Product Placement in US and New Zealand Television Soap Operas: An Exploratory Study

SIMON J. PERVAN Department of Accounting and Management, La Trobe University,Victoria 3086, Melbourne, Australia BRETT A. S. MARTIN Department of Marketing,University of Auckland Business School, Private Bag 92019,Auckland, New Zealand

Although the soap opera as a television genre has consistently captured the imagination of millions of people around the world,surprisingly little has been written about it in the marketing literature. Understanding the consumption imagery in soaps may allow marketers to assess the relevance of product placement for their promotion strategy better, as well as providing valuable insight into the consumption habits of their considerable viewing audiences.

 

Data were collected through content analysis from two soap operas, one in the USA and one in New Zealand. The results indicated a high level of consumption imagery, including brand references. Furthermore signiŽ cant differences in the types of product and the emotional outcome of product use were found between the countries. KEYWORDS: Product placement; consumption imagery; soap operas INTRODUCTION The imagery of consumption,as represented on a daily basis in a range of media channels, plays an important role in the way consumers develop and apply meaning to their consumption habits (Hirschman, 1988; Englis et al., 1993).

 

The development of the soap opera in broadcast media has been regarded as a major contributor to the rise of mass consumption (Lavin,1995;Miller,1995) as well as one of the most successful advertising vehicles ever used (Allen, 1995). Soap operas, which are otherwise known as serial dramas or daytime soaps, are deŽ ned by their serial nature where the narrative is controlled, not by the reader, but by the producer or distributor (Allen, 1995). Each episode is concerned with crisis and resolutions, which are in turn embedded within a larger narrative framework of indeterminate beginnings or endings (Claus, 1976). They represent the staple diet of millions of television viewers around the world.

 

From Marimar in Mexico, Kassandra in Venezuela and Coronation Street in the UK to Neighbours in Australia, it is truly a global phenomenon. In the USA the average soap opera costs approximately $60 million a year to produce with the most popular of these generating $150–200 million in revenue (McAvoy, 1999).Add to that the $500 million per year earned from international sales by the each of the transnational giants Warner Brother, Paramount and Universal and the US soap opera industry alone is a billion dollar entity (Ortiz de Urbina and Lopez, 1999).The female 18–49 years demographic,for whom most daytime soap operas are made, is also critical for the major networks when soliciting advertising revenue. Advertisers in the US are willing to pay up to 20% above upfront rates for some shows (Anonymous, 2000).

 

Whilst there is clearly Ž nancial importance, the social impact of soap operas is also signiŽ cant. Their compelling though ‘everyday’ content seems to engage the public in discussions of domestic and emotional issues that are normally deemed to be private (Geraghty,1991).The in uence of the soap opera was thought to be so profound by ofŽ cials in Vietnam that one was deliberately produced in order to educate the public about the danger of the acquired immune deŽ ciency syndrome virus and the misconception that it was a disease spread by foreigners (Anonymous, 1998). Furthermore,a diplomatic row broke out between Australian and Malaysian ofŽ cials when the Malaysian prime minister contended that their soap opera depicting an Australian embassy in the Ž ctional Southeast Asian nation of Ragaan was an unattering portrayal of his country (Anonymous, 1991).

 

Given the impact of soap operas on economy and society it is somewhat surprising that there has been relatively little attention paid to them in the marketing literature. Much of the research is in the form of sociological critiques (see, for example, Harrington and Bielby, 1995; Riegel, 1996; Barker, 1998) or magazine and newspaper articles. Just two studies appear to have been conducted in marketing, these being an analysis of the ideology of consumption by Hirschman (1988) and a historical review of the success of the early radio soap operas by Lavin (1995). Many questions remain about the importance of this television genre to marketers and consumers. What types of products are being consumed? How are they being consumed? In what light does the consumption episode portray the product? The purpose of this study was to provide an initial exploratory examination into the types of products as well as the context and emotional outcomes of product consumption imagery in soap operas.

