Marketing Research Paper


You are required to choose a topic of interest either industry analysis or meta-analysis. (in Australia)
The project is concerned with the preparation of a research project to gain hands-on experience of the application of marketing research into practice. You will have to collect data based on research questions relating to a specific research topic. You will be responsible for analyzing the data and prepare the final reports. You can use surveys, questionnaires or any other method of data collecting.
Based on the analysis and interpretation of the results. Please note that the project is a practical research task and requires an organized and consistent effort. The assignment will reflect the overall research skills that you have developed throughout this project. The project report will demonstrate your understanding of the various steps of the marketing research process in an applied setting.
Write a report 1.5 spaced about 16-18 pages maximum (including references) Times New Roman 12 font.
In this study, you will need to combine the results of other studies on the same topic to understand more information regarding the shared area of inquiry. You will need to contrast and combine the results of various studies in order to identify any trend, pattern or relationships. It conducts research on previously published research. The second option is that you can collect secondary data on certain topics and analyses using SPSS.
The analysis should include the following sections:
1. Background of the Problem (briefly)
2. Research Questions (3 to 5 Questions)
3. Objectives of the Study
4. Methodology
5. Abstract
6. Introduction
7. Significance of the Study
8. Literature Review
9. Methodology
10. Data Analysis
11. Results and Discussions
12. Conclusions, Implications, and Recommendations
13. Limitations and Future Research
14. References
15. Sample of the survey used


A study on the attitudes of Australian consumers towards offensive television advertising


Abstract 2

Background of the Problem.. 3

Research Questions. 3

Objectives of the Study. 4

Introduction. 4

Significance of the Study. 5

Literature Review.. 6

Fig. 1: A table showing participants’ responses regarding the importance of TV advertising. 8

Methodology. 10

Fig. 2: A Sample five-point Likert scale (Source: 12

Fig. 3: Summary of participants’ responses regarding the level of offense attributed to various product categories. 13

Fig. 5: Summary of participants’ responses regarding the reasons why TV adverts are offensive. 13

Results and Discussions. 14

The level of offense that participants attributed to various product categories. 14

Reasons why TV adverts are considered offensive. 16

Conclusions, Implications, and Recommendations. 17

Limitations and Future Research. 20

References. 20

Sample of the survey questionnaire used. 23


            Television remains a dominant way in which advertisers seek to create awareness of their products to potential customers. However, a major problem that marketing specialists must contend with is offensive TV advertising. Many TV adverts are considered offensive by viewers either because of the products/services/ideas they promote or simply due to offensive execution. This study employs the questionnaire survey method to investigate the attitudes of Australian consumers towards offensive television advertising. Findings suggest that the participants of this study hold more or less similar views as far as the perception of offensive TV advertising is concerned. According to them, advertising a certain product/service/idea can be considered offensive. Similarly, the perception may be due to the offensive execution of TV advertising campaigns. Findings also suggest that respondents across the board conform to views that are somewhat similar in terms of reasons why an advert may be considered personally offensive, female respondents seem to be more significantly offended by the reasons they give. Lastly, racial slur and anti-social behavior, and sexist language are identified as the leading causes of offensive TV advertising in Australia.

Background of the Problem

            The pervasiveness of television advertising continues to trigger discussions on what it takes for a TV advert to be appealing to the target audience. This discussion is a healthy one considering that today’s consumers are highly selective in terms of the quality of adverts that they consider acceptable. Although the advent of the information has led to a shift of some attention towards online advertising, TV adverts continue to be a ubiquitous feature in the typical sitting-room setting of the contemporary family. Thus, producing an offensive TV advert can massively damage in terms of corporate reputation. However, it is difficult to provide a precise statement that fits the description of an offensive advert. Moreover, it is difficult for people to agree on what constitutes an offensive advert. Nevertheless, there are certain areas where an overwhelming majority of people in the audience can agree that an element of the offense was discernible in the way a specific TV advert was designed and presented to millions of people on television. In this study, the focus is on offensive advertising in Australia. The idea is to attempt to define what constitutes offensive TV advertising in regards to the Australian context.

