasion for the task-oriented searchers. Second, the current research
proposes a single underlying process that explains why interactivity impacts
both brand attitudes and purchase intention. Whereas Schlosser finds that an
interactive virtual experience influences consumers’ brand attitudes via cogni-
tive elaboration while influencing their purchase intention via mental imagery,
the present research proposes that interactivity influences both brand attitudes
and purchase intention through affect transfer. Finally, this research introduces
two new individual differences (need for cognitive closure and versatility of
Internet usage) that help to explain when the goal congruency effect does not
lead to the same level of persuasion.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESIS DEVELOPMENT

Entertainment Value
Associative learning involves pairing an unconditioned stimulus (e.g., an enter-
taining ad) with a conditioned stimulus (e.g., a brand of laundry detergent).
Once an association between the stimulus and the product has developed, pres-
entation of the product alone can elicit a positively conditioned response to the

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Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
product (e.g., favorable brand attitude) (e.g., Gibson, 2008; Kim, Allen, & Kardes,
1996; Scherner et al., 2008; Till, Stanley, & Priluck, 2008). In both less and more
entertaining online ads—banner ads and game ads, respectively—used in the pres-
ent study, both unconditioned and conditioned stimuli are simultaneously
present. This is a so-called simultaneous pairing, which can lead to somewhat
stronger conditioning (Mackintosh, 1974). In addition, a study of moment-to-
moment response to 30 ads (Baumgartner, Sujan, & Padgett, 1997) shows that
consumer liking for the ads and overall emotional responses are positively asso-
ciated with consumers’ peak emotional experience with the ads. Because play-
ing a game with interactive features is more entertaining and engaging than
surfing a plain Web site with static texts and graphics, products advertised in
a game should evoke more positive feelings than those advertised in a plain
Web site as a banner. Such an automatic, direct affect transfer from a favorable
attitude toward the ad or site to a favorable attitude toward the brand seems to
occur without changing brand cognitions (Karson & Fisher, 2005; MacKenzie,
Lutz, & Belch, 1986). In addition, akin to peripheral route processing per the
elaboration likelihood model (ELM), affect transfer is more likely to operate
when consumers are in a low, rather than a high involvement condition (Petty,
Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983).

Goal Accessibility
Although the entertainment value of an online ad is likely to increase persua-
sion via affect transfer, such an influence is expected to be weaker if consumers
have (vs. do not have) access to their shopping goal. When consumers surf the
Web with a specific shopping goal in mind, any online activities that are related
to the shopping goal should seem personally relevant. As demonstrated in the
ELM, consumers are likely to be motivated to engage in more systematic and
effortful processing when a decision is personally relevant (Petty, Cacioppo, &
Schumann, 1983). Thus, when consumers have a shopping goal, they are more
likely to be persuaded by the quality of the message argument than by periph-
eral cues. Effortful, central processing encourages consumers to generate cog-
nitive elaborations, thus resulting in the formation of stronger brand attitudes
that are persistent and influential on behavior (Haugtvedt et al., 1994).
   Similarly, recent research drawing on dual processing persuasion theory has
shown that an individual’s attitude can be constructed based on two alternative
sources: external information and one’s own direct experience with an attitude
object. In the context of an interactive online advertisement, whereas external
information refers to attributes of an advertised product, a direct experience
includes activities such as viewing an ad, clicking on a banner ad, or playing an
ad video clip. According to the goal accessibility model (e.g., Feldman & Lynch,
1988; Reed, Wooten, & Bolton, 2002), the dominant use of one source over the
other can be determined by accessibility to a goal. If consumers’ primary goal
is to find the right product that meets their specific needs, they are likely to
pay more attention to an ad that highlights product features rather than an ad
that offers a recreational experience. As a result, consumers who are presented
with an interactive online ad should form their attitudes based on ad messages
that are salient if they are searching for specific product information. In contrast,
consumers tend to construct their attitudes based on the entertainment value
of the ad if they are looking for fun.

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Schlosser (2003) reports an analogous finding that searchers engage in more
elaborative processing and form more positive attitudes toward the brand as
compared to browsers, when information is delivered in a passive way. In this
case, the target Web site does not allow consumers to interact with the site, sim-
ply presenting text information along with a close-up picture. In contrast, when
information is presented in a more interactive way, browsers (vs. searchers)
tend to use more heuristic processing and form more positive brand attitudes.
In this case, the Web site allows consumers to press buttons with the pointer and
even to change the target images. Consistent with the ELM and goal accessibility
model, Schlosser finds that persuasion increases with an increase in the con-
gruency between consumers’ goal and site interactivity.
   Parallel to Schlosser’s (2003) research, the current research predicts that the
effect of entertainment value on persuasion will depend on consumers’ access
to their shopping goal. The goal (search vs. browse) and site type (object inter-
active vs. passive) manipulations in Schlosser’s studies are comparable to the
goal (shopping vs. no shopping) and ad type (game vs. banner) manipulations in
the present research, respectively. First, Schlosser gives participants a specific
instruction regarding whether they are supposed to search specific information
(e.g., “efficiently find something specific within the Web site”) or to browse the
Web site (e.g., “have fun, looking at whatever you consider interesting”). How-
ever, both searching and browsing goals lead participants to be equally highly
involved in the task due to the explicit instructions. Schlosser’s manipulation of
the browsing goal does not seem to be a process that characterizes browsers’
everyday behavior. Therefore, this study shows the goal congruency effect by
using a less direct goal manipulation that mentions a shopping goal only for
searchers, but not for browsers. Second, whereas Schlosser varies interactivity
of the Web site to see if it prevents searchers from seeking their goal, the cur-
rent research manipulates interactivity of the ad such that it does not prevent
searchers from pursuing their goal. As a result, for entertainment seekers whose
shopping goals are not salient (e.g., “browsers” in Schlosser’s research), an
increase in entertainment value of an ad should lead to more favorable atti-
tudes and more positive purchase intentions. However, for information seekers
whose shopping goals are salient (e.g., “searchers” in Schlosser’s research), such
effects should be attenuated:

    H1:    Goal accessibility will moderate the positive effect of entertainment value
           on (a) brand attitudes and (b) purchase intentions, such that the effect
           will be stronger among casual browsers versus information seekers.

   Whereas Schlosser (2003) investigates an underlying process by which favor-
able brand attitudes are formed via thoughtful cognitive elaboration, the cur-
rent study examines a different process by which persuasion arises via mere
affect transfer. Focusing on consumer evaluations under high elaboration con-
ditions, Schlosser demonstrates that consumers form more positive attitudes
toward the brand when their goals are congruent (vs. incongruent) with the
interactivity of the presented information. The goal congruency effect is medi-
ated by how many different thoughts consumers generate about the self, the
product, or the Web design.
   However, the present research investigates analogous effects under which
hedonic experiences, rather than extensive thoughts, are more likely to occur.

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Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
In this case, it is expected that the entertainment value of an online ad will
facilitate the formation of more positive attitudes and behavioral intentions
among entertainment seekers via affect transfer (e.g., Karson & Fisher, 2005;
MacKenzie, Lutz, & Belch, 1986; Strick et al., 2009), but not among information
seekers. This study uses consumers’ perceived entertainment value of the ad,
rather than conventional attitude toward the ad, as a potential mediator for
two reasons. One is that perceived entertainment value of the ad can better
capture hedonic benefits associated with the ad than the attitude toward the ad.
The other is that perceived entertainment value of the ad can help to reduce a
potential concern for a feedback effect from a favorable brand attitude to a favor-
able attitude toward the ad. Tide laundry detergent, this research’s target brand,
is a well-known leading brand in the marketplace, so people are likely to form
positive attitudes toward the ad due to their preconceived positive brand atti-
tude. However, it is unlikely that people’s greater perceived entertainment value
of the ad is caused by their favorable brand attitude. Thus, the current research
predicts that entertainment seekers’ favorable perceived entertainment value
of the ad will be transferred to their attitudes toward the brand and purchase
intentions as follows:

      H2:   For entertainment seekers, perceived entertainment value of the ad will
            mediate the influence of entertainment value of the ad on (a) attitude
            toward the brand and (b) purchase intention; however, (c) for information
            seekers, perceived entertainment value of the ad will not mediate the
            process.

Need for Cognitive Closure
Prior research generally assumes that persuasion is more likely to arise when
consumers’ goals are congruent, rather than incongruent, with the information
presentation format (e.g., Gupta & Kabadayi, 2010; Ha & Lennon, 2010; Novak &
Hoffman, 2009; Peracchio & Meyers-Levy, 1997; Schlosser, 2003). However, the
current study challenges this assumption and explores boundary conditions in
which such a goal congruency effect can be promoted or diminished. Building on
the need for cognitive closure literature, this research claims that the role of
goal congruency in persuasion should depend on whether consumers are moti-
vated to obtain quick closure.
   According to research on the need for cognitive closure, people who pursue an
unambiguous answer to a question (i.e., people high in need for cognitive closure)
tend to prefer abstract, rather than concrete, knowledge that can be applied in
various situations in a consistent manner (Kruglanski et al., 2002; Webster &
Kruglanski, 1994). Individuals high in need for cognitive closure, those with-
out patience, are often motivated to achieve closure instantly and then retain
it permanently. Accordingly, they tend to rely on a limited amount of informa-
tion to reach the final decision (Choi et al., 2008). As a result, such individuals’
judgments are more likely to be influenced by a cue such as whether their goals
are congruent with their experience, compared to judgments by individuals low
in need for cognitive closure.
   Therefore, this research predicts that an individual difference in need for
cognitive closure will qualify the interaction effect between entertainment value
of an ad and goal accessibility. For consumers low in need for cognitive closure,

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brand attitudes and purchase intentions should be influenced by their direct
hedonic experience with the ad, regardless of its congruency with their goals.
Their evaluations will be more favorable with an increase in their perceived
entertainment value of the ad.
   For consumers high in need for cognitive closure, who tend to jump to a con-
clusion on the basis of incomplete information, brand attitudes and purchase
intentions should be influenced by whether their goals are congruent with their
experience. If they do not have access to their shopping goal and thus are look-
ing for fun instead, their evaluations should be more favorable with an increase
in the entertainment value of the ad via affect transfer. In contrast, if they have
access to their shopping goal, their evaluations should decrease with an increase in
the entertainment value of the ad. A decrease in persuasion with an increase
in the entertainment value results from the fact that consumers who have a
shopping goal cannot seize on closure immediately if their goal of finding spe-
cific information is not congruent with their hedonic experience. Hence, the
present study hypothesizes that the influence of entertainment value and goal
accessibility on persuasion will depend on need for cognitive closure (three-way
interactions) as follows:

    H3:    There will be an entertainment value ⫻ goal accessibility ⫻ need for cog-
           nitive closure interaction on persuasion, such that among consumers low
           in need for cognitive closure, (a) attitudes toward the brand and (b) pur-
           chase intentions will be influenced by entertainment value of the ad,
           rather than by whether their goals are congruent with ad entertainment
           value; among consumers high in need for cognitive closure, evaluations will
           be lower if their goals are incongruent, rather than congruent, with the
           entertainment value of the ad.

