ABSTRACT: One of the most critical issues in every country is "Alcoholic problem" leading social problems such as car accidents, women and children abuses, divorces, and mental deficiency or psychological problem. The regulations of television commercial on alcoholic beverages act as fundamental role of alcohol consumption restricted riles. Some believe that the problem can be relieved if the freedom of advertising is limited. Thai government, for example, has revised the regulation on alcohol advertising for every two years. However, some argue that the regulation may bring the negative side, called "Boomerang Effect".
This paper aims to examine the causation of that effect clarified by two main theories; Self Theory and Classical Conditional Learning Theory through DQR approach and Hofstede's cultural dimension. Moreover, the corporate-social-responsibility mask represented in Leo Man (beer) advertisement campaign will be finally discovered in order to explain how an unexpected consequence -- the increasing rate of alcohol consumption in Thailand -- has occurred.
Boomerang Effect: Alcoholic Problem VERSUS Thai Regulation
The World Health Organization (WHO) traced from Global Alcohol Database about the growth in alcohol consumption of Thai adult per capita. The result was discovered that the adults aged above 15 years old consume 5.6 liters of pure alcohol in 2003 (World Health Organization, 2008). In addition, the table (See figure 1.1) depicts that alcohol consumption rate in Thailand increased from 1,210 to 2,100 million liters during last 7 years. Alcohol consumption has a significantly effect not only to physical but also to psychological, social, and financial issues (Thamarangsi 2006)
As a consequence, Thai government took this crucial problem into their concern. In 2004, they launched six renewed alcohol warning messages (see Appendix 1.4) which would normally be informed at the end of each alcoholic beverage television commercial. In the same year, the state also imposed that alcoholic beverage products could be advertised between 11pm and 4am on the television program as well as define the meaning of persuasive advertisement (see Appendix 1.4) including the prohibition on using any actor or actress. On the billboards and television commercial, in 2006, images of the products were banned, but their logos were permitted to display only two seconds. The government announced the alcohol free zones; temples, state offices, school, universities and other places of education in 2006 as well. It was finally limited to advertise only Thai social, ethic, and culture; therefore, every alcohol beverages could not publish their products on television in 2008.
All previous facts was plotted and described into a graph (see Figure 1.2) to understandably illustrate strong association between the rise in alcohol consumption rate and the advancement of Thai regulation on alcohol television commercial.
According to Figure 1.2, the revision of Thai regulation on alcohol advertisements and its ineffectiveness in the past few years could be clarified while the "Boomerang Effect" (Ringold, 2002) of alcohol consumption was reflected. What this means is that the decline of alcohol consumption had not shown in this recent year although the Thai government tried to always strengthen and encourage the regulation every two years. Ringold (2002) claimed that "Boomerang Effect" occurred when the target groups (i.e. male adolescence and male heavy drinking consumers) noticed alcohol warning label. They were likely not to perceive the hazard of the alcohol which is communicated by the alcohol warning. Paradoxically, they might consume more as a result of the counterproductive effects of the warnings. (Ringold, 2002) The figure 1.2 exemplifies the boomerang effect of Thai alcohol regulation which causes the augmentation of alcohol consumption in Thailand. After launching the six warning sentences, the alcohol consumption rate grew up from 1,450 million in 2004 liters to 1,625 million liters in 2005. The rate kept rising until 2,100 million liters in 2008, even though the alcohol advertising was limited to communicate solely Thai social and culture or corporate social responsibility.
The following analysis sections can clearly explain how the unexpected effect has been taken place.
Advertising Analysis: Leo Man Campaign
Most of alcoholic beverage market, especially economical market, has been made a use of sexy girls to represent their product in order to attract their target group (male consumer) for many decades. Leo beer, one of the most economical beers in Thailand, has launched a "Sexy Girl" contest for four years. This contest has been a part of a 70-million-budgeted campaign of the Boon Rawd Brewery Co., Ltd., a giant company in Thailand, in order to emphasize their product's position of a sexy-entertaining beer. (www.boonrawd.co.th) After each contests, the 7 sexy-girl winners will take part in Leo sexy-art calendar and Leo beer advertisement every year due to the restriction on persuasive advertisement (see Appendix 1.4) which limits advertising company to employ any actors or actress. Owning to the regulation on alcoholic beverage advertisement in 2008, Leo beer launched a "Leo Man" campaign, mainly presented Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) theme and 5th precept (see Appendix 1.5), no intoxicants, in Buddhism. Appendix 1.3 will provide more company background and advertising campaign.