 

It is hoped that this will provide impetus for further research,as well as shedding some light on the products that deŽ ne our popular culture, towards enabling marketers to gauge their cultural meaning better when developing both product and promotion strategies. Furthermore, a consolidation of research in this area may aid public policy makers in their consideration of key consumption issues such as drugs and alcohol. The analysis took place across two countries,the USA and New Zealand.The importance of the US industry,as indicated above, speaks for itself.The decision to include New Zealand follows the remarkable success of a locally produced soap opera (Shortland Street).Based on life around a private medical clinic, the show attracts approximately 25% of the population of 3 million every day and has been syndicated around the world including the UK, South Africa, Ireland and Australia (Television New Zealand, 2000). Of interest are not only the cross-cultural differences of consumption imagery, but also a test of the assumption that has been noted in the sociology literature that the in uence of soap operas is largely restricted to an ‘Americanization’ of local culture (Miller, 1995).

 

THE SOAP OPERA AS A SOCIALIZER

The cultivation hypothesis suggests that images presented on television can be interpreted as reality (Gerbner et al., 1980; Shrum et al., 1998; Shrum, 1999). In turn our consumption habits reinforce our reality (Silverstone, 1981; Belk, 1983; Hirschman, 1988). It is therefore important that it is understood what dimensions of television are helping to create this. Soap operas Ž rst came to the fore in the 1930s in radio format, most of which were speciŽ cally designed so that the product advertised on the show was the solution to a problem faced by the show’s characters (Meyers, 1997). Lavin’s (1995) investigation into the role of radio soap operas in the evolution of a mass consumer society highlighted three important dimensions: that they could be heard on a regular and consistent basis, that they provided role models of real life and that their serial nature enabled the development of characters with whom the audience could identify and who could serve as trusted friends and experts.

 

Today’s television soap operas are based on much the same premise.Although media-savvy audiences have made the centrality of products no longer possible, the consumption of products by the actors is still fundamental to portraying the everyday issues of life that have made them so popular. This in turn can often be manifested as real product attitudes amongst the target audience (O’Guinn and Shrum, 1997). Product placement is increasingly seen as an economically viable alternative to other forms of promotion (Deigh,1995).Companies often pay less for a season’s worth of placements than they do for an advertisement of 30 seconds in the same time slot (Wells, 1996).

 

Furthermore, product placement helps combat ‘zapping’, i.e. the tuning out of formal advertisements or the switching of channels during advertisement breaks (Lipman, 1989; Elliot, 1992). Studies have shown that it can facilitate brand recall and recognition (Vollmers and Mizerski, 1994; Gupta and Lord, 1998; Law and Braun, 2000) as well as brand choice (Rosen, 1990; Law and Braun, 2000). It is generally held that the most effective product placements are those where the star is actually using and/or verbally mentioning the product (Strauss, 1999). This is consistent with Grunert’s (1996) analysis of consumer cognitive processing. He proposed that the celebrity as an automatically recognizable Ž gure could provide relevance and, therefore, attention to a product that alone may not have much relevance.

 

This is perhaps particularly so given the passive state of a typical television viewer (Krugman, 1966). Further to this,a celebrity’s cultural meaning, which is derived from their environment, can be transferred to the product and through the product to society (McCracken, 1989). In the case of a soap opera the celebrity’s cultural meaning is derived from their characters more often than in other television genres (Butler, 1995) and this passes to the product, which in turn provides meaning to the viewing audience as potential consumers. Actors as characters in soap operas play an important role in framing products or product groups as positive or negative in uences on people’s lives. Conversely, products play an important role in framing the personas of actors. Hirschman (1988) identiŽ ed both secular and sacred modes of consumption in the long running television series Dynasty and Dallas.

