We have written about the effects of advertising on consumers on several occasions (e.g., Industry-Funded Research – Part II; The Big Game: What Corporations Are Learning About the Human Brain; Another Reason Not To Watch Drug Commercials). A new study by Xiang Fang of Oklahoma State University, Surendra Singh of the University of Kansas and Rohini Ahluwalia of the University of Minnesota finds that even when only momentarily seen, banner ads tend to make one more favorable towards the advertised item, particularly when there are repeated exposures to the banner ad. The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Research, and we have excerpted a synopsis by the United Press International.
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A U.S. study finds even incidental exposure to advertising may have a positive impact on consumer attitudes.
The researchers noted the majority of advertising exposure occurs while the audience’s attention is focused elsewhere, such as when flipping through a magazine or browsing a Web site. However, the new study revises existing theories of exposure advertising, specifically repeated views of Web-based banner ads.
“Effects of mere exposure are expected to grow in a marketplace where consumers’ attention is often focused elsewhere,” write Xiang Fang of Oklahoma State University, Surendra Singh of the University of Kansas and Rohini Ahluwalia of the University of Minnesota.
“Regardless of measured click-through rates, banner ads may still create a favorable attitude toward the ad due to repeated exposure,” they wrote.
“Our research could have important theoretical and practical implications.
“Theoretically, it enhances our understanding of the process underlying the mere exposure effect,” the authors said. “Practically, it provides some useful guidelines for advertisers to develop more accurate measures of banner ad effectiveness.”
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The “mere exposure effect” refers to a set of the extremely interesting studies by Robert Zajonc and his co-authors in the late 1960s and ’70s. As the late Ziva Kunda summarized the basic findings, “the mere repeated exposure to an object suffices to increase one’s liking for it.” Subjects in the experiments (who did not speak or write Japanese) were shown Japanese ideographs. Some subjects were exposed to the images a few times, while others were shown them numerous times. When later shown cards one at a time and asked to identify their favorites, the subjects had strong preferences for those that they had seen many times. The influence was situational in the sense that subjects were wholly unaware of the this effect and, as usual, attributed their preferences to dispositional factors — offering attribute-oriented reasons and personal tastes as their explanation. It should be no surprise that marketers would quickly find ways to exploit that tendency — as they have.