Study: U.S. tourism ads entice foreign tourists, build goodwill
Brand USA commercials exhibit 'bleedover effect' with Australians
The federal government's "Brand USA" campaign to attract international tourists could also have a positive effect on viewer attitudes toward the United States, according to a new study published online last week in American Behavioral Scientist by researchers from Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and Southern Methodist University.
The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 established The Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partnership that was later dubbed Brand USA. The bill created a multi-million dollar global marketing effort to promote the U.S. as a travel destination, including the "Land of Dreams" television commercial, which served as the stimulus for an online experimental study of Australian adults.
"Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, researchers have tried to understand whether strategic use of global media might improve perceptions of the United States," said Dr. Jami Fullerton, professor and the Peggy Welch Chair in Strategic Communications at OSU-Tulsa. "In this study, we not only investigated whether the Land of Dreams commercial increased desire to travel to the United States, but also if Australians expressed more positive views about America after seeing it."
The article, "Strategic Uses of Mediated Public Diplomacy: International Reaction to U.S. Tourism Advertising," written by Fullerton and Dr. Alice Kendrick, professor of advertising at the Temerlin Advertising Institute at SMU's Meadows School of the Arts, is the latest in a series of international studies in which they have observed a phenomenon they call the Bleedover Effect of tourism advertising.
"Results have shown that people who see tourism promotion feel more favorably about the advertised country, even if they never intend to visit," said Kendrick. "In the Brand USA study, the commercial appeared to do double-duty for government and industry – both in terms of the intended effect of piquing interest in travel to the U.S. and as a catalyst for goodwill."
Fullerton and Kendrick have examined mediated public diplomacy for several years, beginning with studies that culminated in a book about the controversial 2002 State Department's post-Sept. 11 advertising campaign to predominantly Muslim countries. In Advertising's War on Terrorism: The Story of the Shared Values Initiative, the authors presented their own studies as well as State Department documents that suggested that government-sponsored advertising could improve attitudes toward America.
American Behavioral Scientist is a peer-reviewed monthly journal providing in-depth perspectives on contemporary topics in social and behavioral sciences.