Consumer sentiment toward international activist advertising

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Companies have been increasingly conveying activist advertising messages to international audiences in response to persisting social ills and unsustainable business practices. Given the ambiguity surrounding the effects of international advertising, this study aims to compare the response of local consumers to a multinational brand’s standardized activist advertising strategy with creative executions adapted to the national contexts of Greece and the USA. The selected brand originates from the USA. The paper used a systematic qualitative approach and sentiment analysis using Microsoft Excel and Azure Machine Learning add-in. Analysis conducted on 1,051 user comments in January 2023 regarding two publicly accessible social media posts of a multinational haircare brand showed both similarities and differences in consumer responses. 662 comments were in English and 389 comments were in Greek. The study’s dataset was anonymized entirely and de-identified. The results indicate that consumer sentiment was largely negative in both countries. Although the relative share of negative comments was significantly higher in the USA (96.7%) than in Greece (59.4%), both groups of consumers placed their emphasis on the same themes (e.g., children and products). Therefore, they have perceived the main message similarly, irrespective of the execution differences. Overall, the findings can be attributed to strategic and tactical issues of the activist advertising campaign, as well as to sociocultural particularities of the national context. In the case of international advertising, attempts to incorporate the brand’s stance on a controversial sociopolitical issue into its advertising strategy pose significant risks to business organizations.

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    • Figure 1. Negative and positive word cloud for the campaign launched in Greece
    • Figure 2. Negative and positive word cloud for the campaign launched in the USA
    • Table 1. Activism campaign and type of sentiment
    • Table 2. Bivariate correlations (Spearman’s Rho)
    • Table 3. Independent samples t-tests
    • Conceptualization
      Christos Livas
    • Data curation
      Christos Livas
    • Formal Analysis
      Christos Livas, Faidon Theofanidis
    • Investigation
      Christos Livas, Faidon Theofanidis, Nansy Karali
    • Methodology
      Christos Livas, Faidon Theofanidis, Nansy Karali
    • Project administration
      Christos Livas
    • Resources
      Christos Livas
    • Software
      Christos Livas
    • Supervision
      Christos Livas
    • Visualization
      Christos Livas
    • Writing – original draft
      Christos Livas
    • Validation
      Faidon Theofanidis, Nansy Karali
    • Writing – review & editing
      Faidon Theofanidis, Nansy Karali