The effectiveness of Corporate Social Responsibility advertising as a buffer against negative publicity

  • Joon Hye Han

Student thesis: Phd


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) advertising is a type of corporate image advertising which promotes the CSR-based identity of a company in order to build and/or improve a socially responsible image. A CSR-based image and a good reputation for CSR at large has been regarded as a reservoir of goodwill which can function as a buffer against negative publicity. With this in mind, this thesis examines the effectiveness of CSR advertising for the purpose of insulating a firm from the negative impacts of crisis news by creating a positive image as a socially responsible company. This study also investigates the influences of favourable attitudes toward the CSR ad and how the level of attribution of crisis responsibility to the company modifies the effectiveness of CSR advertising as a buffer. As part of this process, the news frames which describe the crisis from either an accident perspective or a preventable-incident perspective and the ad-appeals (i.e., information-based and affect-based ad-appeals) were manipulated to test how they influence the effectiveness of CSR advertising when acting as a buffer. Adopting a quantitative methodology, this study collects data through web-based experiments with online panellists utilising fictitious video commercials and crisis news scenarios concerning a fictitious company. The results indicated that people who were exposed to the CSR ad prior to reading the crisis news tended to be less influenced by the news than those who were not exposed to the ad in terms of their perceptions of company image and both their attitudes and behavioural intentions toward the company. CSR advertising was equally effective at reducing the damage to company image and attitudes toward the company in both different news frame conditions and using both different ad-message type conditions. The results imply that if people perceive CSR-based images of a company through CSR advertising successfully, they tend to maintain these perceptions of the company even after they process any negative information about the company, and this is still true even if their evaluations of the responsibility for a crisis were not influenced by CSR advertising. As part of the research process, this study found that positive attitudes towards the CSR ad significantly and directly influenced both the company image and attitudes toward the company. However, when people processed the crisis news after viewing the CSR ad the direct impact of attitudes toward the ad on attitudes toward the company disappeared. This indicates that the 'affect-transfer' from attitudes toward the ad to attitudes toward the company occurred under advertisement-only conditions. When negative publicity was processed, the crisis information may act as a latent inhibitor of the affect-transfer effect and the company image variable became a full mediator.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGary Davies (Supervisor) & Anthony Grimes (Supervisor)


  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • corporate communication
  • corporate image advertising
  • crisis management

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