Subservient Chicken

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Date Submitted: 12/24/2011 04:21 AM

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From Subservient Chickens to Brawny Men:

A Comparison of Viral Advertising to Television Advertising

Lance Porter, Guy J. Golan

Louisiana State University


This study sought to examine and define a division of Electronic Word-of-Mouth (eWOM) known as viral advertising. Representing the first empirical effort to investigate the content of, and ultimately define, viral advertising, this exploratory study found important differences between viral and television advertising. The definition posited in this study was confirmed. Significantly more than traditional advertising, viral advertising relies on provocative content to motivate unpaid peer-to-peer communication of persuasive messages from identified sponsors. While emotive content has always been the key to capturing audiences' attention in advertising, viral advertising relies on increasingly raw content for actual distribution. This added reliance on titillation for distribution has a number of implications both for advertisers and the ultimate consumers of advertising.


Recent media reports have heralded the end of advertising as we know it. With the increasing penetration of digital video recorders (DVRs), the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both recently declared that the future of the 30-second spot is in doubt (Manly 2005; Steinberg 2004). A current Yankelovich survey (Wegert 2004) found that 65 percent of consumers feel bombarded with too many advertising messages, and 60 percent have a more negative opinion of advertising than a few years ago. The same study found that almost 60 percent of consumers felt that advertising had nothing relevant to offer them. Media fragmentation is on the rise with consumers having an ever-increasing number of channels from which to choose. Network television ratings are down, while television upfront costs are up for media buyers (Thomaselli 2004). Increasingly the consumer is in control. What's an advertiser to do? Many...