Multifinality Pursuit
Similar to consumers’ need for cognitive closure, consumers’ differences in pur-
suing multiple goals are also expected to play a moderating role in the goal con-
gruency effect. According to goal systems theory, an individual’s goals are
connected to their means in a network (Kruglanski & Kopetz, 2009; Kruglanski
et al., 2002). Whereas a single goal can be linked to multiple means (i.e., equi-
finality set, “All roads lead to Rome”), multiple goals can be attached to a
single means (i.e., multifinality set, “Killing two birds with one stone”). For
example, in the case of the equifinality set, a student can achieve a goal of com-
municating with a future employer by using a phone, a fax, or the Internet. In
the case of the multifinality set, a student can satisfy his or her goal of finding
study guides, contacting future employers, purchasing books, and playing online
games by using the Internet. Chun and Kruglanski (2004) show that individu-
als high (vs. low) in need for cognitive closure are more likely to pursue a mul-
tifinality goal because such individuals want to achieve instant closure and then
keep it permanently by using abstract, cross-situational knowledge in multiple
situations.
    Thus, the current research predicts that, analogously to an individual’s need
for cognitive closure, a consumer’s possession of versatile ability to pursue mul-
tiple goals with the same means can also qualify the joint influence of enter-
tainment value of an ad and goal accessibility on persuasion. In the context of

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Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
online advertising, consumers’ evaluations of an online ad are likely to be influ-
enced by their Internet usage experience. As implied by Chun and Kruglanski
(2004) and H3, consumers who possess multiple goals in using the Internet
(“versatile Internet users”) should be more influenced by the congruency between
their goal and experience with the ad, compared to those who have limited goals
(“limited Internet users”). Among limited Internet users, persuasion will be
directly affected by the ad’s perceived entertainment value, regardless of whether
their goal is congruent with their experience with the ad. In other words, eval-
uations should be more favorable when the perceived entertainment value of the
ad increases.
   For versatile Internet users, if they do not have access to their shopping goal
and are seeking entertainment instead, their persuasion will increase with an
increase in perceived entertainment value of the ad. Yet, if they do have access
to their shopping goal, their evaluations will decrease with an increase in per-
ceived entertainment value of the ad.
   Hence, the influence of entertainment value and goal accessibility on per-
suasion should depend on a consumer’s tendency to pursue multiple goals with
a single means.

      H4:   There will be an entertainment value ⫻ goal accessibility ⫻ versatility of
            Internet usage interaction on persuasion, such that among limited Inter-
            net users, (a) attitudes toward the brand and (b) purchase intentions will
            be influenced by entertainment value of the ad, rather than by whether
            their goals are congruent with entertainment value; among versatile Inter-
            net users, evaluations should be lower when their goals are incongruent,
            rather than congruent, with the entertainment value of the ad.

METHOD

Participants and Design
One hundred fifty-two undergraduate students participated in a laboratory
experiment in exchange for course credit and a chance to win a $100 cash prize.
The participants ranged in age from 20 to 42 (M ⫽ 22.9, SD ⫽ 2.92) and work
experience from 0 to 25 years (M ⫽ 6.2, SD ⫽ 3.44), with males having slightly
higher representation (53%) than females.
   To test the predictions, a 2 (entertainment value: high vs. low) ⫻ 2 (shopping
goal accessibility: shopping goal vs. no-shopping goal) between-subjects design was
employed. Entertainment value of an ad was manipulated using two different
online ads that generated different levels of entertaining experiences. Partici-
pants in the high and low entertainment value conditions were presented with
a game ad or banner ad, respectively (see Appendix). The game ad was composed
of interactive quizzes about a target product, so the advertised brand and mes-
sages were the focal objects of the game. In contrast, the banner ad was placed
on the top of a popular music Web site, www.billboard.com, appropriate for study
participants. This research also manipulated accessibility to a shopping goal by
presenting participants with different instructions before they evaluated the
ads. In the shopping goal condition, participants were told that they would need
to buy a new laundry detergent for their laundry to get ready for an important
party in a few days. They were also led to believe that they would be given a

668                                                           JUNG, MIN, AND KELLARIS
                                                 Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
chance to select a laundry detergent of their choice as a gift to take home after
the study was over. In the no-shopping goal condition, the participants were not
provided with such information as a reason to buy a new laundry detergent.