Research Questions

The following research questions will be addressed in the study:

  1. Which type of products, services, and ideas are most commonly associated with offensive TV advertising in Australia today?
  2. To what extent do differences in the perception of offense in TV adverts vary between the two sexes?
  3. Why do companies/organizations engage in potentially offensive/intentionally offensive TV advertising campaigns?
  4. How can advertisers address the challenges that come with offensive TV advertising?

Objectives of the Study

            This study sets out to meet four objectives, namely:

  1. To identify the type of produces, services, and ideas that are likely to cause offense when advertised via the television medium.
  2. To highlight differences between the two sexes in terms of the TV adverts are perceived to be offensive.
  3. To investigate the rationale for companies’ engagement in offensive advertising.
  4. To evaluate the various measures that advertisers can take to address the challenges that may arise from offensive adverts.


            Advertising has become a controversial topic in recent times for a number of reasons. While sellers must advertise their products to create awareness among potential buyers, many consumers are increasingly worried about the accuracy of the information that is obtained through advertising. This is neither a new phenomenon nor the main concern since advertisers have since time immemorial used exaggeration to capture the attention of target audiences. The main concern is the blatant abuse of ethical responsibility among marketers and their sponsors. Since societal advancements have led to growing awareness of advertising messages that may not win the approval of a wider section of society, there is a covert expectation that advertisers will adapt to the changing times and avoid launching controversial advertising campaigns, particularly on television. On the contrary, it seems as if the number of controversial and blatantly offensive TV adverts has increased dramatically.

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            Those who disagree insofar as the growing number of offensive TV adverts is concerned may nonetheless agree that society has become more aware of the products that are harmful and those that are not. Incidentally, products that are harmful but have not yet been illegalized are likely to be aggressively advertised in a bid to maintain traditional sales levels in a specific market such as Australia. Many people especially non-smokers and advocates of a non-smoking society may find such kinds of advertising campaigns very offensive. The same case applies to other controversial products such as cigarettes and condoms. Regardless of the reason for the offense, there are many reasons why people in contemporary society often find certain TV adverts offensive. This is a serious problem that marketers must confront. This explains why the present study is of utmost relevance. Once manufacturers understand why certain products, services, and ideas are associated with offensive TV advertising, they are likely to adopt ingenious advertising strategies designed to enhance their public appeal rather than offend potential consumers. Similarly, the findings of the study can help consumers understand the rationale for persistent engagement inoffensive and controversial TV advertising among some companies.        

Significance of the Study

            Offensive TV advertising is problematic for both marketers and the target audience. Marketers are unlikely to reach their sales targets if loyal consumers suddenly stop buying a product soon after the launch of an advertising campaign that strongly offended them. The situation may even become direr if the level of the offense was so high that the TV advert in question also put off potential customers. Such a situation would translate into lost advertising costs and an overall decline in the company’s profit margins. At the same time, loyal consumers would be inconvenienced by the undesirable situation of having to turn to competitors’ product offerings. For these reasons, this topic is of utmost significance. It will hopefully provide solutions to the various problems that arise from offensive advertising.

Literature Review

            The issue of offensive advertising has been widely explored in literature, although the focus has traditionally been on western cultures. Over time, the situation has somewhat changed, and investigations on eastern contexts have been provided (Phau & Prendergast, 2001). In the context of Singapore, for example, findings suggest that demographic profile should be a crucial consideration if offensive advertising is to be avoided. In this case, the main sources of the offense are sexual connotation and unnecessary evocation of fear (Phau & Prendergast, 2001). Thus, sensitivity to demographic factors should be a major factor whenever decisions on media choice and message design are being made. Children constitute a demographic group that strongly influences the level of offense that is triggered by advertising. This is a problematic situation particularly in modern society where children are increasingly assuming larger roles within the home setting (Bandyopadhyay, Kindra & Sharp, 2001). They spend a lot of time watching television and are thus easily targeted by marketers. Consequently, a serious debate has emerged among policymakers, advertising agencies, and consumer protection groups regarding the impact of TV advertising on children (Bandyopadhyay, Kindra & Sharp, 2001). 

