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Cityscape: Volume 18 Number 2 | What’s the Point(s)? Information Content and Messaging Strategies in Mortgage Loan Advertisements


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Borrower Beware

Volume 18, Number 2

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

What’s the Point(s)? Information Content and Messaging Strategies in Mortgage Loan Advertisements

Vanessa G. Perry
George Washington University

Carol M. Motley
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Robert L. Adams, Jr.
NEA Foundation

According to the Federal Trade Commission, claims in advertisements must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence based. These rules apply primarily to advertisements that are informational in nature—that is, they are intended to convey verifiable facts. Many advertising messages, however, are intended to evoke an emotional or affective response to the ad; this emotional response would be transferred to the firm sponsoring the ad (Gresham and Shimp, 1985; Shimp, 1981). This widely used message tactic serves to protect advertisers from scrutiny regarding the standards for truth versus deception because of the subjective nature of the claims. The purpose of this research is to examine the thematic content of mortgage loan ads and to determine if marketing messaging tactics vary for general, African-American, and Hispanic/Latino audiences. Using our quantitative and qualitative content analyses of mortgage loan ads, we find that, although lenders rely on a number of framing and message strategies to inform and persuade their target audiences, incidences of factual or verifiable informational content in these ads, such as pricing or loan terms, are relatively rare. We also find significant differences in the use of informational versus transformational themes and in the presence of pricing information in ads placed in general versus African-American and Hispanic/Latino media. We discuss implications for public policy and lending practice.

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