Procedure
Upon arrival, participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions,
and were instructed either to play a Web game or to browse a Web site for
10 minutes. Next, the goal accessibility manipulation was introduced as described
previously. The target ad, the Tide laundry detergent ad, and filler ads were
embedded in a Web game or a website. After spending 10 minutes on each activ-
ity, the participants were given two booklets, one at a time. The first booklet
included open-ended questions measuring unaided recall of advertised brands
and recall of main messages of the laundry detergent ad. In the second booklet,
participants were asked a series of questions related to their responses to adver-
tisements and brands, such as perceived entertainment value of the ad, atti-
tudes toward the brand, and purchase intentions. After responding to the need
for cognitive closure questions, participants were provided with questions
designed to measure their versatility in Internet activities and their demo-
graphic information. When the second booklet was turned in, participants were
debriefed and thanked for their participation.

Measurement
Recall. To facilitate manipulation checks on shopping goal accessibility, both
unaided brand recall and message recall were measured. Unaided brand recall
was measured by the accuracy of the responses to the request for participants
to list the names of all the brands that were advertised. Two judges, who were
blind to the hypotheses, coded a response as correct if the target brand name,
Tide, was listed and as incorrect if Tide was not listed. The interjudge reliabil-
ity (Perreault & Leigh, 1989)1 was 0.98 and disagreements were reconciled
through discussion. Advertised message recall was measured by the accuracy of
the responses to the question that asked participants to describe the main mes-
sages of the laundry detergent ad with as much detail as possible. Two judges
coded a response as correct if detailed description of the messages on the Tide
ad was provided and as incorrect if the messages were vague. The interjudge reli-
ability was 0.86 and all disagreements were resolved through discussion.

Perceived Entertainment Value. Perceived entertainment value was meas-
ured on a 7-point Likert-type scale (e.g., 1 ⫽ strongly disagree; 7 ⫽ strongly
agree) with seven items (e.g., “I thought it was clever and entertaining,” “The
enthusiasm of the advertising is catchy—it picks you up”) adopted from
Schlinger’s (1984) scale (Cronbach’s a ⫽ 0.938).

Attitude Toward the Brand. Attitude toward the brand (Cronbach’s
a ⫽ 0.927) was measured on a 7-point semantic differential scale with four items
(unpleasant/pleasant, unlikable/likable, boring/interesting, bad/good) taken from
MacKenzie, Lutz, and Belch (1986).

1
    Ir ⫽ {[(Fo /N) ⫺ (1/k)][k/(k ⫺ 1)]}0.5, for (Fo /N) ⱖ (1/k), where Ir ⫽ reliability index, Fo ⫽ observed
    frequency of agreement between judges, N ⫽ total number of judgments, k ⫽ number of categories.

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Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
Purchase Intention. Purchase intention was measured with a 7-point scale
(1 ⫽ less likely to purchase; 7 ⫽ more likely to purchase) (“If you have to buy a
detergent next time you go shopping, what is the likelihood that you might pur-
chase Tide as a result of the advertising you just viewed?”).

Need for Cognitive Closure. Participants’ need for cognitive closure was
measured on a 6-point Likert-type scale (e.g., 1 ⫽ strongly disagree; 6 ⫽ strongly
agree) with 20 items (Houghton & Grewal, 2000) (Cronbach’s a ⫽ 0.670). Par-
ticipants were categorized as either high or low in need for cognitive closure
based on a median split (Median ⫽ 3.60).

Versatility of Internet Usage. Participants’ versatility index was created based
on the number of different Internet usage experiences selected from 12 different
categories, including online product purchase, online chatting, online phone con-
ference, and other online experiences. The total number of different Internet usage
experiences was scored from 0 to 12 and then median spilt (Median ⫽ 6.00). Those
who have used the Internet in more than six different categories were grouped into
versatile Internet users and the rest were categorized as limited Internet users.
Whereas Chun and Kruglanski (2004) measured the number of goals that can be
attainable using computers, the versatility index of the current research captured
the number of goals that have already been achieved using computers.

RESULTS

Manipulation Checks
To check for successful manipulation of entertainment value of the ad (EV), a
t-test was run on the perceived entertainment value measure. The result showed
that the participants in the high EV condition, who were exposed to a game ad
(M ⫽ 5.07), felt higher entertainment value for the target Tide ad than those in
the low EV condition, who were exposed to a banner ad [M ⫽ 3.68; t(150) ⫽ 7.37,
p ⬍ 0.0001, h2 ⫽ 0.27]. Thus, the manipulation of ad entertainment value was
successful.
   To check for successful manipulation of goal accessibility (GA), brand name
recall and message recall were assessed. As expected, a significant effect of goal
accessibility on brand name recall [t(149) ⫽ 4.41, p ⬍ 0.0001, h2 ⫽ 0.12] and
advertised message recall [t(150) ⫽ 3.49, p ⬍ 0.001, h2 ⫽ 0.08] was observed.
A higher portion of participants in the shopping goal accessibility condition
recalled not only the target brand (Mshopping goal ⫽ 93%, Mno-shopping goal ⫽ 64%),
but also advertised messages (Mshopping goal ⫽ 68%, Mno-shopping goal ⫽ 42%), com-
pared to those in the no-shopping goal condition. Thus, the manipulation of goal
accessibility was successful.