 

Secular products were deŽ ned as man-made and typically sought after in a competitive fashion and their consumption often resulted in a negative outcome.Conversely,sacred products were not sought in a competitive fashion and were more connected with the earth or some natural resource. The characters in the shows who tended towards sacred consumption were more virtuous and acted with integrity, love and honour. Conversely, secular consumers paid a spiritual price for their choices and were more treacherous and unable to maintain family relationships and friendships. In light of this the emotional outcome of product use in soap operas is likely to be an important determinant of viewer/consumer perceptions for marketers and public policy makers alike. It is also important to consider products seen but not used by actors.

 

Recently Law and Braun (2000) conducted research that suggested that ‘seen-only’ placements might be more effective for product choice than those visually and/or verbally referred to. The subtlety of the placement may subconsciously prime the consumer to choose the product. Conversely, the audience may identify the consumption of branded products as deliberate attempts to sway their opinions, thereby prompting negative reactions.This research did not measure the effectiveness of product placement. However, in light of the range of Ž ndings to date it did examine both present and present and consumed products. METHOD Sample The highest rating soap operas were chosen from each country,namely The Young and the Restless in the USA and Shortland Street in New Zealand. The Young and the Restless has been the top rated daytime television show in the USA for over 11 years (Schlosser, 1999).

 

Shortland Street, which is now in its eighth year in New Zealand,has consistently out-rated all other drama programmes,soap opera or otherwise, on television (Television New Zealand, 2000). Both shows have daytime schedules, with Shortland Street being aired twice due to its popularity, with an additional early evening schedule. Furthermore, both shows have the serial narratives, which deŽ ne the soap genre (Allen, 1995) and are typical in that they deal primarily with issues relating to sex and social breakdown (Cantor and Pingree, 1983). This is in contrast to other serialized dramas such as Dynasty or Dallas, which focused more on wealth, power and business (Bean, 1976). Finally, each attracts a similar target group, key amongst which are females of 18–49 years old. Similar time samples were taken for each soap opera with 30 episodes of The Young and the Restless and 35 episodes of Shortland Street.

 

The episodes were randomly selected from a back Ž le made available by a local television network. Two independent judges, one female and one male, were used for coding purposes. Both were deemed competent given their familiarity with the shows and past experience in academic research. The judges were given a training session in order to explain the coding categories. They were then required to code an episode of each soap opera independently. Consistency was high with some minor differences in coding reconciled between the coders and the researcher.It is important in content analysis for the judges to have the freedom to make autonomous decisions (Kolbe and Burnett, 1991).

 

Therefore,their coding requirements were completed in separate locations with no input from the researcher. A test of inter-judge reliability was then conducted. This is also an important process as it provides an assessment of the extent of agreement between independent attempts at measuring the same theoretical concept (Bagozzi, 1994). Thus, in this context inter-judge reliability deals with the consistency of the judges agreeing in their coding of stimuli.It is desirable when reporting reliabilities to identify the calculation method and also to conduct the test across a range of coded results (Kolbe and Burnett, 1991).The method of calculation used here was the coefŽ cient of agreement.

 

This was computed for the product categories and also the emotional outcome and brand reference categories. The results showed that the agreement across all product categories was 80.6% and across the other consumption-related categories ‘emotional outcome’ and ‘brand reference’ it was 88.9%. The overall agreement was 84.8%. These results provided an acceptable level of conŽ dence that the judges were consistent in their coding when applying the same set of categories to the same content (Kassarjian, 1977). Content analysis Product categories The product categories chosen were consistent with Englis et al.’s (1993) study of consumption imagery in music videos. These included alcohol, non-alcoholic beverages, books, cameras, cars,computers, cosmetics, drugs, earrings (on men), food, jewellery, lingerie (male or female), maga- zines, motorcycles, Ž lms, musical instruments, music, telephones, sports goods, tattoos, televisions/ videos,tobacco,toys,trucks,watches and weapons.

