Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

James R. Stock, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dipayan Biswas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anand Kumar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eun Kim Sook, Ph.D.


Cast Shadows, Advertising, Product Aesthetics, Visual Processing


Prior research shows that stylistic ad manipulations (i.e., the style or manner in which product visuals are presented in an ad) impact consumer perceptions (Yang, Zhang and Peracchio 2010). This dissertation explores the impact of presence (versus absence) of a product’s shadow in the ad frame, as a visual stylistic manipulation influencing consumer ad perceptions. While many stylistic manipulations have been explored in the past, product shadows in how they impact ad perceptions have not been explored.

Drawing on a holistic understanding on object shadows from the visual art, cognition and psychophysics literature streams, this dissertation investigates how product shadows impact ad perceptions. It applies theoretical tenants of Gestalt psychology, Construal Level Theory (CLT), and information paradigms including Signal Detection Theory (SDT) in deriving seven specific hypotheses. It also tests for moderating factors (such as individual consumer aesthetics, gestalt versus component visual processing modes, and product luxury positioning) that may alter consumer ad evaluations and ad effectiveness perceptions based on this stylistic manipulation of product shadow.

Findings from this dissertation reveal that the presence (vs. absence) of a product’s shadow in an ad frame enhances the product’s visual form. This visual appraisal of the product in the ad frame further improves the ad’s overall evaluations. The effects of a product shadow on ad attitudes is positively moderated by an individual’s aesthetic tendencies (specifically their response tendencies towards visual aesthetics), a gestalt-focused (vs. component-focused) visual processing mode, as well as a luxury based ad’s positioning. There is also some support for negative effects of product shadows in component-focused ad scenarios, where they act as visual impairments rather than enhancers of the product form and aesthetics.

Theoretically, this dissertation extends prior research on stylistic manipulations of product images in visual ad frames, while building upon established ad communication paradigms, including AIDA and Hierarchical Processing Model, HPM (Peracchio and Meyers-Levy 2005; Yang, Zhang and Peracchio 2010). Managerially, findings from this dissertation have implications for print, online, in-store and thus, any form of visual advertising portraying a product form. It outlines specific contexts under which managers can systematically employ (or evade) product shadows to not only enhance ad evaluations, but also to optimize their ad message efficacies.

Stylistic image manipulations comprise production elements (e.g., camera angles), and only affect the way in which the product is displayed, i.e., not the core product image itself (Peracchio and Meyers-Levy 2005; Yang, Zhang and Peracchio 2010). Hence, these can be employed as strategic tools towards ad effectiveness (Barry and Howard 1990). Marketers can not only specifically target and position promotions incorporating product shadows towards aesthetically-attuned consumers, but also save advertising costs by omitting them if their presence hinders the communication of the intended message in certain scenarios.

Included in

Marketing Commons