The issue of offensive advertising has also been investigated within the context of beer and cigarette advertising. A case in point is the analysis of a beer advert in Bulgaria that triggered eight lawsuits against the beer company, its advertising company, and the TV station that aired it soon after its launch in 2001 (Millan & Elliot, 2004). In cases such as this one, public disgust for specific adverts is often expressed by consumer protection associations as well as various public bodies charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers’ interests.

            Religion also constitutes a major factor influencing the level of offense that is evoked by specific advertising campaigns. The reasons why an advert is considered offensive may vary from one person to the other depending on one’s religious beliefs. Even among people who belong to the same religion, differences in attitudes towards various TV adverts may vary depending on one’s level of religiosity (De Run et al., 2010). For example, individuals of low religiosity are highly likely to develop a permissive attitude towards TV adverts that portray a misrepresentation of religious facts (De Run et al., 2010).

            Due to this combination of factors, TV advertising has been harshly criticized by the public, thereby overshadowing its efficacy as an effective means of creating awareness about products and ideas (See Fig. 1). While a small proportion of TV adverts bring about a strong element of honesty and enjoyment, there are many others that are mired in ethical issues, dishonesty, nudity, vulgar language, and sexism (Ewing, 2001). Unless changes are made to deal with the problems associated with TV advertising, a growing number of people across the world will continue to express their dislike for it (Banwari, 1994). In this regard, it is suggested the challenge of offensive advertising can be resolved if advertisers who use television to promote their products stop taking advantage of children, promoting sex, and overly spreading materialism in the way they design their adverts (Banwari, 1994).

Fig. 1: A table showing participants’ responses regarding the importance of TV advertising (Source: Ewing, 2001).

By and large, these suggestions point towards the multidimensional nature of offensive advertising. For instance, a TV advert may be considered offensive because it promotes offensive products (Barnes Jr. & Dotson, 1990). In other cases, an advert may be considered offensive majorly in terms of execution (Barnes Jr. & Dotson, 1990; De Run et al., 2010). Advertising agencies may have greater latitude in terms of reducing the level of offense created through offensive execution than offensive products (Barnes Jr. & Dotson, 1990). In terms of the “offensive products” dimension, the focus is on those products that evoke conflict as far as the dictates of social norms are concerned (Barnes Jr. & Dotson, 1990). Research shows that certain products, for example, cigarettes, pregnancy tests, contraceptives, feminine hygiene products, condoms, underpants, and alcoholic products are controversial. Thus, TV adverts promoting these products may be potentially offensive. In some cases, researchers have even attempted to group these controversial products into various categories such as sex/gender-related products; addictive products; social/political groups; and health, care, and hygiene products (De Run et al., 2010). In contrast, offensive execution has nothing to do with the product itself but rather with the manner in which the advert was designed and executed (Barnes Jr. & Dotson, 1990). 

            One example of offensive execution is the use of nudity in adverts on primetime TV when all family members are watching the news in the sitting room (Nelson & Paek, 2008). In most cultures, it is considered inappropriate for parents and their children to sit together to watch audio-visual content containing nude scenes. Children may interpret such a situation to mean that their parents have no qualms about them dressing and behaving in promiscuous ways as portrayed in the TV commercials. However, the level of permissiveness tends to vary from one social context to another depending on a number of factors, including cultural values, type of product, and advertising regulation. Societies tend to have the privilege of accepting, rejecting, or isolating any products and ideas being advertised within its social context (De Run et al., 2010). Once a society rejects or isolates a product due to an offensive TV advert, it becomes extremely difficult for the affected company to sell that product.  

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            To create a better understanding of how cultural factors influence the way consumers react to adverts that are potentially offensive, culture theories are being used (Chan et al., 2007). In this case, specific focus is on issues such as individualism, information context, and feminine consciousness (Chan et al., 2007). For example, in many cultures, feminists become offended whenever nude female models are hired to enhance the visual appeal of TV adverts. Chan et al. (2007) compared responses of 563 German and Chinese respondents and found out that perceptions were by and large mixed. As expected, Chinese respondents tended to be less permissive of offensive advertising than their German counterparts. Moreover, they tended to be more likely to find adverts informative and convincing compared to German respondents. These findings can shed some light on how individuals from different cultural contexts respond to offensive execution of TV adverts.