Joint Impact of Entertainment Value and Goal
Accessibility (Tests of H1)
A 2 (entertainment value) ⫻ 2 (goal accessibility) ANOVA was conducted and the
results are presented in Figure 1. As hypothesized, there was an interactive

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(1) Attitude Toward the Brand (H1a)          (2) Purchase Intention (H1b)
     6                                            6

     5                                            5

     4                                            4

     3                                            3
                               No Shopping Goal                              No Shopping Goal

     2                         Shopping Goal                                 Shopping Goal
                                                  2

     1                                            1
              Banner Ad            Game Ad                 Banner Ad             Game Ad

  Figure 1. Effects of entertainment value ⫻ goal accessibility on persuasion (H1).

effect of the treatments on attitude toward the brand [F(1,146) ⫽ 8.47, p ⬍ 0.004,
h2 ⫽ 0.06] and purchase intention [F(1,147) ⫽ 3.04, p ⬍ 0.09, h2 ⫽ 0.02]. Specif-
ically, consistent with H1a and H1b, entertainment seekers exhibited more pos-
itive attitude toward the brand [Mgame ad ⫽ 5.23, Mbanner ad ⫽ 4.17, F(1,81) ⫽ 20.12,
p ⬍ 0.0001, h2 ⫽ 0.20] and purchase intention [Mgame ad ⫽ 4.09, Mbanner ad ⫽ 3.38,
F(1,82) ⫽ 4.66, p ⬍ 0.04, h2 ⫽ 0.05] when they were exposed to a more enter-
taining ad (game ad) compared to a less entertaining ad (banner ad).
   Further, as predicted, information seekers were not influenced by the enter-
tainment value of an ad in terms of attitude toward the brand [Mgame ad ⫽ 5.17,
Mbanner ad ⫽ 5.15, F (1,65) ⬍ 1, n.s.] and purchase intention [Mgame ad ⫽ 4.44,
Mbanner ad ⫽ 4.58, F(1,65) ⬍ 1, n.s.]. Therefore, both H1a and H1b were supported.

Mediational Role of Perceived Entertainment Value
of the Ad (Tests of H2)
Using the analytic procedure suggested by Baron and Kenny (1986), the current
study tested whether entertainment seekers’ perceived entertainment value of
the ad would mediate the impact of entertainment value on attitude toward the
brand (i.e., causal link: EV S PEVad S Ab). The results of a series of regression
analyses are presented in Table 1.
   For entertainment seekers, entertainment value was a significant predictor
of perceived entertainment value of the ad (b ⫽ 0.769, p ⬍ 0.0001) and atti-
tude toward the brand (b ⫽ 0.504, p ⬍ 0.0001). Perceived entertainment value
of the ad had a significant impact on attitude toward the brand (b ⫽ 0.570,
p ⬍ 0.0001). When perceived entertainment value of the ad was controlled for,
the direct effect of entertainment value on attitude toward the brand became
insignificant (b ⫽ 0.121, n.s.; Sobel’s z ⫽ 4.37, p ⬍ 0.0001), indicating a full
mediation effect of perceived entertainment value of the ad. Therefore, H2a
was supported.
   Similarly, the analysis examined whether entertainment seekers’ perceived
entertainment value of the ad would mediate the impact of entertainment value
on purchase intention (i.e., causal link: EV S PEVad S PI). Entertainment

THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY                                                                           671
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
Table 1. Regression Analysis Reporting Direct and Indirect Effects of Enter-
tainment Value on Persuasion (H2).
                                                                                  No-Shopping Goal
                                                    Shopping Goal                  (Entertainment
                                                (Information Seekers)                 Seekers)
Independent                 Dependent
Variables                   Variables               b            p-Value            b           p-Value

Causal link: EV S PEVad S Ab
EV                    PEVad                        1.26          0.0001           1.54          0.0001
EV                      Ab                         0.02            NS             1.05          0.0001
PEVad                   Ab                         0.41          0.0001           0.57          0.0001
EV and PEVad:           Ab
  EV                                            ⫺0.65            0.02             0.24            n.s.
  PEVad                                          0.53            0.0001           0.52          0.0001
Causal link: EV S PEVad S PI
EV                    PEVad                      1.26            0.0001           1.54          0.0001
EV                      PI                      ⫺0.15             n.s.            0.72          0.04
PEVad                   PI                       0.36            0.02             0.55          0.0001
EV and PEVad:           PI
  EV                                            ⫺0.79            0.05          ⫺0.18              n.s.
  PEVad                                          0.51            0.002          0.58            0.0001
    Notes: EV ⫽ entertainment value (1 ⫽ game ad; 0 ⫽ banner ad); PEVad ⫽ perceived entertainment value of
the ad; Ab ⫽ attitude toward the brand; PI ⫽ purchase intention.

value was a predictor of purchase intention (b ⫽ 0.358, p ⬍ 0.04) and perceived
entertainment value of the ad had a significant impact on purchase intention
(b ⫽ 0.545, p ⬍ 0.0001). When perceived entertainment value of the ad was con-
trolled for, the direct effect of entertainment value on purchase intention became
insignificant (b ⫽ ⫺0.087, n.s.; Sobel’s z ⫽ 3.63, p ⬍ 0.0003), indicating a full
mediation effect of perceived entertainment value of the ad. Therefore, H2b was
also supported. These results are also presented in Table 1.
   In contrast, for information seekers, perceived entertainment value of the ad
did not mediate the impact of entertainment value on brand attitude or purchase
intention. Thus, H2c was also supported.

