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Advertiser portrayal of consumer time in the late 20th Century U.S.: an update

The study extends previous work by Gross and Sheth (1989), providing evidence of continued U.S. advertiser emphasis on timeoriented advertising appeals. Additionally, the specific character of time-oriented appeals has changed consistent with recent societal developments. In addition to themes such as “fast to use,” “saves time,” “portrays the consumer as busy,” and “specifies amount of time required,” recent advertising sometimes attempts to reflect consumer desire to achieve “balanced use of time” and “reprieve from a time-oriented lifestyle.”Gross and Sheth (1989) examined advertising appearing in the Ladies’ Home Journal (LHJ) magazine over a roughly 100-year period from 1890 and 1988. Consistent with the notion that industrialization is associated with time pressures, perceived time scarcity, and concern about precise measurement and efficient use of time (Lewis and Weigert, 1981; Zerubavel, 1982), they found increasing advertiser emphasis on time-related concerns and product benefits. They also found the characteristics of time-oriented advertising to vary over the decades, reflecting corollary societal values and trends.Advertising both reflects and influences societal values (Fox, 1990; Pollay, 1984, 1986). As observed by Pollay (1985, p. 24), one role of advertising is to articulate the “rationale for consumption.” The present study updates Gross and Sheth’s (1989) analysis, warranted because consumer and societal developments since the mid-1980s have lead to probable further evolution of consumers’ time-oriented concerns. As advertisers perceive changes in both general and specific concerns with time, it is expected they will reflect them in advertising appeals.Four developments that might lead to changing consumer concerns are discussed in the following section. The list is not represented as exhaustive and the section is not represented as presenting formal hypotheses to be tested. Rather, the discussion merely presents a priori observations and propositions giving rise to the current study.

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