            This study will use the questionnaire method to investigate students’ views regarding offensive TV advertising. A questionnaire will be distributed to 80 (40 male and 40 female) marketing students of a local university operating through two campuses. The response rate was 35 male and 34 female participants. Issues of accessibility and homogeneity played a critical in making a decision to focus on university students in the study. There are numerous marketing studies where student samples have been used with adequate justification (Rehman & Brooks, 1987; Tinkham & Weaver-Larisey, 1994). Moreover, there is abundant literature supporting the use of survey questionnaires in marketing research (Hinkin, 1998). In this literature, numerous suggestions have been provided on ways of understanding respondents’ views and behaviors as portrayed in the answers that they provide through questionnaires. Questionnaires are widely preferred in marketing research because their features can be varied to reflect the unique circumstances under which a study is being undertaken. This understanding is of utmost importance particularly in situations where abstract constructs are being measured.

            To measure respondents’ views, this study will use the Likert Scale, which is one of the suggested ways of measuring abstract constructs such as the attitude of the audience towards TV advertising (See Fig. 2). The Likert Scale is a five-point scale that has been widely used in marketing research to measure the views of consumers regarding different phenomena (Dawes, 2008). Respondents will be requested to indicate the level of “offense” that they feel is manifested by different categories of adverts. The lowest level of offense will be denoted by the scale of 1 representing “not at all” offensive while the highest level of offense will be denoted by a scale of 5 representing “extremely” offensive. The choice of categories to be used will be based on the typology provided by De Run et al. (2010), which include sex/gender-related products; addictive products; social/political groups; and health, care, and hygiene products.

Fig. 2: A Sample five-point Likert scale (Source:

Data Analysis

            The data that was obtained from the analysis of the participants’ responses is summarized in Fig. 3 and Fig. 5.

Product Category Total Mean for Male and Female Respondents (N=69)   Mean Score for Male Respondents (N=35) Mean Score for Female Respondents (N=34)
Sex/gender-related products 1.91 2.06 1.76
Addictive products 2.51 2.28 2.74
Social/political groups 3.45 3.40 3.51
Health, care, and hygiene products 2.47 2.46 2.48

Fig. 3: Summary of participants’ responses regarding the level of offense attributed to various product categories

Reason Total Mean Score Mean Score for Male Respondents (N=35) Mean Score for Female Respondents (N=34)
Sexist attitude 2.91 2.13 3.69
Racial slur 3.73 3.38 4.08
Anti-social behavior 3.08 2.73 3.43
Indecency (profanity and nudity) 2.56 2.10 3.01
Highly personal subject 2.57 2.35 2.78

Fig. 5: Summary of participants’ responses regarding the reasons why TV adverts are offensive

            In the first part of the questionnaire, respondents were presented with 4 product categories and asked to indicate the level to which they felt offended by TV adverts that featured those product categories. Each participant was required to select one of the five available choices, ranging from “1” (I am not offended at all” to 5 (I am extremely offended) (See Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: The Questionnaire that was used in the study.

In the second part of the questionnaire, the respondents were asked to indicate the main reasons why they found a particular TV adverts offensive. The respondents were asked to choose from a list of five reasons: sexist attitude; racial slur; anti-social behavior; indecency (profanity and nudity); and highly personal subject. The following table provides the mean scores obtained from respondents’ answers under each category.

Results and Discussions

The level of offense that participants attributed to various product categories

            Overall, the results for both male and female respondents were somewhat similar in terms of the level of offense that occurred through TV advertising. The most offensive category was social/political groups. This was the only product category whose total mean was above the median of 3 in the five-point Likert scale. This is most likely because the messages that are normally communicated in this type of advertising are highly polarizing. Moreover, those messages tend to reach out to people’s ideological leanings with a view to change them. TV adverts that convey racist messages constitute a major source of an offense under this product category. This is because racism remains a major social concern in the Australian context. The issue of religion also falls within this product category since it entails communicating ideas to people. Religious advertising can also be expected to cause offense among Australian TV audiences owing to the hardline religious views that individuals continue to hold.