Moderating Role of Need for Cognitive Closure (Tests of H3)
H3 predicted a three-way interaction effect on brand attitude (H3a) and purchase
intention (H3b) among entertainment value, goal accessibility, and need for cog-
nitive closure. There was a significant three-way interaction for brand attitude
[F(1,142) ⫽ 5.90, p ⬍ 0.02, h2 ⫽ 0.04], but not for purchase intention
[F(1,143) ⬍ 1, n.s.]. Thus, the three-way interaction effect was further analyzed
using only the brand attitude measure. The reason for the lack of the three-way
interaction effect on purchase intention is addressed in the discussion section.
   To understand the source of the three-way interaction effect on brand attitude,
a two-way ANOVA was run at each level of need for cognitive closure. As pre-
dicted, there was a significant two-way interactive effect of entertainment value
and goal accessibility on brand attitude among consumers high in need for

672                                                                       JUNG, MIN, AND KELLARIS
                                                             Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
(1) Low NFCC individuals                   (2) High NFCC individuals
6                                          6

5                                          5

4                                          4

3                                          3
                        No Shopping Goal                           No Shopping Goal
2                       Shopping Goal      2                       Shopping Goal

1                                          1
        Banner Ad              Game Ad             Banner Ad           Game Ad

Figure 2. Effects of entertainment value ⫻ goal accessibility ⫻ need for cognitive
closure on attitude toward the brand (H3).

cognitive closure [F(1,70) ⫽ 16.21, p ⬍ 0.0001, h2 ⫽ 0.19] but not among those
low in need for cognitive closure [F(1,72) ⬍ 1, n.s.; see Figure 2].
   Consistent with the prediction, simple main effects tests showed that for con-
sumers low in need for cognitive closure, attitude toward the brand increased
with an increase in entertainment value of the ad, regardless of whether they were
information seekers [Mbanner ad ⫽ 4.69, Mgame ad ⫽ 5.27, F(1,29) ⫽ 3.06, p ⬍ 0.09,
h2 ⫽ 0.10] or entertainment seekers [Mbanner ad ⫽ 4.35, Mgame ad ⫽ 5.08,
F(1,43) ⫽ 3.93, p ⬍ 0.06, h2 ⫽ 0.08]. For consumers high in need for cognitive
closure, their attitude toward the brand also increased with an increase in enter-
tainment value when they did not have access to shopping goals. Thus, their atti-
tude was formed on the basis of entertainment value [Mbanner ad ⫽ 3.97,
Mgame ad ⫽ 5.40, F(1,36) ⫽ 29.86, p ⬍ 0.0001, h2 ⫽ 0.45]. However, contrary to the
prediction, the brand attitudes of consumers high in need for cognitive closure with
a shopping goal accessed did not significantly decrease with an increase in enter-
tainment value of the ad [Mbanner ad ⫽ 5.51, Mgame ad ⫽ 5.08, F(1,34) ⫽ 1.26, n.s.].
The reason why entertainment value did not decrease information seekers’ brand
attitude in the high need for cognitive closure condition is addressed in the discussion
section. Therefore, H3a was partly supported but H3b was not supported.

Moderating Role of Versatility of Internet Usage (Tests of H4)
As was the case in the test of H3, a three-way interaction effect was observed
among entertainment value, goal accessibility, and versatility of Internet usage
only for brand attitude (H4a) [F(1,142) ⫽ 7.41, p ⬍ 0.007, h2 ⫽ 0.05], but not
for purchase intention (H4b) [F(1,143) ⬍ 1, n.s.]. Thus, the three-way interaction
effect was further analyzed only on brand attitude again and the reason for the
lack of the three-way interaction effect on purchase intention is explained in
the discussion section.
   To understand the source of the three-way interaction, a two-way ANOVA
was performed at each level of versatility of Internet usage. As expected, there
was a significant two-way interactive effect on brand attitude for versatile Inter-
net users [F (1,71) ⫽ 22.11, p ⬍ 0.0001, h2 ⫽ 0.24] but not for limited Internet

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Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
(1) Limited Internet Users                   (2) Versatile Internet Users
6                                            6

5                                            5

4                                            4

3                                            3
                          No Shopping Goal                              No Shopping Goal

2                         Shopping Goal      2                          Shopping Goal

1                                            1
         Banner Ad               Game Ad              Banner Ad                 Game Ad

Figure 3. Effects of entertainment value ⫻ goal accessibility ⫻ versatility of Internet
usage on attitude toward the brand (H4).

users [F (1,71) ⬍ 1, n.s.]. The pattern of effects mirrors that for high NFCC indi-
viduals and low NFCC individuals, respectively, as shown in Figure 3.
   As predicted, simple main effects tests showed that for limited Internet
users, their attitude toward the brand tended to increase with an increase in
ad entertainment value, regardless of whether they were information seekers
[Mbanner ad ⫽ 5.04, Mgame ad ⫽ 5.50, F(1,31) ⫽ 1.25, n.s.] or entertainment seek-
ers [Mbanner ad ⫽ 4.61, Mgame ad ⫽ 5.07, F(1,40) ⫽ 1.30, n.s.], even though the effects
were not statistically significant. For versatile Internet users, their brand
attitude significantly increased with an increase in entertainment value of the
ad when consumers did not have access to a shopping goal [Mbanner ad ⫽ 3.87,
Mgame ad ⫽ 5.46, F(1,39) ⫽ 45.41, p ⬍ 0.0001, h2 ⫽ 0.54]. However, for versatile
Internet users with a shopping goal accessed, a decrease in their brand atti-
tude was not significant when entertainment value increased [Mbanner ad ⫽ 5.30,
Mgame ad ⫽ 4.96, F(1,32) ⬍ 1, n.s.]. The potential reason why entertainment value
did not reduce information seekers’ brand attitude in the versatile Internet
usage condition is further addressed in the discussion section. Therefore, H4a
was partly supported but H4b was not supported.