Dimensional Qualitative Research (DQR) approach
The Leo Man advertisement was divided into 12 shots (see Appendix 2) and was coded by Cohen's 'BASIC IDS' framework under the Dimensional Qualitative Research (DQR) approach (Cohen, 1999) through every scene. DQR is a social constructionist method of inductive semiotics analysis which "is able to encapsulate all of intrinsic and extrinsic psychological dimension that most accurately demonstrate the processes used to mask deceptive claims". (Shabbir and Thwaites, 2007 p.78) This BASIC ID framework was originally developed by Lazarus in the therapeutic psychology and then Cohen adapted to BASIC IDS. (Cohen, 1999) This framework utilizes 7 modalities: behavioral, affective, sensory, imagery, cognitive, interpersonal, drugs (i.e. health or physical related), and sociocultural (Cohen, 1999) to interpret the Leo Man in a narrative way.
To begin with, Scene 1 - 5 mainly famed by the Sensory and Affection mode, provoke the first stage, called Attention, of "AIDA Model" (Fill, 2005). This step can create emotion of excitement, enjoyment, funniness. After that, viewer will absorb and realize causes and consequences of beneficial CSR activities through Behavior, Cognitive, and Sociocultural (Scene 2, 3, 5 - 11). During these scenes, consumers can understand the concept of help, care, success, friendship, economy, Buddhist principles which will create Action (4th stage of AIDA Model). Furthermore, a relationship among Leo man and Leo girls also shows Imagery and Interpersonal elements (friends and girls relationship). Drugs then supports the Leo Man idea of masculinity such as strong and healthy. All these descriptions will allow coder to discern the CSR mask with respect to female manipulation, Buddhism downgrading and disastrous effect of alcohol during considering "Self" theories and classical conditional theory.
Self-concept can be defined by the subjective beliefs and feelings toward one thing (Evans, Jamal and Foxall, 2006). Solomon (2008) also mentioned that the attitude toward oneself "can be quite distorted, especially with regard to his physical appearance" (Solomon, 2008 p.197). However, in collectivistic culture, each individual self is not independent or unique, yet it relies on others and surrounding social context. (Mooij, 2005) Young group ideal, for example, is similar to others, so his self-esteem is related to others as well (Mooij, 2005). The Leo beer advertisement may contrive the ideal self regarding to beneficial activities, good-looking ladies, and Buddhist teaching. The diagram (See Figure 2.1) shown below illustrates that viewers' esteem may be lower than the actual state during watching Leo Man
This can be understood that the viewers may make a comparison between themselves and those Leo men, the three young men in the advertisement. The puzzle in their mind may be "Am I as cool as those Leo men who I would like to be?" or "Is my girlfriend as sexy as those sexy Leo girls?" or "Does Leo beer can help me reach those ideal?" After that the gap, depending on each individual's perception (Solomon, 2008 p.198), between the self ideal and the actual self will be wider. The consumers may finally have a positive attitude toward Leo beer and decide to drink in order to enhance their self esteem to become attractive self identity. Consequently, they will be possible to answer their questions and fulfill their needs.
In addition, Masculinity and High Power Distance cultural dimension have been compatibly applied to this television commercial. Although Thailand was rated for the lowest masculine country in Asia, high power distance is the highest cultural dimension of Thai society shown as a graph (see Figure 2.2). (Hofstede, 2001) In Masculinity and High Power Distance society, the most dominant value is the competition in which people can gain achievement and success to mark individual's social position and status. (Mooij, 2004) According to scene 11 (See Appendix 2), a main actor, representing Leo Man characteristic, achieves interest and social acceptance from Leo girls and others. Thai consumers who have high power distance culture will readily accept the message of the Leo Man advertisement with regard to women manipulation. Unlike the United Kingdom, a low power distance country (Mooij, 2004), this type of woman-manipulative advertising messages may be elaborated and scrutinized more, enabling it to be less acceptable therefore.
Besides, from scene 3 - 11 in the advertisement (see Appendix 2), the actors are proud of them and are obtaining a lot of appreciations from a community due to their considerate and environmental - caring activities. This sense of CSR - minded accomplishment, extremely shown in scene 11, also expresses the masculine superiority over feminine who eventually seem interested in them. Women may be manipulated and degraded as sexual objects, so that men can control or master them. (Belk, 1988) This means that men want to possess the CSR activities as well as the Leo Girls' interest in order to be a Leo man. As a consequence, this process of possession will lead viewers to extend their self identity and create multiple extended self, depicted by the following web diagram (See Figure 2.3), through self of CSR and self of masculine/sexual.
While the Ideal self is being created and the individual self is being extended into multiple selves, the three stages of classical conditional learning theory is supporting the masking process in this alcohol advertising.
Classical Conditional Theory
Classical conditional Theory, one of the learning theories, can be used to clarify the hidden message in this TV commercial. Ivan Palov carried out an experiment on an automatic salivation of a dog (Conditioned response or CR) after repeated paring between the ring (Conditioned stimulus or CS) and the meat powder (Unconditioned stimulus or UCS). (Solomon, 2008) Regarding to Leo Man, these process can be illustrated as the following diagram depicts. (See Figure 2.4)
This diagram describes that CRS - fun and entertaining activities (Scene 2 - 9) (see Appendix 2) and those sexy Leo girls (Scene 4 - 9), have been neutral stimulus before viewers see this advertisement. After repeatedly watching Leo Man, CRS and sexy Leo girls finally become CS and associate with Leo beer (UCS). This process enables the target groups to place the CS into their mind as well as recall and response to it as the alcohol needs (CR). The repetition of placing or showing the CS constantly followed by the UCS can cause CR effectively. In advertisement, CS and UCS also should be more prominent and noticeable than any other stimulus. This can be explained that Leo beer logo was shown after the sparking performance of CSR activities and sexy Leo girls.
Furthermore, Buddhist prohibited statement, displayed in scene 10 - 12, is paired with Leo beer logo at the end of the advertisement. People may abruptly wonder whether Buddhism encourage them to join the useful CSR activities, related to Leo beer, or discourage them to drink alcohol. A type of humor, called "Disparagement", could be derived from a context in which make someone or something valueless or unimportant, cited by Speck (1991) in Shabbir (2007). According to the theories, it can be applied to the fact that Buddhism is an object of ridicule in this TV commercial. The paradox of Buddhism's image could unexpectedly occur in viewers' perception through the classical conditional learning process. This will be possible to consistently strike the consumers that there is a positive relationship among Buddhism, CSR, and sexy Leo girls as well as "LEO BEER". Therefore, the projective technique mentioned in the following section was carried out to assure the process of this learning theory.
Word Association Projective Technique
This report is using a word association projective technique (Malhotra 2009), a qualitative research, to assess the effectiveness of this Leo beer advertising with regard to the classical conditioning theory. The research was conducted with 20 respondents who live in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, to find out two words that come to respondents' mind when being asked about "Leo beer". (See Appendix 3) The result was found that "sexy girls" gained the highest response, followed by "good test", "cheap price", and "CSR advertising style". The sexy-girl images tend to be the most memorable message for customer owning to an encouragement of the fascinating sexy-girl contests and calendars.
However, it is apparent that there is no response about Buddhist warning message even if Thai people in general believe in Five or Eight Percepts of Buddhism (i.e. Fifth Percept is not to become intoxicated) (Assanangkornchai, S., Saunders, J. and Conigrave, K., 2002) This may be because positive appeals such as sexy, eye-catching visuals are often more persuasive than warning messages (Hust 2006). It can be assumed that sexual appeals distract people from the central messages which are alcohol consumption and Buddhist warning sentence.
"Masking" Process and Deceptive Advertising
According to the previous theories' analysis, "Masking" has occurred in this deceptive alcoholic beverage advertising due to the loophole of Thai regulation on alcohol advertisement and CSR-activity restriction. Moor (1988) mentioned that "Masking" is taken place when "the processing of a stimulus is interrupted by the subsequent immediate presentation of second, different stimulus. The second stimulus acts retroactively to obscure the former one". (Shabbir and Thwaites, 2007 p.76) In other word, when CSR amusing and advantageous activities together with sexy Leo girls conceal the harmful effect of alcohol and female manipulation, "Masking" has been found in the Leo beer advertisement. The hidden negative association among CSR, Buddhism, and alcohol is also a part of masking on account of the fact that Buddhism is not directly connected with alcohol, yet CSR instead.
It is obvious that deceptive advertising are massively employed by firms (Burke et al, 1988), especially in alcohol beverage market in order to mislead consumer to merely perceive positive side of the products. The existence of the deception is when "the output of the perceptual process differs from the reality of the situation and affects the buying behavior to the detriment of the consumer" first formulated by Aaker (1974). This camouflage has been conveyed to change consumers' attitude toward alcohol, a low involvement product. Ratchford (1987 pp 24 - 31) developed a model of Foote, Cone and Belding (FCB) in which beer product was categorized into low involvement/feeling quadrant (see Figure 2.5).
According to Ratchford's grid model, customers' purchasing decision is relevant to personal taste, so advertising should focus on personal satisfaction. Although people nowadays might feel more anxious about the harm of the alcohol and tend to scrutinize more before drinking, the alcohol beverages advertisers attempt to distract them from those behaviors. This can be simply explained by the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty & Cacioppo 1986) The Leo Man ELM (see Figure 2.6) demonstrates that Leo beer advertisement transmits its main message toward consumers' attitude and behavior via low involvement process. This TV commercial excessively emphasizes on customers' complacency provided by CSR's masking process or deceptive advertising. The information about CSR operation, captivating Leo girls and Buddhism warning statement are delivered through the "peripheral route" to convince consumers' belief and avoid the rational thinking called "central route" (Petty & Cacioppo 1984 p.668). Thus, viewers may disregard the reasonable consideration about the effect of alcohol on health, mental, or social problems (Holder et el. 1999). "Masking" is ultimately remarkable after deliberating the advert through Leo Man ELM.
Conclusion and Managerial Implication for Public Policy
This report examines how alcohol beverages advertisement pass its major message and communicate with the consumers through the peripheral route without any suspicion as shown in a diagram (see Figure 3.1). The Leo beer marketers utilize the loophole of Thai regulation on CSR style of alcohol advertising and Buddhist warning statement along with Leo Man Campaign and sexy-Leo-girls projects. The "Masking" process start when they apply Thai cultural dimension (Masculine and High Power Distance) to create the Ideal State and the need of multiple self identities' extension during decreasing viewers' self-esteem. At the same time, an automatic learning behavior declared by the 3 stages (before-during-after) of alcohol advertising model seamlessly masks the detriment of drinking. A qualitative research was conducted to assure the efficiency of "Masking" process and the ineffectiveness of Thai regulation. It can be assumed that Thai regulation had a counterproductive consequence called "Boomerang Effect" of changing consumers' perception and behavior. Drinkers might finally have stronger positive attitude toward alcohol beverages because of Leo man and Leo girls.
As a consequence, Thai government should be aware of this negative outcome and should recognize that the amendment is inadequate to lessen the drinking problem. The government should not only watchdog the advertising deception but also reinforce social norm (i.e. families, friends, universities, and communities) (Perkins, 2002). Although the state is a policy maker, other sectors; parents, peers, educators, and non-government organization, should share some approaches and corporate in order to prevent this problem such as increasing the health awareness in a community etc. (Johnson et al, 1986) Furthermore, mass media (i.e. radio, television, newspaper, internet etc) should be utilized to awake public attentions and dominate consumer attitude and behavior. (Stampfer, Rimm, and Walsh, 1993) In conclusion, the most effective and efficient way is to provide high-qualified education program to Thai people to raise their capability of advertising scrutiny.
- Time constraints obstruct this report to analyze the topic deeper. The given time of two to three months is not sufficient to collect information (i.e. the regulation and the company background). If extra time could be provided, more theories would have been profoundly applied.
- Word count confinement has an influence on broad and concept. The idea was limited with only a few theories.
- Distance limitation prevents the writer from field-work research. The projective research was done by another person who stayed in Thailand. This person might not understand the main purpose of the report causing him to collect the data improperly.
- Reliability can be found when the measurements repeatedly test and obtain the similar results (Hollensen 2007). According to time, word count, and distance constraints, this report merely conducted the word testing research with 20 Thai people who lived in Bangkok, the capital area. Therefore, the result may not be supported by the reliable proof
- Validity is to measure how trustworthy the research outcome is. The question will be "Does the research instrument allow you to hit "the bull's eye" of your research object?" (Joops, 2000 mentioned in Golafshani, 2003) Measuring the right thing with the appropriate method will bring correctness. This report is grounded on Thai cultural dimension when analyzing the main theories and use emic account when breaking down the advertisement in to BASIC IDS framework (Appendix 2). As a result, other researchers may define the different structure.