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Subject: AEJ 03 PaekH ADV Celebrity Endorsers in Cross-Cultural Contexts: South Korean and US Advertising
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 21 Sep 2003 10:41:08 -0400

text/plain (1066 lines)

Understanding Celebrity Endorsers in Cross-Cultural Contexts
An Exploratory Analysis of South Korean and US Advertising


Hye-Jin Paek, a doctoral student

University of Wisconsin-Madison
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
5167 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Room 5115
Madison, WI  53706-1497
Phone) 608-265-2222
Fax) 608-262-1361
E-mail) [log in to unmask]

Student competitive paper submitted to
the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
2003 Annual Conference -Advertising Division
July 30-Aug. 2 2003, Kansas City, MO

Understanding Celebrity Endorsers in Cross-Cultural Contexts
An Exploratory Analysis of South Korean and US Advertising


This study links McCracken's "cultural meaning transfer" model (1989) with
Hofstede's cultural typology, in order to understand the cultural meanings
of celebrity endorsers in cross-cultural advertising. The content analysis
of South Korean and US newspaper ads finds that ads in a high uncertainty
avoidance and power distance culture employ a greater number of celebrity
endorsers and that there is some possibility for international advertisers
to use standardized celebrity endorser strategy.  Implications and
directions for future studies are discussed.

