Advertisements that elicit negative emotions (e.g., guilt) have been found effective in prompting socially desirable behaviors, such as making monetary donations to charity. This study investigates whether this principle generalizes to a specific case of high-cognitive-elaboration donations: fostering a child. Results from an advertising experiment conducted with 470 respondents indicate that this is not the case. Rather, positive emotions caused stronger reactions to the advertisements, with processing motivation and preexisting attitudes playing a critical role. Implications for marketing foster care—and possibly other, similar high-cognitive-elaboration donations—include that ongoing communication and elicitation of positive emotions is essential to first form the right processing motivations and attitudes, which then more likely will lead to behavioral change on later advertising exposures.
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