Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marketing (Business Administration)

First Advisor

Abhijit Biswas


Observation of advertising in current use suggests that a new type of ad is emerging as a product positioning tool. The new ad features third-party organization (TPO) product endorsement as one of the elements of the ad (e.g. "Car of the Year" award by Motor Trend magazine, and "4-star" mutual fund rating from Morningstar). Marketers appear to be using favorable TPO statements about their products to enact their positioning strategy. This dissertation proposed that TPO endorsements are perceived by consumers as extrinsic quality cues, similar to the established quality cues of brand, price, retailer reputation, and warranty. This proposition was supported by arguments from the source credibility literature, the principle of cognitive consistency, economics of information theory, signal theory, and consumer uncertainty literatures. In two experiments, TPO endorsement was compared to celebrity endorsement for its ability to affect dependent variables related to product quality and ad informational value. Additionally, factors that may moderate the TPO endorsement---product quality perception relationship (brand, credibility of the TPO) were also tested. Each experiment consisted of 8 factorial cells (3 factors at 2 levels each) plus 2 control cells. In all, data was collected from 466 student subjects. Compared to credible celebrity endorsements, ads containing credible TPO endorsements for the same product significantly enhanced consumer perceptions of product quality and information value of the ad. This effect was more pronounced for desktop computers (a tangible product) than auto insurance (an intangible product). For computers, endorsement cue interacted with brand cue such that the perceived quality of a low image brand was enhanced to a greater degree than that of a high image brand going from celebrity endorsement to TPO endorsement. It is concluded that TPO endorsement functions as an extrinsic quality cue in advertising. To consumers, TPO endorsement is beneficial because it may communicate experience and credence characteristics of products prior to purchase. For marketers, TPO endorsement may be useful in positioning products against the competition.