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An Ethical Perspective on Necro-Advertising: The Moderating Effect of Brand Equity

Benjamin Boeuf () and Jessica Darveau ()
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Benjamin Boeuf: IÉSEG School of Management
Jessica Darveau: Université Laval

Journal of Business Ethics, 2019, vol. 155, issue 4, 1077-1099

Abstract: Abstract Necro-advertising refers to the use of deceased celebrities in advertising. This practice offers unique advantages to brands that seek to benefit from positive associations with timeless celebrities at a more affordable cost than celebrity endorsement. Nevertheless, how consumers actually respond to the use of deceased celebrities in advertising remains under-theorized. This research is the first to empirically examine consumers’ ethical judgments about necro-advertising practices. In particular, drawing from the signaling theory, it demonstrates the impact of consumer inferences about the existence of a legal agreement for using deceased celebrities’ images on brand ethicality. The results of two experimental studies show that a low-equity brand is more likely to be perceived as unethical when using necro-advertising since consumers have limited knowledge about these brands. Conversely, our findings confirm how a high level of equity prevents from the aforementioned adverse effects since these brands’ assets send a credible signal about their capability to get approval from a deceased celebrity’s estate for the use of its image. While deepening current knowledge on the perceived ethicality of necro-advertising practices, this research uncovers the moderating effect of equity on consumer inferences about brand ethicality. The results also suggest managerial caveats and guidelines for low-equity brands. In particular, while necro-advertising may have a negative impact on the perceived ethicality of low-equity brands, disclosing a statement about a contractual engagement with the deceased celebrity’s estate can mitigate this negative effect by providing an unequivocal signal that the brand is acting ethically.

Keywords: Brand equity; Celebrity endorsement; Necro-advertising; Consumer perceived ethicality (CPE); Signaling theory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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