            Two product categories (addictive products and health, care, and hygiene products) had a mean score of 2.51 and 2.47 respectively. This means that the likelihood of getting offended is lower than that of social/political groups. However, respondents were more likely to be offended by these two product categories than by sex/gender-related products. This latter category produces the lowest mean score on the Likert scale (1.91).

Female respondents were more offended by addictive TV advertising. The score for males under this category was 2.28 while that of females was 2.74. This may be considered to be a reflection of social norms in Australian society, where females are widely expected to shun addictive products such as cigarettes and alcohol. At the same time, society tends to portray a somewhat permissive attitude towards men’s indulgence in such addictive products.

Males were more offended by sex/gender-related products than females. Under this category, the score for males was 2.06 while that of females was 1.76. This is an indication of remarkable differences in perceptions of offense for male and female respondents. The indication is that male TV viewers are more likely to be offended by an advert featuring an underwear brand than their female counterparts.

Reasons why TV adverts are considered offensive

            Respondents were also requested to indicate the level to which they felt offended by marking against one of the options under each category or reason for offense. For instance, marking “1” against “racial slur” would indicate that the respondent did not consider TV adverts to be offensive at all in terms of a racial slur. Conversely, choosing “5” would mean that the respondent considered TV adverts extremely offensive in regards to a racial slur. The results of this activity are presented in Fig. 5.

            Like in the case of the first part of the questionnaire, results showed strikingly similar results for the respondents. However, going by the reasons provided in the questionnaire, this time round female respondents tended to be more offended than their male counterparts. The main reason why individual respondents were offended by TV adverts is a racial slur (at 3.73, this category garnered the highest mean score). The second-highest score (3.08) was produced by TV adverts containing anti-social behavior.

            For female adverts, the two main reasons for being offended by TV adverts were racial slur (4.08) and sexist attitude (3.69). Profanity and nudity were also significant causes of offense for female participants given that they produced a score of 3.01. One may assume that females in Australia are typically more offended by the sexist attitudes in TV adverts since they are in many cases the targets of sexist images and comments. This is a major common problem that has traditionally been highlighted in mainstream feminist and gender-equality activism not just in Australia but in other parts of the world as well.

Profanity and nudity constituted the least significant reason for which TV adverts would be perceived as offensive. This finding may have far-reaching implications for TV advertising in the sense that the number of TV adverts that portray nudity and profane language may increase. The suggestion that is created in this regard is that Australian social norms are rapidly changing in the sense that people have become used to the use of indecency to attract the audience’s attention. The alternative view is that promoters have started to uphold higher levels of decency in the way they design their TV advertising campaigns. Further research in this area is needed to identify the precise reason for this phenomenon.

It also important to point out that regarding highly personalized subjects, the differences between males and females were not as significant as those that have been reported in other studies (Fam & Zafer, 2004, Ferguson, Kreshel & Tinkham, 1990). The expectation was that female respondents would be more concerned about TV adverts whose messages are too personal than their male counterparts. Again, this may be attributed to changing social norms in Australian society.

Conclusions, Implications, and Recommendations

            The findings of this questionnaire survey suggest that the participants of this study hold more or less similar views as far as the perception of offensive TV advertising is concerned. According to them, advertising a certain product/service/idea can be considered offensive. Similarly, various product categories seem to differ in terms of the level of offense that they can cause within a typical Australian audience. For instance, advertising campaigns that are undertaken by or targeted at specific social/political groups pose the highest likelihood of being considered offensive. This is especially the case if such advertising campaigns address race-sensitive themes. This study suggests that within the Australian context, such themes are highly likely to offend many TV viewers. Thus, advertising companies are called upon to avoid themes that may be considered racially sensitive/extremist/abusive when targeting specific market segments or demographic groups with their products. Other than political/social groups, addictive products as well as health, care, and hygiene products are also significantly linked to offensive TV advertising.