Using celebrity endorsers is one of the most popular strategies of
advertising in the US (Agrawal & Kamakura, 1995). According to industry
sources, approximately a quarter of all television commercials feature a
celebrity person (Erdogan, Baker & Tagg, 2001). US companies paid more than
$1 billion to nearly 2,000 athletes for endorsement deals and licensing
rights in 1996 (Belch & Belch, 1998).  Basketball icon Michael Jordan, one
of the most successful advertising endorsers, makes an estimated $40
million a year in endorsement fees from companies such as McDonald's, Nike,
General Mills, Hanes, Quaker Oats (makers of Gatorade), and MCI COLLECT
CALL (Horovitz, 1999).  Ten out of the top 20 most effective and remembered
TV commercials in the US, as reported by Advertising Age (2002), were
celebrity-endorsed ads, including Pepsi Cola (Britney Spears), KFC (Jason
Alexander), and Hanes (Michael Jordan). Recently, a rising TV idol "Joe
Millionaire" (Evan Marriott) joined existing pitchman Jason Alexander in
two upcoming TV commercials plugging KFC Boneless Wings.
However, the cost is not always worth it. For instance, the #1 rental car
company, Hertz, used O. J. Simpson as its spokesperson for 20 years.  The
company lost all of that equity when Simpson was accused of murdering his
ex-wife (Belch & Belch, 1998).  The global brand Pepsi Cola hurt their name
value seriously when the tarnished personal lives of their three celebrity
endorsers -- Mike Tyson, Madonna, and Michael Jackson -- became public
(Till & Shimp, 1998).
A plethora of studies have examined celebrity endorser effectiveness and
consumer responses (e.g., Bower, 2001; Bower & Landreth, 2001; Frieden,
1984; Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000; Kahle & Homer, 1985; Kamins,
1989, 1990; Kamins, Brand, Hoeke, & Moe, 1989; Stafford, Stafford, & Day,
2002).  However, little is known about the impact of cultural contexts on
roles of celebrity endorsers in ads (see McCracken, 1989, for exception).
McCracken (1989) explains that the success of celebrity-endorsed ads
depends on whether the celebrity endorser is meaningful to consumer values
and norms within a culture.  Interpreting celebrity endorsers as cultural
value representatives, this study attempts to go further: In this complex
global market situation, how can celebrity endorsers work across cultures?
Companies continue to expand their markets beyond national borders and have
an increasing interest in global marketing strategy, but international
marketers, advertising agencies and academicians have been debating the
applicability of globalized or localized international advertising for
almost four decades (see Agrawal, 1995; Onkvisit & Shaw, 1999, for detailed
review).  These debates involve disagreement over whether consumer needs
become homogeneous (e.g., Levitt, 1983; Kanso, 1992), or whether consumer
reaction differs across cultures, reflecting their indigenous cultural
norms and values (e.g., Lin, 2001; Mueller, 1987, 1992; Zandpour, Campos,
Catalano, & Chang, 1994).  Although international advertising researchers
have stressed the importance of cultural factors in making strategic
decisions about globalization or localization and have assessed the values
reflected in the ads (Lin, 1993, 2001; Mueller, 1987, 1992, 1996),
practitioners lean toward globalization because of greater cost
effectiveness, simplified strategic planning, and consistent brand image
(see Agrawal, 1995). In relation to this globalization, international
advertisers and brand managers increasingly consider the potential global
popularity of their celebrity endorsers (Howard, 2003).  For instance, Yao
Ming, an NBA player, is contracted to endorse the sports drink Gatorade,
which the advertiser attempts to push globally.  Given that celebrity
endorsement of certain global brands assists in building a consistent brand
image worldwide, it is worthwhile to understand what kind of cultural
meanings celebrity endorsers generate across cultures.  In so doing, this
study is a small step in exploring how celebrity endorsers in advertising
are presented and interpreted in relation to cultural meanings and values.
This study compares US and South Korean newspaper ads.  South Korea
(hereafter, Korea) was selected because of its economic importance, as the
US' ninth largest import and export market in 1998 (Moon & Franke, 2000),
and as the world's tenth largest advertising market in 1999 (Ad Age
International, 1999).  According to a recent Advertising Age report (2003),
a Korean advertising agency, Cheil Communications, is ranked 19th among the
world's top 50 advertising organizations (ranked by advertising revenue in
Because of its close ties between the two countries and importance of Korea
as a global market, a number of cross-cultural studies between the US and
Korea have been conducted, including examinations of cultural values
reflected in ads (Cho, Kwon, Gentry, Jun, & Kropp, 1999; Han & Shavitt,
1994; Tak, Kaid, & Lee, 1997), advertising execution styles and appeals
(Miracle, Chang, & Taylor, 1992), consumer attitudes (Yoon, Muehling, &
Cho, 1996), and work ethics (Moon & Franke, 2000).  This study adds to the
knowledge of advertising and values for these two national cultures by
examining celebrity endorsers in ad contents, based on the Hofstede's
(1991) cultural framework (uncertainty avoidance, power distance) linked
with McCracken's (1989) "cultural meaning transfer" model.  As such, this
study will give some insights of a particular type of global marketing
strategy to practitioners.
Celebrity Endorsers in US and Korean Ads
A celebrity is "known for being well-known" (Boorstin, 1961, p.57) and is
defined as an individual (actor, sports figure, entertainer, politician,
etc.) who is known to the public for his or her achievements (Blackwell,
Miniard, & Engel, 2001).  These achievements are often in areas unrelated
to the product class being promoted (e.g., Britney Spears for Pepsi Cola,
Tiger Woods for Buick cars, Kobe Bryant for McDonald's).  Frieden (1984)
defines celebrities as well-known individuals who are directly or
indirectly associated with their endorsing product category (e.g., Michael
Jordan for Nike athletic shoes, Kobe Bryant for Adidas basketball shoes,
Tiger Woods for Nike golf equipment).  In their endorsed advertising,
celebrities have played a variety of promotional roles: giving a
testimonial citing, recommending the products' benefits, lending their
names to a product (e.g., Jordan cologne, Nike Air Jordan), playing as an
actor in the advertisement, and representing a brand or company as a
spokesperson while the contract is valid.
        Although US advertisers vigorously embrace using celebrity endorsers in
their ads, Korean advertisers rely even more heavily on celebrity
endorsements.  Of the TV commercials screened, about 32% of the ads
included celebrity endorsers, and 59% of prime time TV commercials used
celebrities as their endorsers (Son, 2001).  The popularity of endorsers
depends on the advertising belief that a celebrity endorser is the only way
to differentiate their advertised products from those of their competitors.
Ever since the Korean advertising market opened for foreign countries in
1988 and the use of Western endorsers has been deregulated, it is also an
increasing trend to use Western celebrities. For instance, Brooke Shields
pushed Aloe drinks, and Kenny G represented Inkel audio.  Shannon Doherty,
from the popular TV show Beverly Hills 90210, appeared on LG cosmetics,
while Kim Basinger pitched Vitamin Shampoo.  Cindy Crawford played a role
as an endorser in LG fashion; sexy star Sharon Stone of the sex thriller
movie Basic Instinct made the Hanhwa energy ad hot; Claudia Schiffer
endorsed GV jeans; Naomi Campbell pushed Mercoledi fashion clothing.  Not
only have these movie stars played role models in Korean advertising, but
so have Western scholars, politicians, and news reporters.  One of the most
successful uses of  Western celebrities was the Daewoo car advertising
campaign using Karl Bernstein, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage
of Watergate and Nixon.  Likewise, the futurist Alvin Tofler endorsed
Hyundai, and British ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher appeared on
Samsung corporate image advertising (Lee, 2001).
The use of various Western celebrities has not always been successful.  It
is noteworthy that many campaigns in which Western celebrities use their
sexuality and physical attractiveness have had disappointing results, while
ads using credible and powerful Western celebrities were successful (Lee,
2001).  One exceptional example of a global brand using Western celebrities
is Vidal Sassoon Shampoo (Kim, 2001).  Kim (2001) explains that the Vidal
Sassoon Shampoo campaign became successful by adopting a 'globalization'
(or standardization) strategy using Vidal Sassoon himself as an
endorser.  This standardization strategy followed Vidal Sassoon's
'localization' strategy, which used Korean celebrity endorsers showing off
their glamorous hair but was not effective.  Ever since, more global
product advertisers have adopted a standardization strategy (Kim,
2001).  Nonetheless, Lee (2001) has cautioned that global brand managers
and advertisers should be careful of using Western celebrities, and that
differing cultural tastes, norms, and values must be taken into account.
Given that, how can such various results of using Western celebrity
endorsers in global/domestic products advertising be explained in cultural
context?  What makes celebrity endorsers appeal to consumers across cultures?

