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Am I In? Influence of Viewers’ Race and Sex on Image Appeal for Higher Education Advertising


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Diversification of recruitment advertising has become increasingly common across industries, including for institutions of higher education where promoting student body diversity is an on-going concern. In their recruitment activities, institutions go to extensive lengths to portray their campuses as racially and culturally diverse, including in promotional materials. Using custom images similar to those found in university promotional materials, this experimental study examines the influence of viewers’ race and sex on short exposure to race- and sex-specific images. Guided by Social Identity Theory’s in-group versus out-group premise, results suggest that participants’ race and sex have a significant influence on image appeal and that race represents a more salient group identifier than sex for certain groups. Findings are compared with previous race-related advertising research, and implications for higher education ad messaging and avenues for future research are discussed.



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