Application of regulatory focus theory to search advertising

Elyse N. Mowle, Emily J. Georgia, Brian D. Doss, John A. Updegraff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to test the utility of regulatory focus theory principles in a real-world setting; specifically, Internet hosted text advertisements. Effect of compatibility of the ad text with the regulatory focus of the consumer was examined. Design/methodology/approach – Advertisements were created using Google AdWords. Data were collected for the number of views and clicks each ad received. Effect of regulatory fit was measured using logistic regression. Findings – Logistic regression analyses demonstrated that there was a strong main effect for keyword, such that users were almost six times as likely to click on a promotion advertisement as a prevention advertisement, as well as a main effect for compatibility, such that users were twice as likely to click on an advertisement with content that was consistent with their keyword. Finally, there was a strong interaction of these two variables, such that the effect of consistent advertisements was stronger for promotion searches than for prevention searches. Research limitations/implications – The effect of ad compatibility had medium to large effect sizes, suggesting that individuals’ state may have more influence on advertising response than do individuals’ traits (e.g. personality traits). Measurement of regulatory fit was limited by the constraints of Google AdWords. Practical implications – The results of this study provide a possible framework for ad creation for Internet advertisers. Originality/value – This paper is the first study to demonstrate the utility of regulatory focus theory in online advertising.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)494-502
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Consumer Marketing
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - Nov 4 2014


  • Google AdWords
  • Internet advertising
  • Online advertising
  • Regulatory fit
  • Regulatory focus
  • Search engine
  • Search engine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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