Cultural differences between the US and Korea
Culture is defined as "the interactive aggregate of common characteristics
that influence a human group's response to its environment" (Hofstede,
1980, p.19) and as the behavioral norms, attitudinal tendencies, and
beliefs shared among people from the same group (Gundykunst, 1995).  Thus,
working as a "lens," culture determines how the world is seen (McCracken,
1986, p.72).
Understanding cultural differences is often considered a prerequisite for
successful international advertising (de Mooij, 1998).  Consumers grow up
in a particular culture and become accustomed to that culture's value
systems, beliefs, and perception processes.  Consequently, they respond to
advertising messages that are congruent with their culture, rewarding
advertisers who understand that culture and tailor ads to reflect its
values (Zhang & Gelb, 1996).
In a cultural context, the celebrity endorser is a cultural hero (Hofstede,
1991). Cultural heroes are "persons, alive or dead, real or imaginary, who
possess characteristics that are highly prized in a society, and thus serve
as role models for behavior" (de Mooij, 1998, p.45).  McCracken (1989), in
a similar context, argues that celebrities are those who "draw these
powerful meanings from the roles they assume in their television, movie,
military, athletic, and other careers and each new dramatic role brings the
celebrity into contact with a range of objects, persons, and contexts" (p.
315).  In his "cultural meaning transfer" model, celebrity endorsers should
posess shared cultural meanings, imbue cultural meanings into products, and
deliver such meanings to the consumers throughout the subsequent
processes.  Britney Spears, for instance, transferred her distinctive
cultural images based on her records, live performances, and video
appearances into the Pepsi Cola ads, which successfully promoted its
product concept of a "new generation" to its young target audiences (Peter
& Olson, 1993).
Consistent with this concept of meaning transfer, Cohen (1992) found that
advertisements with Asian spokespersons produce more favorable attitudes
toward high technology engineering products than do ads with white
spokespersons, while the reverse is observed for products associated with
status. Gwinner and Eaton (1999) have adopted the 'cultural meaning
transfer' model to hypothesize that a sporting event's image is transferred
to a brand through event sponsorship activity.  Hirshman and Thompson
(1997) agree that the relative success of a celebrity-endorsed ad depends
on how well its images of cultural icons fit to its promotional purposes
and consumer tastes.
Taken together, "cultural meaning transfer" has some important implications
for companies using celebrity endorsers.  Marketers should first decide on
the image or symbolic meaning important to their target audience for this
particular product, service, or company, and then determine which celebrity
best represents the meaning or image to be projected.
Given that celebrities who have been typecast are more likely to have
shared cultural meanings that can be associated with a product, how would
the celebrity endorsers be different in other global markets?  In applying
McCracken's model -- that celebrity endorsers should have shared cultural
meanings--, this study also adopts Hofstede's typology of culture (1980,
1983, 1991) as a framework for testing cross-cultural differences in order
to understand the cultural meanings of celebrity endorsers.  Hofstede's
cultural typology consists of four dimensions on which societies differ,
representing the cultural value system of the majority of the middle class
in the workplace.  These dimensions are: individualism/collectivism, power
distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity/femininity.  This study
adopts the two cultural dimensions of power distance and uncertainty
avoidance in particular, in that these are distinctly different cultural
dimensions between the US and Korea and fit well into discussing the
different cultural meanings of celebrity endorsers.
Uncertainty avoidance
The uncertainty avoidance dimension involves "the extent to which the
members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations"
(Hofstede 1991, p. 113).  Individuals in low uncertainty avoidance
cultures, such as the US, are relatively comfortable with ambiguity and are
tolerant of others' behaviors and opinions. Where uncertainty avoidance is
high, such as Japan and Korea, consumers rely more on formal rules
(Gudykunst et al., 1996), absolute truth (Hofstede, 1983), and the advice
of those whom they consider to be experts (Hofstede, 1980). This dimension
has been adopted in cross-cultural advertising studies that investigate the
ethical perception of advertising practitioners between the US and Korea
(Moon & Franke, 2000), the recall of and attitude toward comparative
advertising (Donthu, 1998), and the difference of the form and content of
political advertising messages between the US and Korea (Tak, Kaid, & Lee,
1997).  For instance, Donthu (1998) hypothesized that low uncertainty
avoidance cultures may be very receptive to comparative advertising,
whereas high uncertainty avoidance cultures may not be comfortable with
such advertising.  This discomfort results from the fact that comparative
advertising is an unfamiliar approach to advertising that is therefore
considered ambiguous and risky.  Further, he found that consumer attitudes
toward comparative ads were not very positive in a high uncertainty
avoidance culture.  Likewise, Zandpour et al. (1994) analyzed the content
of TV commercials collected from different cultures (the US, Mexico, the
UK, France, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, and Korea) and found that cultures with
high uncertainty avoidance relied more frequently on a trustworthy source
to provide them with logical reasoning and visual information.  Thus, the
implication for celebrity endorsement advertising is that uncertainty
reduction requires credible, trustworthy, and knowledgeable endorsers in
high uncertainty avoidance cultures.  Especially for a high involvement
product that is newly introduced and very expensive (and thus a risk-taking
purchase), people in a high uncertainty avoidance culture may rely more on
experts or credible celebrities than people in a low uncertainty avoidance
Power distance
Power distance in Hofstede's typology involves the extent to which people
accept the unequal distribution of power in society and organizations
(Hofstede, 1980, 1991), or the extent to which people see authority as a
basic facet of the society (Gudykunst et al., 1996).  Hofstede (1980)
claims that the cultural dimension of power distance explains how different
societies have addressed basic human inequalities in view of social status,
prestige, wealth, and power.  High power distance countries, such as Korea,
are more tolerant of hierarchies and autocratic leadership and more likely
to expect clear directions.  In contrast, low power distance countries,
such as the US, are more likely to seek factual evidence and reasoning in
relation to a particular course of action (Hofstede, 1991).  People in a
high power distance culture, therefore, tend to obey the recommendations of
public and authority figures such as celebrities and high-status figures,
in comparison with low power distance cultures (Zandupor et al.,
1994).  Thus, in a high power distance culture, people with power are
considered to be right, and function as referent groups (Albers-Miller &
Gelb, 1996).
To apply this to celebrity endorsement ads, celebrity endorsers -- who
wield their salience and fame as a power to guide consumers -- might be
more prevalent in a high power distance culture than for those in a low
power distance culture, which has little tolerance for authority, and
focuses more on self-interest, autonomy, and independence (Hofstede,
1980).  Celebrities in a high power distance culture transfer their
publicly salient and powerful image to consumers, and deliver these images
via product ads.  Therefore, the following hypotheses can be proposed:
H1: Ads in a high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance culture
(Korea) will
        have a greater number of celebrity endorsers than those in a low
power distance
        and low uncertainty avoidance culture (the US).

