Advertising strategy and attitude formation: A study designed to explain and predict the student college selection process

Buni Leigh Browning


During the academic year of 1997-98, West Texas A&M University, a Division II University in Texas, conducted a marketing study to determine what kinds of strategies ought to be used in order to recruit students to the university, and increase the quality of the surrounding community/ies attitude concerning WTAMU. Although the report did provide some necessary data, it did not address the attitudes of the target audience. So, the client was omitted from a very important report. In an effort to close this gap, this dissertation focuses on the attitude's of high school students concerning advertising strategies of WTAMU. These students were asked to view four different television commercials, and then rate those commercials according to the commercial's ability to attract students. The field of advertising draws on many theories in order to determine what is best for a particular target market. One of the theories that helps explain what kind of tactic is warranted is the Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty and Cacioppo, 1983). According to the authors, if the consumer has a high involvement with the product, a more central route of persuasion is necessary. If the consumer has a low involvement with the product, a more peripheral route of persuasion is necessary. Two of the four commercials in this study are based on the central route of persuasion, and two of the four commercials are based on the peripheral route of persuasion. In addition to the exploration of the Elaboration Likelihood Model, this dissertation provides a review of relevant literature on the subjects of, advertising effectiveness and target selection, student college selection process models, and the marketing report of WTAMU. Using a Likert-type scale of data gathering and the quantitative tool of split plot analysis, results of commercial ratings were tabulated in order to determine if the theory of high involvement versus low involvement plays out in the arena of college recruiting. This dissertation found that the subjects rated the commercials differently. The commercial focusing on having fun in school was the highest rated commercial. Commercials focusing on more information about the university were both rated on the moderate scale, while the commercial focusing on nothing to do with the university was rated the lowest. Although the ELM would have researchers believe that a high involvement product should be advertising along the central route of processing, this dissertation did not make that claim, based on a sample of 244 area high school students, and their involvement in having fun. Advertisers may not need to be concerned with variables such as gender and high school location when developing advertising strategies.