To date, research in advertising has focussed almost exclusively on metaphor, with linguists and marketing scholars paying very little attention to alternative types of figurative expression. Beyond the finding that metaphor leads to an increased appreciation of advertisements, there has been surprisingly little research into how consumer response is affected by metonymy, or by metaphor–metonymy interactions. In this article, we present findings from a study that investigated the depth to which participants (n = 90) from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds (the UK, Spain, and China) were found to process 30 real-world adverts featuring creative metaphor and metonymy in multimodal format. We focus on the cross-cultural variation in terms of time taken to process, appreciation and perceived effectiveness of adverts, and on individual differences explained by different levels of need for cognition. We found significant variation in the understanding of advertisements containing metaphor, metonymy, and combinations of the two, between subjects and across nationalities in terms of (i) processing time, (ii) overall appeal, and (iii) the way in which participants interpreted the advertisements.

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