GENERAL DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

Summary and Implications
The current research examines consumer reactions to online ads that generate
either a high or a low level of recreational experience. Findings illuminate the
role of entertainment value of an ad in consumer persuasion. Consistent with
the goal accessibility model (Feldman & Lynch, 1988; Reed, Wooten, & Bolton,
2002), this research found that when consumers do not have access to a shop-
ping goal, ad entertainment value that is salient positively influenced brand
attitudes and purchase intentions. When consumers have access to a shopping
goal that is salient, however, their goal accessibility, as opposed to entertain-
ment value, drives persuasion.

674                                                                     JUNG, MIN, AND KELLARIS
                                                           Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
Moreover, this research conceptually replicates Schlosser (2003) and extends
it in several ways. First, the current study tests the goal congruency effect using
a new interactive medium. Schlosser’s participants had online trial experiences
with a target product, Kodak camera, by pressing a telephoto button to take a
picture. However, this study’s participants played interactive games, for instance,
taking a quiz that asked about features of a target product, Tide detergent, by
clicking the correct answer choice before it disappears from the screen. Accord-
ingly, unlike Schlosser’s focus on functional benefits of an interactive medium,
the current research goes beyond functional benefits to explore how hedonic
value of a medium plays a role in persuasion. The current research shows that
an interactive, entertaining in-game ad like the one used in this study is effec-
tive not only for browsers, but also for information searchers. Notably, task-
oriented searchers find a more interactive and entertaining in-game ad campaign
not necessarily distractive. This is a point of departure from Schlosser’s findings.
    Second, whereas Schlosser (2003) proposes cognitive elaboration as the under-
lying mechanism by which brand attitudes would be formed and changed, the
present study proposes a different underlying process by which brand attitudes
could be constructed via affect transfer. Specifically, it is shown that when con-
sumers do not have access to a shopping goal, the perceived entertainment value
of the ad is automatically transferred to brand attitudes and purchase intentions,
thus resulting in an increase in persuasion (MacKenzie, Lutz, & Belch, 1986;
Strick et al., 2009). In contrast, when consumers have access to a shopping goal,
the perceived entertainment value of the ad is not transferred to attitudes and
purchase intentions. The findings offer additional insight into how and why
entertaining ads help consumers form favorable attitudes toward advertised
brands.
    Finally, the present study investigates two new individual differences that are
boundary conditions for the goal congruency effect: need for cognitive closure
(NFCC) and versatility of Internet usage. Understanding the interplay between
these variables is important because individuals who have different disposi-
tional traits can exhibit the same level of persuasion through different psycho-
logical mechanisms. Building on goal systems theory (Chun & Kruglanski, 2004;
Kruglanski & Kopetz, 2009; Kruglanski et al., 2002), this research finds that the
degree to which goal accessibility moderates the impact of ad entertainment
value on persuasion differs depending on individual differences in NFCC and
versatility of Internet usage. For low NFCC individuals (or limited Internet
users), goal accessibility does not moderate the impact of ad entertainment
value on brand attitudes. Brand attitudes become more positive with an increase
in ad entertainment value, regardless of whether consumers have a shopping
goal accessed or not. In contrast, for high NFCC individuals (or versatile Inter-
net users), goal accessibility moderates the impact of ad entertainment value on
brand attitudes, such that for those with no shopping goal accessed, brand atti-
tude becomes more positive with an increase in ad entertainment value. How-
ever, for those with a shopping goal accessed, brand attitudes remain positive,
unchanged by ad entertainment value.
    The present research would seem to hold some provisional implications for in-
game advertising. Drawing on the limited-capacity model of attention and using
a car racing game, Lee and Faber (2007) show that recall of brands embedded in
the focal area of the game (i.e., a gate through which cars must pass) is greater
than that of brands placed in the peripheral field (i.e., background billboards

THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY                                                            675
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
located in the far left side of the track), indicating that the proximity of prod-
uct placement matters when consumers process ads. An implication of their
study is that consumers need additional cognitive resources to process ads placed
in the background (Lee & Faber, 2007). The in-game ad used in the present
study is different from the typical in-game ad in that the advertised brand and
messages in the game are themselves the focal objects of the game rather than
the secondary objects. In a sense, the in-game ad of current research is a seam-
less integration of an ad into a game. With this kind of in-game ad, immersion
in the game would be less likely to divide gamers’ attention. On the contrary, it
could actually help gamers remember the brand and its features, potentially
leading to greater persuasion. This may explain why there were higher levels
of brand attitudes and purchase intentions in the game ad condition, regardless
of shopping goal accessibility.
   This research presents a significant managerial implication for interactive
game developers and advertising practitioners when they aim to improve the
effectiveness of their game ads. The present research implies that seamless inte-
gration of product information into entertainment is an important factor. An
emerging technology such as virtual try-on technology seems to be consistent with
this approach (Kim & Forsythe, 2008).