            In terms of reasons why an advert may be considered personally offensive, findings suggest that respondents across the board conform to views that are somewhat similar. However, female respondents seem to be more significantly offended by the reasons they give. Racial slur and anti-social behavior constitute the main reasons why Australian TV viewers regard adverts to be offensive. However, for women, sexist messages are a major cause of concern other than a racial slur. Whereas men and women seem to agree on the inappropriateness of using a racial slur to advertise products/services/ideas on TV, they seem somewhat disagree on whether the second most important reason for offense is anti-social behavior or sexist messages. The answer for male respondents is anti-social behavior while for their female counterparts it is a sexist attitude. The females’ views may be attributed to the growing tendency by Australian advertisers to focus too much on the use sexist messages in their TV advertising campaigns.

            In conclusion, a lot of focus for all agencies that are involved in TV advertising should be on ensuring that controversial advertising messages are avoided to avoid offending individual viewers. Advertisers should have a basic understanding of the likelihood of offending potential customers for each of the products that they seek to promote on TV. For example, avoidance of potential subjects like sexism and racism can go a long way in ensuring the success of adverts that are potentially controversial, for example, those that focus on addictive products as well as ideologically-polarizing topics such as religion and politics. Thus, aspects of both product category and execution of TV advertising campaigns play a key role in the perception of offense among TV viewers.

            In terms of implications, it is instructive to note that offensive TV advertising constitutes a broad theme in marketing research. Research in this field is ongoing, and it may be difficult to identify conclusive findings due to the diversity of views in literature as well as the absence of an integrated research model. In the context of this study, one crucial observation is the lack of clarity on why nudity and profanity have not been highlighted as a leading reason for offensive TV advertising. Have Australian norms changed so much that people have become used to the idea that it is alright to use indecency to attract the audience’s attention? Or have promoters started upholding higher levels of decency in the way they design their TV advertising campaigns? The need for future research to focus on these issues has been highlighted in this study. Moreover, it was expected that TV adverts containing messages that are too personal would be a leading reason why women would consider TV advertising to be offensive. Based on the findings of this study, this seems not to be the case. This is perhaps because of either methodological limitations or dwindling gender differences as far as the issue is concerned.

            Based on the aforementioned findings, this study makes the following recommendations:

  1. Advertising agencies should avoid themes that may be considered racially sensitive/extremist/abusive when targeting specific market segments or demographic groups with their products.
  2. Advertisers need to avoid racist slur, sexist messages, and anti-social behavior in the messages they deliver via TV adverts.
  3. Stakeholders in the Australian TV industry should put into consideration existing gender differences as well as the diversity of product types in order to understand emerging variations in views regarding offensive TV advertising.

Limitations and Future Research

            The main limitation of this study is that it targeted university students as opposed to a wider cross-section of the Australian TV viewership. Thus, the resulting findings may not be generalizable to the entire Australian population. In future research, efforts should be made to use a larger sample that contains all the country’s demographic groups. Moreover, the study has not delved into the issue of TV adverts that are inherently controversial, such that there is little or nothing that advertising agencies can do about them. Future research should focus on these kinds of adverts to determine the views of audiences across the country.

Similarly, there are many situations in which advertisers deliberately stoke controversy in order to attract the attraction of the TV audience. The impact of such a strategy on an individuals perception of offense should also be highlighted in future research. At the same time, Australian social norms are changing, such that current studies may seem to generate findings that contradict previous ones. For example, the findings of the present study create the impression that social norms in the country are changing, and people are becoming more permissive to profanity and nudity in TV advertising. Future studies should focus on determining whether this is in fact the case. The studies should also address the alternative view that Australian promoters who advertise their products/services/ideas on TV are increasingly upholding higher levels of decency.


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Barnes Jr., J. & Dotson, M. (1990). An exploratory investigation into the nature of offensive television advertising. Journal of Advertising, 19(3), 61-69.

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Sample of the survey questionnaire used

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