Despite differenczes in the use of comparative advertising from country to country, little research has been done to explain or predict the differences in the cross-cultural effectiveness of comparative advertising. The purpose of this study was to investigate such differences by conducting an
Comparative advertising is commonplace in the United States, but it is not widely used in most other countries, due to cultural norms or government regulation (Kotabe and Helsen 1998). In Korea, where confrontation is avoided and harmony is sought, cultural norms are inconsistent with the tactics used in comparative advertising (de Mooij 1998; Miracle and Choi 1997). Comparative advertising has been allowed officially in Korea only since 2001, and has not been widely used.
Korea and the United States seemed to be a logical pair of countries for this study for two reasons: (1) the sharp contrast in the use of comparative advertising in Korea and the United States, and (2) the extreme cultural differences between the two countries. Hofstede (1991) reported that Korea is a highly collectivistic country with a low individualism rank (43rd out of the 53 countries and regions studied) and a low individualism score (18 in the range of 6 to 91). In contrast, the United States is the most individualistic and least collectivist of the 53 countries and regions studied (ranking number 1, with a score of 91). For this study, national culture, characterized by the extremes of collectivism in the two countries, was selected, along with the type of advertising (direct, indirect, and noncomparative advertising), as the independent variables. Individual values were operationalized by self-construals, a mediating individual-level variable that demonstrates how national culture influences consumer behavior.
Comparative advertising is a message format in which a competing brand attacks another brand(s) in the marketplace by making a direct or indirect comparison of one or more product attributes or benefits. The literature on comparative advertising is extensive, and the conditions under which comparative advertising is effective are widely understood (e.g., Barry 1993; Byer and Cooke 1985; Cho 1996; Droge 1989; Droge and Darmon 1987; Etgar and Goodwin 1982; Iyer 1988; Ki and Lee 2000; Kim and Hong 1996; Lord, Lee, and Sauer 1992; Lyi 1988; MacKenzie and Spreng 1995; Pechmann and Stewart 1991 ; Pride, Lamb, and Pletcher 1979).
([A.sub.ad]), attitude toward the brand ([A.sub.b]), and purchase intention (PI). The literature on these constructs is also extensive (e.g., Baban and Burns 1997; Biehal, Stephens, and Curio 1992; Gardner 1985; Gresham and Shimp 1985; LaTour and Rotfeld 1997; Machleit and Wilson 1988; MacKenzie and Lutz 1989; Mitchell and Olson 1981; Moore and Hutchinson 1983; Shimp 1981).
Since the literature on comparative advertising as well as on [A.sub.ad], [A.sub.b], and PI is so extensive and well known, it will not be reviewed here. The literature review for the present study is limited to national culture and self-construals, and their relationships to the effectiveness of advertising.
THEORY AND HYPOTHESES
National Culture and Advertising Effectiveness
In individualistic cultures, individual goals are emphasized over group goals, social ties between individuals tend to be loose, and communication is relatively direct (Triandis 1988). Members of individualistic cultures are relatively more concerned with clarity in conversations (Kim 1994), and indeed, they view clarity as necessary for effective communication (Kim and Wilson 1994). In contrast, in collectivistic cultures, people from birth onward are integrated into strong, cohesive groups; they are relatively more concerned with issues of face management, and this concern leads to their relatively greater use of indirect communication compared with people from individualistic cultures (Kim 1994; Ting-Toomey 1988; Triandis 1994)