H2: Ads in a high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance culture
(Korea) will
        have a greater number of expert (product-relevant) celebrity
endorsers than those
        in a low power distance and low uncertainty avoidance culture (the US).

Product involvement interacting with cultural characteristics
Product involvement has been one of the most important and widely employed
concepts in the advertising research domain, particularly when a
psychological process of advertising is examined (e.g., Petty & Cacioppo,
1986; Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983; Petty & Priester, 1994).  Here,
product involvement, according to Bowen and Chaffee (1974), is a relation
between consumer and product that theoretically operates as a contingency
or necessary condition, governing the relevance of an ad's appeal to the
consumer.  In this content-analytic study, the degree of product
involvement is determined by factors including how expensive a product is,
how frequently the product is purchased, how long it lasts, and what the
consequences are of a product choice.
How will this product involvement variable interact with cultural values of
uncertainty avoidance and power distance to explain presence and meaning of
celebrity endorsers?  Following cultural characteristics, high involvement
product ads in a high uncertainty avoidance culture should employ celebrity
endorsers (and especially the endorsers' expertise).  This is because high
involvement product ads can be considered highly risky, and ads in a high
uncertainty culture should meet consumers' expectations, since those
consumers want to avoid high risk and uncertainty.  However, such reasoning
contradicts dual-processing persuasion literature (e.g., the Elaboration
Likelihood Model and the Heuristic Systematic Model), which posits that
product endorsers (i.e., experts or celebrities) exert greater impact under
low involvement conditions (Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983).  However,
in their experiment to investigate the interactive role of source
expertise, time of source identification, and involvement, Homer and Kahle
(1990) found that source expertise can serve as the central persuasion cue
under the proper conditions, implying advertisers should not assume that
all source information is peripherally processed.  Given this inconsistent
and contradictory account of the role of celebrity endorsers in
advertising, it is interesting to see the role of product involvement in
celebrity-endorsed ads across cultures. Therefore, the following research
question is addressed:

RQ1: With low and high product involvement considered, how differently are
           celebrity endorsers presented in ads across the two cultures?

International products and celebrity endorsers in Korean ads
As discussed earlier, international marketers and advertisers increasingly
execute their product ads in Korean media, but little is known about their
celebrity endorser strategy.  The terms and definitions of domestic and
international products have been various; Samli (1995) defined the former
as products developed to satisfy very local and specific needs, and the
latter as products designed to satisfy common needs around the world among
different nations.  For instance, in the same computer product category,
such a brand as Hyunju (a Korean brand) is a domestic product, whereas IBM
and Macintosh would be international/global products.  Based on McCracken's
"cultural meaning transfer" model (1989), either domestic or foreign
celebrities, whichever are the most culturally acceptable and meaningful
for the endorsed ads, and eventually for consumers, are likely to be
shown.  In addition, considering some contingent conditions such as
standardization vs. specialization strategy and complex Korean media
environments importing MTV and Hollywood movies, how many international
product ads are executed in Korean newspaper?  How many global brand
advertisers adopt standardized or localized celebrity endorser
strategies?  Taking these considerations together, then, the following
research question is addressed:
RQ3:   Among international product ads in Korea, how frequently are
domestic and
            foreign celebrity endorsers presented?

