Exploring killer ads: A terror management account of death in advertisements

H.H.J. Das, R. Duiven, J.L. Arendsen, I.E. Vermeulen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Building on terror management theory, three experiments tested whether advertisements with a mortality reminder increase purchase intentions for products that provide an (un)important source of self-esteem. Study 1 tested the effects of mortality salience in advertisements (mortality reminder: yes vs. no) for art library and newspaper subscriptions. Study 2 used a 2 (mortality reminder: yes vs. no) × 2 (brand familiarity: low vs. high) between subjects design for newspaper subscriptions. Study 3 used a 2 (mortality reminder: yes vs. no) × 2 (product type: healthy vs. unhealthy) between subjects design for a beverage with importance of the product for consumers' self-esteem as a continuous moderator. Main dependent measures were mood; death-related thoughts; attitudes toward the ad; and purchase intentions. Across studies advertisements with a death reminder increased unconscious thoughts about death (Experiments 1-3), which, in turn, increased purchase intentions (Experiments 2 and 3). These effects occurred independent of mood, brand familiarity, product type, product relevance to self-esteem, and ad liking. Findings suggest that "killer ads" trigger unconscious consumer fears that may be alleviated by the urge to buy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)828-842
JournalPsychology & Marketing
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring killer ads: A terror management account of death in advertisements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this