 

Each product was coded as either absent, present or present and consumed. For a product to be consumed the actor(s) had to be either alluding to it or physically associated with it, for example somebody having a drink of alcohol or referring to a computer screen. Emotional outcomes of product categories Where the product was present and consumed, the coders were asked to judge whether the outcome of the consumption situation was positive, negative, neither negative nor positive or had no evident emotional outcome. This category was included in order to provide some insight into the socializing effect that the consumption of products may have.

 

This was in line with Englis et al. (1993) who examined the consumer-socializing effect of music videos by associating consumption imagery with relevant outcomes for its role models. SpeciŽ cally, the consequences of the actions of performers with products were coded in order to capture the ‘reinforcement context’, i.e. pleasant or unpleasant, of the consumption imagery portrayed. The judgements in the current study were based on degrees of emotion. A consumption scenario may include both negative and positive stimuli, but on balance be coded as negative given the greater prevalence of that emotion,for example a couple initially enjoying a drink together that,after a while, begin to argue.

 

Situations where negative and positive emotions were equal were coded as neither negative nor positive. Brand reference of product categories As an additional coding category for this study, it was decided to examine the prevalence of actual brand reference. This was done in order to provide some insight into the extent of deliberate product placement in each soap opera.

 

RESULTS

Consumption activity in soap operas There were a number of individual product differences with regard to consumption activity (see Table 1 for a summary of all consumption activity results). In the US soap opera there was greater consumption of books (c 2 = 9.5 and p = 0.008), jewellery (c 2 = 30.7 and p = 0.000), lingerie (c 2 = 6.7 and p = 0.05), musical instruments (c 2 = 23 and p = 0.000), tattoos (c 2 = 5.2 and p = 0.05), toys (c 2 = 9.8 and p = 0.007) and watches (c 2 = 9.9 and p = 0.007), whereas in the New Zealand soap opera there was greater consumption of cars (c 2 = 24.2 and p = 0.000), computers (c 2 = 13 and p = 0.001), earrings (c 2 = 13.3 and p = 0.001), food (c 2 = 14 and p = 0.001), magazines (c 2 = 12.3 and p = 0.002), sports goods (c 2 = 11.1 and p = 0.004), televisions/videos (c 2 = 7.5 and p = 0.03) and trucks (c 2 = 6.3 and p = 0.02). The greater consumption activity regarding drugs in the New Zealand soap opera was tending towards signiŽ cance (c 2 = 5.6 and p = 0.07). A number of items were conspicuous by their total or near absence including cosmetics, motorcycles, Ž lms, tobacco and weapons.

 

Emotional outcomes of consumption behaviour (product use) All of the programmes coded in both countries contained outcomes that were contingent on consumption behaviour. Furthermore, there was a signiŽ cant difference in outcome type between countries (c 2 = 18.7 and p = 0.000). The US soap opera contained more negative emotional outcomes with product use whilst the New Zealand soap opera had more positive emotional outcomes.

