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Research Projects

ME Lab research initiatives are open to faculty, undergraduate and graduate students at DePaul University. A variety of research projects are active throughout the academic year.

Current Projects

Featuring the Average Joe: Visual Attention to Models in Food Ads

Principal investigator: Juan Mundel
Project collaborators: Juliet Stantz (faculty), Anna Wolf, Niki Sasiela, Gigi Wood, Lauren Russell (undergraduate student researchers)

The use of attractive models as a means to grab consumers’ attention and influence their product evaluations and purchase intentions is a common occurrence among advertisers. Research shows that recurrent exposure to ads featuring models with idealized bodies can lead to negative self-evaluations, development of eating disorders, and depression, among other negative outcomes. This study explores how males evaluate models featured in snack food advertisements when their bodies conform (or not) with advertising industry norms, and the effects of the pairing of different models with products perceived to be healthy (vs. unhealthy) on participants’ evaluations of the self, the product, and the ad.

Professor Mundel and his team collect self-reported measures as well as visual attention to the different elements in the ad.​

Same Endorser Different Brands: Model Recognition and Brand Evaluation

Principal investigator: Juan Mundel
Project collaborators: Claire Hope (undergraduate student researcher)

Advertising with the use of visuals, such as photos, illustrations, and human model depictions provide central messages about an advertised product in an attractive manner. Visuals provide cues that attract attention and facilitate identification with the depicted images. Models in advertisements allow for personal identification with the product through the framework of social comparison. Advertisers that choose to use well-known individuals, such as celebrities, do so because they know that consumers will link the product with that particular celebrity.

Celebrity endorsers tend to have more exclusive contracts with brands than traditional models, however, more non-famous models are becoming the face of two or more brands that compete within the same product category (e.g, GAP and Abercrombie and Fitch). While there is abundant literature on celebrity endorsement and effects of models on consumers, research in model identification and recall on product, brand, and price evaluation is sparse. We are studying cases where models are cast for brands that compete within the same market, and carry different pricing strategies (e.g., utilitarian-GAP vs. premium-Abercrombie), to examine spillover effects between the brands.​

Corporate Political Activity in Public Relations

Principal investigator: Nur Uysal
Project collaborators: Kazim Jeffri and Nicole Granados (undergraduate student researchers)

Because government policies have significant effects on the competitive environment of companies, many companies are expanding their efforts to affect public policy decisions through corporate political activities. However, the issue of corporate political activity (CPA) has been rarely addressed in public relations. Using Framing Theory, this research project explores corporate communication on political activity including political contributions, political action committees, and corporate policies that accompanied a landmark Supreme Court ruling, “Citizens United.” The analysis identifies the similarities and differences in CPA communication across industries.​

Participate in ME Lab Research

To get involved with a research project at the ME Lab:

Faculty Research Collaboration Program

The ME Lab is open to any full-time faculty members at DePaul University. The deadline to apply for a project collaboration is two weeks before the start of each quarter, and the application request should be renewed each quarter. Faculty or department heads can request a letter of support or evaluation throughout the collaboration period.

To apply: