Defence dissertation Zeph van Berlo

On July 3rd, Zeph M. C. van Berlo defended his dissertation “Playful Persuasion: Advergames as Gamified Advertising”.

In his dissertation, Zeph explores the underlying mechanisms of advergame effects and identifies several boundary conditions for these effects. The empirical chapters include four studies: an observational study, two experimental studies, and a meta-analysis.

Historically, advertisers and marketers were early to recognize and harness the power of play. For years, they have been using game thinking and game mechanics to enhance advertising for the purpose of influencing consumer behavior. This process is more commonly referred to as gamification. A popular application of gamification in advertising is the advergame. Advergames are fully gamified commercial messages, which means that they are advertising messages disguised as games—developed by brands—to promote a particular commercial message.

Overall, the works included in the dissertation show that the gamification of advertising stimulates consumers’ affective processing of the persuasive message—resulting for example in positive affective brand responses. At the same time, the studies also indicate that gamification hinders consumers’ cognitive processing of the persuasive message—by limiting the encoding and storage of the embedded brand information. This means that, while being able to drive affective (and subsequently behavioral) brand responses, gamifying advertising makes it more difficult for consumers to recognize it as such. This is problematic, because being able to recognize a message as (potentially) persuasive is essential for someone to initiate a coping response—and ultimately to guarantee fair communication.

The dissertation was supervised by Eva A. van Reijmersdal (promotor) and Edith G. Smit (promotor).

The full dissertation can be found here.