As shown in Table 2,

there were four individual product differences. These were for alcohol (c 2 = 6.8 and p = 0.009), cars (c 2 = 5.2 and p = 0.05), magazines (c 2 = 6.3 and p = 0.02) and telephones (c 2 = 6.2 and p = 0.02). In all cases the New Zealand soap opera showed more TABLE 2. Emotional outcomes of product consumption for US and New Zealand soap operas US soap New Zealand soap Positive Negative Positive Negative Product category n % n % n % n % c 2 Alcohol 6 37.5 10 62.5 16 80.0 4 20.0 0.009 Non-alcoholic beverage 8 38.1 13 61.9 8 61.5 5 38.5.0 0.183 Books 2 15.4 11 84.6 1 20.0 4 80.0 0.814 Cameras 3 75.0 1 25.0 1 50.0 1 50.0 0.540 Cars 1 25.0 3 75.0 11 84.6 2 15.4 0.022 Computers 4 40.0 6 60.0 8 53.3 7 46.7 0.513 Cosmetics 2 66.7 1 33.3 3 75.0 1 25.0 0.809 Drugs 1 25.0 3 75.0 3 60.0 2 60.0 0.294 Earrings 2 100.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 * Food 11 84.6 2 15.4 19 86.4 3 13.6 0.886 Jewellery 7 53.8 6 46.2 2 100.0 0 0.0 0.215 Lingerie 3 50.0 3 50.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 * Magazines 2 25.0 6 75.0 7 87.5 1 12.5 0.012 Motorcycles 1 100.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 * Films 1 100.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 * Musical instruments 6 60.0 4 40.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 * Music 7 63.6 4 36.4 6 66.7 3 33.3 0.888 Telephones 5 17.2 24 82.8 11 50.0 11 50.0 0.013 Sports goods 1 100.0 0 0.0 3 42.9 4 57.1 0.285 Tattoos 1 16.7 5 83.3 0 0.0 1 100.0 0.659 Televisions/Videos 1 100.0 0 0.0 5 71.4 2 28.6 0.537 Tobacco 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 * Toys 5 55.6 4 44.4 1 100.0 0 0.0 0.389 Trucks 0 0.0 0 0.0 0 0.0 4 100.0 * Watches 7 46.7 8 53.3 3 75.0 1 25.0 0.313 Weapons 0 0.0 2 100.0 0 0.0 1 100.0 *

 

positive outcome experiences with the product’s use than the US soap opera. Of further note is the high negative emotional outcome of product use of books for both countries’ soap operas. Brand reference of consumption (product presence and use) Overall 46% of the soap opera episodes contained a reference to a particular brand. Whilst 70% of the New Zealand episodes contained brand references,only 26% of the US episodes did (c 2 = 12.7 and p = 0.000). Table 3 indicates that individual product differences were found for non-alcoholic beverages (c 2 = 6.8 and p = 0.009), cars (c 2 = 5.0 and p = 0.026) and telephones (c 2 = 7.7 and p = 0.006).

DISCUSSION

This study provides an exploratory examination of the level of consumption imagery that exists in televised soap operas in the USA and New Zealand. In addition to the presence or absence of products that re ect popular culture,two additional areas were studied:(1) the emotional outcomes of consumption behaviour as exhibited by soap opera characters and (2) the level of explicit brand references. In terms of product categories, the US soap opera tended to display more consumption imagery in relation to leisure items (i.e. books, musical instruments and toys) and appearance-related items (i.e. jewellery, lingerie and tattoos), whereas the New Zealand soap opera included products for transport (i.e. cars and trucks), food and appearance (i.e. earrings). These results have relevance given the decision of the CBS network in the USA to sell viewers replicas of the jewellery worn by characters in the soap opera Guiding Light (Donaton, 1999).This study suggested that this product category is more frequently displayed in US soap operas but, in terms of emotional outcomes

TABLE 3.

Brand reference of products in US and New Zealand soap operas US soap New Zealand soap Yes No Yes No Product category n % n % n % n % c 2 Alcohol 3 8.6 32 91.4 0 0.0 30 100.0 0.101 Non-alcoholic beverage 2 5.7 33 94.3 9 30.0 21 70.0 0.009 Cars 0 0.0 35 100.0 4 13.3 26 86.7 0.026 Computers 0 0.0 35 100.0 1 3.3 29 96.7 0.276 Drugs 0 0.0 35 100.0 2 6.7 28 93.3 0.121 Food 1 2.9 34 97.1 3 10.0 27 90.0 0.232 Magazines 2 5.7 33 94.3 1 3.3 29 96.7 0.648 Music 0 0.0 35 100.0 2 6.7 28 93.3 0.121 Telephones 1 2.9 34 97.1 8 26.7 22 73.3 0.006 Sports goods 0 0.0 35 100.0 1 3.3 29 96.7 0.276 Televisions/Videos 0 0.0 35 100.0 1 3.3 29 96.7 0.276