Content analysis was used to examine celebrity endorsers shown in US and
Korean newspaper advertising.  Newspaper advertisements were chosen because
they are the most comparable and generalizable for all target segments[1],
but are relatively neglected in cross-cultural advertising studies.
Sampling.  Advertisements in Chosun-ilbo (Korea) and the New York Times
(U.S) were selected randomly.  These newspapers are relatively well matched
(Tak et al., 1997) in that each is arguably the most salient and
influential newspaper in each country and has nationwide readership.  Based
on constructed week sampling, newspapers throughout the year 2000 were
collected.  Sunday-issued newspapers, duplicate ads, local ads,
classifieds, and movie ads were excluded to avoid sampling bias and lack of
matching.  The unit of analysis is a considerable-size ad[2], which totals
1318 (694 for Chosun-ilbo; 624 for The New York Times) ads.
Coding Procedure.  Two bilingual graduate students coded the ads.  Taking
into account the potential for gender differences and cultural biases
(Miracle, 2001), one female bilingual Korean American who has lived in the
US for more than 15 years coded the entire data set.  The other coder was a
Korean male who had just arrived in the US.  He coded 170 randomly selected
sample ads -- more than ten percent (Wimmer & Dominick, 1994) -- to
calculate intercoder reliability.  The coders worked independently and were
blind to the hypotheses.  Before coding, six training sessions were
conducted, in which the coders practiced coding and contributed to the
coding manuals.
The coders were instructed to enter a simple "yes" or "no" to indicate the
presence or absence of human models, and then celebrities, for each
ad.  Human models should show more than the upper torso, so that it can be
told whether they are Eastern or Western, male or female, and celebrities
or non-celebrities.  Celebrity endorsers are operationalized as  "publicly
well-known individuals such as TV stars, movie actors/actresses, sports
figures, musicians, scholars, politicians, etc (Blackwell, Miniard, &
Engel, 2001).  Out of these celebrity endorsers, expert celebrities are
operationalized as "product relevant celebrities," such as sports players
endorsing sports products (e.g., Tiger Woods in golf equipment ads, Kobe
Bryant endorsing basketball shoes).  Non-expert celebrities indicate
"product-not-relevant celebrities" (e.g., Jamie Lee Curtis endorsing Sprint
PCS, Jason Alexander endorsing KFC).  These different types of celebrities
are again categorized and coded as three different age groups; 0 to 25
years old, 26 to 50 years old, 51-and higher years old.
For intercoder reliability, this study adopted Krippendorff's alpha, which
takes chance agreements into account (Krippendorff, 1980).  All intercoder
reliability values of the variables were at or above the conventionally
accepted value of .75 (Wimmer & Dominick, 1994), ranging from .87 to .99
Measure.  The product involvement scale was constructed with four item
variables: product price [PRICE], period of use of product [DURAB],
frequency of product purchase [FREQ], and consequences of a product choice
[CONSEQ] (see APPENDIX A for more detailed operationalization).  The four
items were summed to construct the product involvement scale, and the value
of the scale, from 0 to 7, is dichotomized into low and high product
involvement.  Cronbach's alpha reliability of the scale was .91, which
indicates very high internal reliability.  Exploratory factor analysis
using Principle Component Analysis (PCA) also showed that the scale forms
one factor with eigenvalue, 3.12 and 78.02 % of the total variance being
explained.  The communalities of each item are as follows: PRICE= .77,
DURAB= .75, FREQ= .82, CONSEQ= .78.

For the comparison of frequency of celebrity endorsers between Korean and
US ads, a series of Chi-square statistics were performed.
Out of the total ads, ads endorsed by human models were 326 for Chosun-ilbo
and 199 for The New York Times.  Korean ads contained a significantly
greater number of human models (47% out of the total ads) than US ads
(31.9%, _2 (df=1) = 31.19, p < .001).
        The first hypothesis, positing that ads in a high power distance and high
uncertainty avoidance culture (Korea) would have a greater number of
celebrity endorsers than those in a low power distance and low uncertainty
avoidance culture (the US), was supported. As shown in table 1, Korean ads
had a greater number of celebrities (24.1%, n = 167)  whether the
celebrities are product-related or not  than the US ads (9.9%, n = 62, _2
(df=1) = 45.68, p < .001).  However, the second hypothesis, predicting that
Korean ads would have a greater number of expert (product-relevant)
celebrity endorsers than the US ads, was not supported.  Rather, the result
was in the opposite direction, in that the US ads employed a greater number
of product- relevant celebrity endorsers (77.4%, n = 48) than Korean ads
(38.3%, n = 64, _2 (df=1) = 27.66, p < .001).
        The first research question relates celebrity endorsers in different
cultural contexts with product involvement.  Ads for high involvement
products in the Korean newspaper accounted for 69.8% of the total ads
(n=395), while 67% of total ads in the US newspaper were for high
involvement products.  The difference of the frequency between the two
country ads was not statistically significant (_2 (df=1) = .92, p = ns).
The first research question asked how product involvement works with
different cultural characteristics to explain presence of celebrity
endorsers in ads in each culture.  First of all, among high involvement
products, Korean ads carried significantly more celebrity endorsers (21.5%,
n=85) than their US counterparts (9.1%, n=29, _2 (df=1) = 20.32, p <
.001).  However, in terms of different types of celebrities (i.e.,
product-relevant or product-not-relevant), the US ads employed
significantly more product-relevant celebrity endorsers than the Korean
ads.  Specifically, 55.2 percent of the celebrity-endorsed, high
involvement product ads in the US newspaper (n = 16) employed
product-relevant celebrities, while their Korean counterparts employed only
29.4 percent (n = 25, _2 (df=1) = 6.23, p < .05).  This relatively high
proportion of product-relevant celebrities in the US ads is seen among low
involvement product ads as well.  Among low involvement products, Korean
ads had a significantly greater number of celebrity endorsers than the US
ads, but within celebrity-endorsed ads, the US ads carried product-relevant
celebrity spokespersons more than the Korean ads.  96.1 percent of the
total celebrity endorsers presented in the low involvement product ads in
the US newspaper were product-relevant celebrities, while about half of the
Korean low involvement product ads employed product-relevant celebrities
(see table 1).

