IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

When white space is more than “burning money”: Economic signaling meets visual commercial rhetoric


  • Pracejus, John W.
  • O'Guinn, Thomas C.
  • Olsen, G. Douglas


Previous work has demonstrated that the use of white space in advertising communicates specific meanings to consumers and that this meaning derives from particular historical moments in the art and visual rhetoric of 20th-century North America. The use of “empty space” in ads, however, can also be conceptualized as a signal of burning money, which could influence consumer perceptions about the size and power of a company through completely different mechanisms. Somewhat surprisingly, nearly all empirical demonstrations of burning money in a consumer advertising context also manipulated white space, leaving the mechanism of action unclear. The results of the three studies discussed here indicate that white space is different from other ways of burning money, and its meanings are sufficiently different across cultures, thus providing stronger support for the rhetorical explanation than the economic signaling one. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for previous research that found that consumers infer quality from the economic signals of burning money.

Suggested Citation

  • Pracejus, John W. & O'Guinn, Thomas C. & Olsen, G. Douglas, 2013. "When white space is more than “burning money”: Economic signaling meets visual commercial rhetoric," International Journal of Research in Marketing, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 211-218.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ijrema:v:30:y:2013:i:3:p:211-218
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijresmar.2012.11.004

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kirmani, Amna, 1990. "The Effect of Perceived Advertising Costs on Brand Perceptions," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 160-171, September.
    2. Hao Zhao, 2000. "Raising Awareness and Signaling Quality to Uninformed Consumers: A Price-Advertising Model," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 19(4), pages 390-396, January.
    3. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Riordan, Michael H, 1984. "Advertising as a Signal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 427-450, June.
    4. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1993. "A Simple Theory of Advertising as a Good or Bad," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(4), pages 941-964.
    5. Schmalensee, Richard, 1978. "A Model of Advertising and Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 485-503, June.
    6. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1986. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 796-821, August.
    7. John W. Pracejus & G. Douglas Olsen & Thomas C. O'Guinn, 2006. "How Nothing Became Something: White Space, Rhetoric, History, and Meaning," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(1), pages 82-90, June.
    8. Nelson, Philip, 1974. "Advertising as Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 729-754, July/Aug..
    9. Kirmani, Amna & Wright, Peter, 1989. "Money Talks: Perceived Advertising Expense and Expected Product Quality," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(3), pages 344-353, December.
    10. Orzach, Ram & Overgaard, Per Baltzer & Tauman, Yair, 2002. "Modest Advertising Signals Strength," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(2), pages 340-358, Summer.
    11. Moorthy, Sridhar & Hawkins, Scott A., 2005. "Advertising repetition and quality perception," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 354-360, March.
    12. Nelson, Phillip, 1970. "Information and Consumer Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(2), pages 311-329, March-Apr.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kevin L. Sample & Henrik Hagtvedt & S. Adam Brasel, 2020. "Components of visual perception in marketing contexts: a conceptual framework and review," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Springer, vol. 48(3), pages 405-421, May.
    2. Kostoula Margariti, 2021. "“White” Space and Organic Claims on Food Packaging: Communicating Sustainability Values and Affecting Young Adults’ Attitudes and Purchase Intentions," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(19), pages 1-26, October.
    3. Yunhui Huang & Kai H. Lim & Zhijie Lin & Shunping Han, 2019. "Large Online Product Catalog Space Indicates High Store Price: Understanding Customers’ Overgeneralization and Illogical Inference," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 30(3), pages 963-979, September.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Régis Chenavaz & Sajjad M. Jasimuddin, 2017. "An analytical model of the relationship between product quality and advertising," Post-Print hal-01685892, HAL.
    2. Zhen, Xueping & (George) Cai, Gangshu & Song, Reo & Jang, Sungha, 2019. "The effects of herding and word of mouth in a two-period advertising signaling model," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 275(1), pages 361-373.
    3. Yogesh V. Joshi & Andres Musalem, 2021. "When Consumers Learn, Money Burns: Signaling Quality via Advertising with Observational Learning and Word of Mouth," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 40(1), pages 168-188, January.
    4. Laurent Cavenaile & Pau Roldan-Blanco, 2021. "Advertising, Innovation, and Economic Growth," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 251-303, July.
    5. Jie Bai, 2016. "Melons as Lemons: Asymmetric Information, Consumer Learning and Seller Reputation," Natural Field Experiments 00540, The Field Experiments Website.
    6. Brett Hollenbeck & Sridhar Moorthy & Davide Proserpio, 2019. "Advertising Strategy in the Presence of Reviews: An Empirical Analysis," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 38(5), pages 793-811, September.
    7. Ernst, Holger & Wickede, Anje, 1999. "Einflußfaktoren auf die Glaubwürdigkeit kundenorientierter Produkt-Vorankündigungen: Ein signaltheoretischer Ansatz," Manuskripte aus den Instituten für Betriebswirtschaftslehre der Universität Kiel 515, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Institut für Betriebswirtschaftslehre.
    8. Reo Song & Sungha Jang & Gangshu (George) Cai, 2016. "Does advertising indicate product quality? Evidence from prelaunch and postlaunch advertising in the movie industry," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 791-804, December.
    9. Duncan Simester & Yu (Jeffrey) Hu & Erik Brynjolfsson & Eric T. Anderson, 2009. "Dynamics Of Retail Advertising: Evidence From A Field Experiment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(3), pages 482-499, July.
    10. Tsui, Hsiao-Chien, 2012. "Advertising, quality, and willingness-to-pay: Experimental examination of signaling theory," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 1193-1203.
    11. Doraszelski, Ulrich & Draganska, Michaela & Clark, C. Robert, 2007. "Information or Persuasion? An Empirical Investigation of the Effect of Advertising on Brand Awareness and Perceived Quality using Panel Data," Research Papers 1971, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    12. Hattori, Keisuke & Higashida, Keisaku, 2014. "Misleading advertising and minimum quality standards," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 1-14.
    13. C F Elliott & R Simmons, 2007. "Determinants of UK box office success: the impact of quality signals," Working Papers 584026, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    14. repec:lan:wpaper:1090 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Keisuke Hattori & Keisaku Higashida, 2012. "Misleading advertising in duopoly," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 45(3), pages 1154-1187, August.
    16. Mark W. Nichols, 1998. "Advertising and Quality in the U.S. Market for Automobiles," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 64(4), pages 922-939, April.
    17. Ivan Pastine & Tuvana Pastine, 2000. "Coordination in Markets with Consumption Externalities : The Role of Advertising and Product Quality," Working Papers 0003, Department of Economics, Bilkent University.
    18. Kyle Bagwell & Garey Ramey, 1993. "Advertising as Information: Matching Products to Buyers," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(2), pages 199-243, June.
    19. Simon P. Anderson & Régis Renault, 2013. "The Advertising Mix for a Search Good," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(1), pages 69-83, April.
    20. repec:lan:wpaper:1176 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Zakaria Babutsidze, 2011. "Returns to product promotion when consumers are learning how to consume," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(5), pages 783-801, December.
    22. Nils‐Henrik M. von der Fehr & Kristin Stevik, 1998. "Persuasive Advertising and Product Differentiation," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 65(1), pages 113-126, July.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ijrema:v:30:y:2013:i:3:p:211-218. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.