 

for characters, it is depicted in these soap operas somewhat ambivalently, with a relatively equal number of positive and negative outcomes. With regard to emotional outcomes of product consumption, the New Zealand soap opera yielded more positive emotional consequences, particularly for products such as alcohol and cars. The US soap opera was more negative for products such as telephones. However, both countries presented books negatively. These results hold importance for marketers since research indicates that soap operas can represent a valuable learning opportunity for viewers (Barker, 1997; Creswell, 2001) owing to their focus on relationships and viewers getting to know the characters.

 

Thus, marketers should consider how their products are depicted within the soap opera context in order to ensure that consumers are not learning negative emotional outcomes with their product. For brand references, the current study revealed far higher levels of brand references in soap operas than in previous research into music videos. For example, Englis et al. (1993) found that 26.38% of all music videos contained brand references, with 38.9% for the USA and only 14.9% of music videos on Swedish television containing brand references. In contrast, this study found that almost half of all episodes (46%) contained brand references, with higher levels in the non-USA country (i.e. 70% in New Zealand and 26% in the USA).To a degree these results are unsurprising given that soap opera episodes are of longer duration than music videos. Further, soap operas all follow a story whereas some music videos do not and soap operas can contain brands in order to aid the realism of the Ž ctional scenario they are depicting.

 

Yet even so, these Ž ndings suggested that soap operas represent a rich context of brand placements to which viewers are exposed.Future research may wish to consider other cultures or New Zealand media to see whether this represents an inherent feature of soap operas or is inherent to New Zealand’s culture. With regard to the assumption that soap operas represent an Americanization of culture, the evidence gathered in this study suggested that local content is more important. The coders were asked to write down the brand names that they saw. Most of the brands identiŽ ed in the New Zealand soap opera were in fact local products. MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS The Ž ndings suggested that soap operas are an important vehicle for product placement.

Furthermore, there is a need to consider the following. (1) The light in which particular products are portrayed within the soap opera narrative. Positive or negative outcomes of product use may have implications for the attitudes held towards those products. (2) The likelihood that different products will elicit different emotional responses within the same soap opera. (3) The likelihood that the same product may elicit different emotional responses in different nationalities’ soap operas. All of the implications above have general relevance to a Ž rm’s promotion strategy.

However,the latter in particular is important to an increasing number of organizations with a global marketing presence. It highlights the potential need for tailoring promotions to particular cultural groups. It may also guide product strategy as it suggests that analysing the consumption imagery in soap operas may provide important insights into their consumption habits LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH A number of limitations of this study need to be acknowledged.

First, while content analysis is useful for deriving incidences of content, it cannot provide insights into the effect that content has upon consumers. More empirical analysis is required involving consumers before practical recommendations can be made in this area. Clearly the value of product placements is being noticed by organizations. Testament to this are the recent development of Internet sites such as AsSeenIn.com and The Home Shopping Network, which allow consumers to purchase replica pieces of jewellery and other favoured items they see in popular television shows.

However, the tactical subtleties of product placements need further examination, for example the impact of the type of product exposure on consumer attitudes. Evidence from exposure research on branded products in Ž lms has suggested that background placements of products result in less viewer recognition than products implicitly endorsed or those that are a major focus of a scene (Brennan et al., 1999). Law and Braun (2000) conŽ rmed this Ž nding for television product placements, but questioned the likelihood of a stronger conative impact for such placements, suggesting that products viewed without any verbal reference to the brand name may even have a greater impact on choice. Clearly these issues are still to be clariŽ ed.