The second research question asked about the relationship between
international product ads and the nationality of celebrity endorsers within
Korean ads.  Out of a total of 694 ads, only 8.1 % were international
product ads (n = 56).
Of 56 international product ads in the Korean newspaper, as shown in table
2 below, only four ads had celebrity endorsers (7.1%), while 163 domestic
product ads had celebrity endorsers (25.5%, _2 (df=1) = 9.54, p <
.01).  Foreign celebrity endorsers were present in three out of the four
international product ads, while domestic endorsers were present in only
one international product ad.  It is noteworthy that 12 foreign celebrities
(7.7%) endorsed domestic product ads within Korean newspaper.

This is the first attempt to explore cultural meanings of celebrity
endorsers in advertising across cultures.  While numerous studies have
focused on effectiveness and psychological processing of celebrity
endorsers, the cultural meaning of celebrity endorsers has been relatively
neglected.  Expanding the scope of McCracken's "cultural meaning transfer"
model (1989), this study investigates how celebrity endorsers are
interpreted in a cross-cultural context and what kind of cultural meanings
they could transfer across borders.
The results show that Hofstede's cultural value framework was helpful in
searching for cultural meanings of celebrity endorsers.  Ads in the high
uncertainty avoidance and high power distance culture of Korea employed
more celebrity endorsers than ads in the low uncertainty avoidance and low
power distance culture of the US.  Such results may imply that celebrity
endorsers can play a more significant role in guiding consumers, in less
risky and uncertain ways, in Korean society than in the US.  This also
implies that advertising within a culture should use and portray
celebrities congruently with ways that consumers can accept cultural
meanings of the famous spokespersons.
One caution concerns specific types of celebrity endorsers.  Expert
celebrities, operationalized as "product-relevant" celebrities in this
study, were hypothesized to be more prevalent in Korea than in the US,
because such source expertise (or product relevancy) may contribute to
reducing the risk of unknown product attributes.  However, the hypothesis
was not supported; rather, the result was in the opposite
direction.  Although different operationalization and measure may have
different results, perhaps cultural characteristics that Korean consumers
hold may offer unique insights.  Korean consumers are high trend
pursuers.  Once trends arrive, Korean consumers seek after such trends
unanimously; otherwise, they will be regarded as "fashion-laggards" (Cheil
Communication Monthly, 2000).  However, such trends change at lightning
speeds.  Yesterday's fashion, therefore, will become history
tomorrow.  Also, such trends mostly come from TV stars and famous singers
who are currently the most salient.  Clothes that a pop star wore in last
night's TV show come out in downtown stores in a few days, and form a
fashion trend among Korean consumers.  The pop star is likely endorsing
several products in a couple of ads or more, and will probably become a
cultural hero sooner or later.  Such a short-breath circle of cultural
trends is not uncommon in Korean society.  In this unique cultural context,
expertise in the product may not matter.  What does matter is which
celebrities catch the biggest popularity, and which advertisers preempt the
most recent and hottest cultural idols.
Taken together, the degree of salience of celebrity endorsers may be
overwhelming source experts, such that the celebrities are performing well
enough (or at least perceived to be doing so) to relieve consumers'
uneasiness about the product attributes.  To transfer their cultural
meaning to Korean consumers via product ads, in other words, celebrity
endorsers may not require specific knowledge pertinent to the endorsed
product brands, but rather simply being the most salient cultural icon and
symbol possible.
Just as Hofstede's cultural framework of uncertainty avoidance and power
distance gives only a partial explanation of celebrity endorsers, so does
product involvement.  According to dual-processing persuasion model, the
literature predicts that low involvement product ads would be likely to
employ more celebrity endorsers, specifically experts, to give consumers
peripheral cues to recall and buy the products (e.g., Petty et al., 1983),
this paper shows somewhat mixed results.  The US ads followed the
persuasion model prediction, in that, among low involvement and celebrity
endorsed product ads, the proportion of product-relevant celebrities
overwhelmed product-not-relevant celebrities (96.1% vs. 3.9%); however, the
Korean ads did not follow this direction with same proportion between
product-relevant and product-not-relevant celebrity endorsers.  Among high
involvement product ads, likewise, the results were complex: the US ads had
a slightly more than half product-relevant celebrities, while less than 30
percent out of the total celebrity endorsers in the Korean ads were
product-relevant celebrities.
On the other hand, high involvement product ads were more prevalent in both
countries' newspaper ads.  One possible explanation concerns the unique
characteristics of the newspaper medium, which has no limit about time and
space to advertise, and consumers are more actively involved in looking
each ad; accordingly, advertisers may want to advertise high involvement
products that are expensive and are not frequently purchased (Rothschild,
Finally, in terms of global advertising strategy, the results show that
