A content analysis on features of suspenseful commercials

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Liang, Chen
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Su Jung Kim
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Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication offers two majors: Advertising (instructing students in applied communication for work in business or industry), and Journalism and Mass Communication (instructing students in various aspects of news and information organizing, writing, editing, and presentation on various topics and in various platforms). The Department of Agricultural Journalism was formed in 1905 in the Division of Agriculture. In 1925 its name was changed to the Department of Technical Journalism. In 1969 its name changed to the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications; from 1969 to 1989 the department was directed by all four colleges, and in 1989 was placed under the direction of the College of Sciences and Humanities (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). In 1998 its name was changed to the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.
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Suspense has been used as a tool that helps to keep audiences’ attention during a course of a story. It has been studied in the context of a wide range of narrative genres. Attracting and maintaining attention is critical in advertising because of the abundance of audio-visual stimuli in the current media environment. Current research about suspenseful commercials is mainly focused on a combination of hope and fear emotional responses. However, there are very few studies showing how suspense is generated in commercials.

This study attempts to find out factors that create suspense in commercials by conducting a content analysis of suspenseful and non-suspenseful commercials and compares their characteristics. A total of 203 awards winning commercials of The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity under the category “Film” from 2012 to 2014 were chosen as the sample of this study. Two coders were trained and then coded these commercials independently from three main aspects: the structure and content of commercials, emotional appeals used in commercials, and the time of brand- or product-related information shown in commercials.

The results of this study show that suspenseful commercials tend to be non-or less verbal and use more number of emotional appeals than non-suspenseful commercials. Among four types of emotional appeals (fear, hope, humor, fantasy), humor and fantasy appeals are used more frequently. The results also show that suspenseful commercials tend to show less information of products or brands than non-suspenseful commercials.

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Thu Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2015