Tina Holmes – $ellOut!

$ellOut! is a 2018 research study conducted regarding perceptions of paid sponsorship disclosure on Instagram. The results were published in an single-issue magazine. Research methods included a focus group, online survey responses, and second-hand research. Results were in agreement with past work, but also discovered new significant predictors for ad success.


This project would not have been possible without the assistance of Eugene Lang College’s Opportunity Award Committee and Professor Margaret Bates. The complete text can be read here. Print and downloadable PDF copies of the magazine can be obtained by visiting https://www.teenahomes.com/


The fruition of native advertising in social media created a set of new, unique needs regarding the use of ‘sponsorship disclosures’. Use of a sponsorship disclosure has been shown to have profound effects on the viewer’s perception of an advertisement, and affects actions such as brand attitude, purchase intent, and participation in electronic word-of-mouth accordingly. This study aimed to discover what effects sponsorship disclosure actually has on viewers’ perceptions of social media advertisement.

In April 2018, a combination of focus group discussion and online survey responses were collected. Results suggested that sponsorship disclosure itself does not have an inherently negative impact on viewers’ ad experience. Instead, findings show that more significant predictors of  viewers’ positive feelings towards a social media advertisement include: accurate ad targeting, relevance to the disseminating social media source, aesthetic of the ad itself and its sponsoring brand, time-sensitivity of content, perceived honesty of the disseminating social media source, and use of humor. This study concludes that when it comes to garnering viewer favor, it is insignificant whether or not a social media post is clearly sponsored as long as the ad content and quality is up to par with non-ad content.

These results are in agreement with existing literature in terms of ads activating more complex levels of persuasion knowledge; however, this study found that viewers may recognize native content as an ad even if it does not bear a sponsorship disclosure, suggesting that negative effects may not be directly correlated with conspicuous disclosure but rather other aspects of the ad. Additionally, the focus group study discussed actual examples of social media advertisement as opposed to the hypothetical ones used in previous studies.

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