only four international product ads employed celebrity endorsers, but three
out of four ads had foreign celebrity endorsers.  Interestingly, all these
three cases were international female fashion magazine ads.  By showing
their cover models -- Cameron Diaz in Cosmopolitan, Cindy Crawford in Elle,
and Elizabeth Hurley in Marie Claire  these magazines promoted their
endorsed products.  With the rising tide of globalization, thin Western
models with a blonde hair, blue eyes and long legs have become a standard
of beauty.  Along with the visibility of such global magazine brands,
well-known Western fashion models and celebrities become salient by
acquiring a cultural meaning of "global beauty standard."  It is likely
that other beauty related product ads covering cosmetics, clothes, and
fashion accessories have the possibility of adopting a global celebrity
endorser strategy.  Such an argument is supported by de Mooij (1998), who
claims that standardization advertising strategy can be more likely applied
to such product ads as cosmetics, toiletries, clothing, and footwear.
In addition, it should be noted that some domestic product ads employed
foreign celebrities as well. One salient example is computer software
emperor (as he is called in Korea) Bill Gates, who endorsed the Sambo Dream
notebook computer.  Interestingly, he was not shown in person, but on the
cover picture of his book, "Speed of Thought."  It seems that the book
publisher and the computer company did co-opt marketing, so as to promote
both products to evoke a synergy effect.  The fact that intelligent and
knowledgeable celebrities may be effective can be explained by unique
cultural norms prevalent in Korean society (see Paek, Nelson & McLeod,
2002, for detailed discussion).  Paek, Nelson and McLeod (2002) argue that,
although Korea is known as a collectivistic culture, Korean society
demonstrates vertical and individualistic characteristics such as
'competition' and 'achievement.'  It is already well known that aspiration
for higher education is widespread and deeply ingrained in Korean
society.  Such education-oriented cultural values and norms can be detected
in Korean ads, in that about 17% of total ads in Korean newspaper in 2000
were for education-related product ads, mostly textbooks enhancing English
or other foreign language skills (e.g., TOEFL, TOEIC, TESOL) and self-study
guidebooks for college entrance exams.  It is not surprising to see Bill
Gates in Korean ads, because his image of intelligence may meet Korean
consumers' norms and expectations in a Korean cultural
context.  Furthermore, several Korean celebrities who have a similar image
to that of Bill Gates endorse Korean brands as well.  For instance, Cheol
Soo Ahn, who invented an anti-virus computer software program, is a famous
cultural icon for his intelligence and brilliance.  He has been endorsing
several products pertinent to computers, computer program software, and
Overall, although it is rarely generalizable, this study implies that it is
possible to adopt a consistent and homogeneous celebrity endorser strategy,
if the celebrity endorsers are well known and culturally acceptable.  As
discussed earlier, the success of such foreign celebrity endorsers as Karl
Bernstein, Alvin Tofler, and Margaret Thatcher may be a few salient
precursors predicting that powerful, credible and intelligent celebrities
may work if well coordinated with a certain type of product.
Need celebrity endorsers be culturally meaningful to perform their tasks
successfully in the endorsed ads?  This study seems to answer that, yes;
celebrity endorsers are cultural symbols that represent contemporary
cultural trends and can converse with consumers, but only when the
celebrities are culturally meaningful.  And in the cross-cultural setting,
this study suggests that celebrity endorsers should be cautiously selected
to transfer the meaning of the advertised products to consumers, by
understanding the very cultures where international advertisers want to

This study should be evaluated more as a theoretical exploration than an
empirical achievement, because many curious questions remain unanswered
with answers open to future studies.
Firstly, the sampling of newspaper ads might be a considerable
limitation.  Much literature is devoted to how influential and prevalent
celebrity endorsers are in TV commercials; however, few studies paid
attention to role of celebrity endorsers in print ads carried via newspaper
and magazine.  In analyzing Korean and US newspaper ads, this study might
add some insights to a dearth of celebrity advertising endorser literature
in print media; at the same time, though, this study lacks an analysis of
the mainstream role of celebrity endorsers that can be found in TV
Secondly, this content analytic study examined presence and frequency of
celebrity endorsers in advertising for different types of products. It will
be interesting to see how consumers respond to different roles and types of
celebrity endorsers in different conditions.  Consumer surveys will suffice
for such consumer response- relevant research questions.  In addition,
different operationalization and different measures of content analysis of
advertising may be able to explain roles of celebrity endorsers in ads in
more detailed and different ways.
        Finally, this study opens the possibility of linking other contingent
theories and concepts in order to study celebrity endorsers and consumer
responses in cross-cultural advertising domains.  In so doing, this paper
requests to see advertising in a bigger picture of the whole society and
culture in more integrated and synthetic ways.

