The effect of visual metaphor on advertising response: an integrative framework

  • Adel Sakr

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis contributes toward the better understanding of the use and effect of visual metaphor in print advertising through an integrative framework. Two overall research questions are answered in this context. Firstly, why is visual metaphor in advertising such an important phenomenon that is worth further research? Secondly, how does visual metaphor engage the consumer and elicits favorable responses to different print advertisements? Two studies were conducted to answer these questions. Study one, a content analysis on 320 print advertisements answered the first overall research question. This study provided a comprehensive assessment of the use of visual metaphor in print advertising. Results showed that visual metaphor is strongly present in print advertising and that this presence shows an increasing trend over time. Study two answered the second overall research question through two experiments. The first experiment compared the effect of different types of visual metaphor on different consumer responses. Results from this experiment showed that replacement metaphor had the most positive effect on effectiveness of the ad. Furthermore, replacement metaphor together with fusion metaphor had the most positive effect on attitude toward the brand and purchase intention. Verbo-pictorial metaphor on the other hand scored the lowest with regards to its effect on the three aforementioned responses. The effect of replacement metaphor on effectiveness of the ad, attitude toward the brand and purchase intention was positively mediated through elaboration and subjective ad comprehension. Objective ad comprehension also positively mediated the effect of replacement metaphor but only on effectiveness of the ad and purchase intention. The same results applied to verbo-pictorial metaphor. However, the mediation effects in this case were negative. Findings, also uncovered that ads that compare two metaphorical objects which are conceptually similar particularly in terms of their functional characteristics are better comprehended. Therefore, a specific visual structure may vary in its effect and hence effectiveness depending on the nature and character of this conceptual similarity as perceived by consumers. The second experiment tested the moderating effect of ad viewing time on consumer response to visual metaphor in advertising. Results, however, did not support the hypothesis related to this moderating effect. Finally, comparing the content analysis and experimental findings provides valuable insights for advertising practitioners. Practitioners can better frame their advertisements and make more effective use of the different types of visual metaphor for this purpose. Therefore, this thesis has also important practical implications.
Date of Award13 Oct 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDina Rasolofoarison (Supervisor) & Heiner Evanschitzky (Supervisor)


  • Advertising Effectiveness
  • Visual Metaphor
  • Ad Viewing Time

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