Directions for Future Research
There are certain features of this study that suggest opportunities for further
research. First, the entertainment value manipulation used in this study may
have influenced the degree of interactivity with the ad. Although this research
assumed that interactivity would contribute to a positive recreational experience,
the relationship between interactivity and consumer attitudes can be reversed
if consumers do not have a high expectation for interactivity (Sohn, Ci, & Lee,
2007). Thus, it might be interesting to examine entertainment value of the ad
independent of interactivity.
    Second, whereas participants in the shopping goal accessibility condition
exhibited significantly higher recall rates than those in the no-shopping goal con-
dition, one may wonder if the difference in recall rates would also impact per-
suasion. Additional analyses show that consumers’ recall of brand or ad messages
can serve as a full mediator for the influence of goal accessibility on brand atti-
tude, but not for the influence of goal accessibility on purchase intention. Even
though these findings are comparable with Schlosser’s (2003) findings showing
cognitive elaboration as a mediator on brand attitude, but not on purchase inten-
tion, further investigation will be needed to clarify the relationship among goal
accessibility, cognitive elaboration, and persuasion.
    Third, although significant three-way interactive effects were found on brand
attitude, this research did not observe a similar effect on purchase intentions.
This may have occurred because the purchase intentions of the participants
with shopping goals did not change with an increase in their need for cognitive
closure or multifinality pursuit. The fact that participants in the shopping goal
condition were informed by experimenters that they would be offered a free
detergent of their choice at the end of the study might have caused them to be
less susceptible to internal motivation for instant closure or multifinality pur-
suit. The three-way interactive effect on brand attitude showed a similar ten-
dency. The brand attitude of those with shopping goals did not change

676                                                         JUNG, MIN, AND KELLARIS
                                               Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
significantly with an increase in need for cognitive closure or multifinality pur-
suit, even though the interaction effects were significant. Perhaps participants
with shopping goals had more positive brand attitudes because they believed they
would receive free detergent. Future studies may wish to reexamine these rela-
tionships while controlling for the benefits participants expect to receive.
    Fourth, the current research hypothesized and found that perceived enter-
tainment value would mediate the impact of EV on brand attitude and pur-
chase intention when viewers were exposed to ads online while merely browsing
the Web without a shopping goal. This result shows that affective entertain-
ment value is transferred to brand attitudes and purchase intentions. When
viewers are exposed to the ads while searching for product information with
their salient shopping goal, however, perceived entertainment value of the ad
did not mediate the persuasion process. In this case, automatic affect transfer
does not seem to explain ad effectiveness. Despite the fact that a higher level of
ad entertainment was at odds with viewers’ shopping goals, more entertaining
in-game ads were still as effective as less entertaining banner ads. This finding
is in contrast to Schlosser’s (2003) study, in which ad effectiveness considerably
deteriorated when a higher level of object interactivity was at odds with view-
ers’ information search needs. This is an interesting point of difference. The rea-
son for an in-game ad’s effectiveness might be that the in-game ad provides the
necessary information in a way that does not take up too much of cognitive
resources for the task-oriented viewers with a shopping goal accessed. It should
be noted that perceived entertainment value of the ad in the current study is
different from Schlosser’s mental imagery of the ad in terms of its antecedents
and consequences. Whereas Schlosser’s imagery is generated by participants’
interactive product trial experiences, the perceived entertainment value of the
ad in the current research is influenced by participants’ recreational experi-
ences with the game ad. Additionally, unlike the imagery process that leads
only to increased purchase intentions in Schlosser’s study, the perceived enter-
tainment value process in this research contributes to increasing both brand
attitudes and purchase intentions. It would be valuable to further examine the
role and impact of these two similar constructs.
    Fifth, it is possible that results may vary depending on the difficulty of play-
ing an online game. For example, if it takes a longer time for consumers to play
a game due to a slow Internet connection, their recreational experience will
decrease. According to Schwarz (2004; in press), the fluency with which infor-
mation is processed can influence evaluations. Indeed the ease or difficulty of
processing can play a more important role than ad content in shaping attitudes.
It would be interesting to investigate how the difficulty of an online game ad influ-
ences persuasion.
    Sixth, it can be argued that information seekers’ attitudes and intentions
were not significantly lower than those of entertainment seekers in the game
ad condition, because the product type is a rather low involvement category.
Use of higher-involvement products might demand more cognitive resources
and thus reduce persuasion for information seekers when they have a shopping
goal accessed. Thus, future investigations may wish to use high involvement
products.
    Finally, although participants were asked to play an online game without
any break, recent research has shown that the presence of interruptions can
impact consumer experiences. For example, interruptions can not only make a

THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY                                                             677
Psychology & Marketing DOI: 10.1002/mar
pleasant consumption experience more enjoyable (Nelson & Meyvis, 2008), but
also change information processing from a bottom-up, data-driven to a top-down,
goal-driven mode (Liu, 2008). It would be interesting to explore how interrup-
tions or breaks during an online game may influence consumer judgment and
decision making.

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