 

Future research involving consumers should follow Law and Braun’s (2000) recommendation that there be a greater use of ‘implicit tests’ that ask respondents to simply perform tasks, for example identifying a brand preference, without reference to prior exposures.This is in contrast to the more often used ‘explicit tests’, which make direct reference to a prior exposure.The argument for this approach is that explicit tests capture a false reality with regard to information processing following exposure to product placements. Other questions remain for both commercial and also public policy practitioners, particularly with regard to cultivation theory.For example,what effect does the negative portrayal of characters reading books have upon soap opera viewers? Does it in uence consumers? Does it portray an attitude towards reading that these consumers agree or disagree with? This represents a useful area for future research.

 

In the book context, it would be of interest to examine what level of readership exists amongst soap opera viewers before and after soap opera consumption and what sorts of books they are favourably or unfavourably predisposed to. Likewise, from a public policy and marketing perspective, the results are worthy of comment.They suggested that, for New Zealand soap operas, characters in these shows experience more positive emotional outcomes when they consume alcohol. Hence, it is worth studying whether soap operas are merely re ecting a current social reality or are a contributing factor to alcohol consumption, particularly given (1) current media concerns highlighting the binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption of New Zealand teenagers and young adults (e.g. Aronson, 2001; Dearnaley, 2001; De Boni, 2001) and (2) that the soap opera studied, i.e. Shortland Street, has historically achieved ratings of over 75% for the 15–29 years demographic (Pearson Television, 2001).

 

Recent studies by O’Guinn and Shrum (1997) and Shrum et al. (1998) lend support to cultivation theory. O’Guinn and Shrum (1997) speciŽ cally examined soap operas, including The Young and the Restless and found that heavy exposure to their consumption-rich portrayals in uenced normative beliefs about products and activities associated with af uent consumer lifestyles. A second limitation was represented by the sample. In terms of scope, studying two countries limits the ability to make broader inferences for marketing theory and practice. Further, while the study compared consumption imagery across two countries, it could be argued that both countriesrepresent Westernized cultures.

 

For example, with the majority of New Zealanders being of European ancestry, some scholars have suggested that New Zealand as a culture is more closely afŽ liated to Europe than to its Asian neighbours (McLaughlan, 1981).Thus, it would be of interest to see how levels of consumption imagery and the emotional outcomes of product consumption differ for East Asian cultures. To this end, recent research by Briley et al. (2000) into Hong Kong consumers suggested that cultural tendencies could be activated by stimuli. Thus, it would be of interest to see if and how different soap operas affect viewers, such as local East Asian productions, which may emphasize local values, versus foreign-produced programmes (e.g. The Young and the Restless). Interestingly, Cho et al.(1999), in discussing US and East Asian cultures,suggested that a consumer’s own cultural background can inhibit the processing of stimuli from a foreign culture, such as a foreign soap opera.

 

Another avenue of interest would be to investigate temporal effects and any resultant reputational source credibility that could be attributed to a soap opera of long standing,for instance by comparing the effects of a long-running soap opera,such as The Young and the Restless,which has run for over 27 years (Schlosser, 1999), with new soap operas, such as Joy Luck Street, which has recently been introduced in mainland China (Saywell, 2000). A further limitation that should be recognized is that the judges were both from the same culture. This could affect researcher interpretations, particularly in relation to interpretations of expressions of positive and negative emotion (see Wallendorf and Brucks (1993) for a discussion of potential researcher coding bias issues).

 

Future cross-cultural research could examine the background perspectives of coders in order to be aware of any inherent biases, as well as verifying the coding using judges from each of the cultures being studied in order to ensure interpretations are correct for the target culture. Finally, it must be acknowledged that the potential exists for differences that are construed as cross-cultural to actually be due to the nature of the shows themselves. Future research should examine a variety of soap operas in each culture studied so that differences can be attributed to culture rather then the speciŽ c show itself.

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He is currently pursuing a PhD at La Trobe University on the role of reciprocity in relationship marketing Brett A. S.Martin is a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Auckland Business School in New Zealand. He has a PhD from the University of Otago in New Zealand. His research interests lie in the domain of advertising and consumer behaviour.

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