 Table 1. Chi-square test of celebrity endorsers in Korean and US ads
Frequencies % (n)
47.0 (326)
31.9 (199)
              Celebrity endorsers
24.1 (167)
9.9 (62)
   Product-relevant celebrities
38.3 (64)
77.4 (48)
Among high involvement product ads
              Celebrity endorsers
21.5 (85)
9.1 (29)
   Product-relevant celebrities
29.4 (25)
55.2 (16)
Among low involvement product ads
              Celebrity endorsers
32.7 (56)
15.9 (25)
   Product-relevant celebrities
50.0 (28)
96.1 (24)
Note:  Degrees of freedom =1

 Table 2.   Relationship between product nationality and celebrity
endorsers within
                  Korean ads
Frequencies % (n)
47.6 (304)
39.3 (22)
       Celebrity endorsers
25.5 (163)
7.1 (4)
Among celebrity endorsers
       Domestic endorsers
92.3 (56)
25.0 (1)
    Foreign endorsers
  7.7 (12)
75.0 (3)
Note:  Degrees of freedom =1

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 APPENDIX A.   Operationalization of the Variables

Expert celebrity endorsers:
1.      Product-relevant celebrity endorser with age 0 to 25 (.97)
2.      Product-relevant celebrity endorser with age 26 to 50 (.98)
3.      Product-relevant celebrity endorser with age 51 + (.99)

Non-expert celebrity endorsers:
1.      Product-not-relevant celebrity endorser with age 0 to 25 (.95)
2.      Product-not-relevant celebrity endorser with age 26 to 50 (.92)
3.      Product-not-relevant celebrity endorser with age 51 + (.92)

Non-celebrity endorsers:
4.      With age 0 to 25 (.92)
5.      With age 26 to 50 (.89)
6.      With age 51 + (.93)

Involvement Scale: (. 91)*
1.      Price of product: low, medium, high (.98)
Low: less than $20
    e.g.) Stationeries, foods, hair care, battery, OTC medicine,
Medium: About $21- $200.
           e.g.) fashion apparel, watches, airline ticket, hotels, camera,
telephone/cellular service
High: more than $200
                        e.g.) car, jewelry, computer, electronics, business
products such as real estates, insurance,
                                           consulting and finance, company
networking/hosting service
2.      Durability, period of use of product: short, medium, long (.98)
Short: one-time use or used in a few times
      e.g.) Foods, hair care, battery, airline ticket, hotels, home/office
Medium: used about in a year
                                     e.g.) Vitamins, diet pills,
Long: durable for a long time, or never worn out
             e.g.) car, jewelry, computer, electronics, telecommunication
                     service, business products, home/office furniture,
3.      Frequency of product purchase: frequent, medium, less frequent (.91)
Frequent: more than one time per month
             e.g.) Foods, hair care, battery, OTC medicine, home/office goods
Medium: a couple of times per year
                                          e.g.) fashion apparel, watches,
airline ticket, hotels, publication
Less frequent: only one or a few times for lifetime
                                e.g.) car, jewelry, computer, electronics, diet
pills, business products, home/office
4.      Consequences of bad decisions of product purchase: low, high (.97)
Low: Less effective. Not much damage. Okay just for trial
        e.g.) Foods, hair care, battery, airline ticket, hotels,
home/office goods
High: Very much effective. Financial and mental damage. When not satisfied
with these
           products, you might want to tell your friends or families not to
buy those products.
           e.g.) car, computer, electronics, business products, home/office

Product nationality (.96)
Domestic product: essentially made for the purpose of serving domestic
customers. Made, sold,
                 and advertised domestically. Including joint companies,
with foreign companies,
                 M&A, or just export products
International (global/transnational/multinational) product: well-known,
worldwide brands.
                 Made, sold, and advertised globally. Made for and used by
customers worldwide.

Eastern model (.99): Mostly easily picked as pacific islanders. Koreans,
                                     Chinese, South Asians, and Mongolians

Western model (.87): White Americans, Hispanics, Blacks, Europeans.
                                       Basically all races excluding Asians
* indicates Cronbach's alpha reliability; otherwise, intercoder
[1]  For instance, the magazine medium in Korea is not well developed due
to the small market size and the low readership; TV commercials may not be
comparable, either, because Korea has only 15-second TV commercials and no
ads inserted during programming.

[2]  The measurement of Korean newspaper ads is called TAN.  The size of
Korean ads adopted in this study is 7 1/2 TAN (About A4 size, 36.5 cm
diagonally). Because the US newspaper is narrower in width than the Korean
newspaper (59cm: 62cm diagonally), the size of the US sample advertisements
was calculated as 59: x = 62: 36.5.

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