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Advertising researchers have been using test advertisements in a single exposure experiment. Review of literature, however, reveals that recall and persuasion ability of advertisements varies across different levels of advertising exposures. This study reviews the available literature on ad-exposures and theorizes that three exposures are most suitable for testing optimum effectiveness of advertisements in lab studies. The same set of advertisements embedded in a television program was shown in two separate but homogeneous groups in single and three ad-exposures and their responses on ad-effectiveness were obtained. The findings of the study reveal that advertisements in three exposures elicited significantly greater brand and ad-recall, more favorable advertisement and brand attitude as well as purchase intent than the same set of advertisements in a single exposure. Collectively, the result of this study provides strong support for three ad-exposures as more appropriate for testing advertising effectiveness in experimental study setting compared to single exposure.
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Does Advertising Exposure Level Matter? Implica-
tions for Experimental Research in Advertising
Wisal Ahmed1, Zahid Mahmood2, Ayaz Ahmad3
Abstract
Advertising researchers have been using test advertisements in asingle exposure
experiment. Review of literature, however, reveals that recall and persuasion ability of
advertisements varies across different levels of advertising exposures. This study reviews
the available literature on ad-exposures and theorizes that three exposures are most suitable
for testing optimum effectiveness of advertisements in lab studies. Thesame set of advertise-
ments embedded in a television program was shownin two separate but homogenous groups
in single and three ad-exposures and their responses on ad-effectiveness were obtained.
The ndings of the study reveal that advertisements in three exposures elicited signicantly
greater brand and ad-recall, more favourable advertisement and brand attitude as well as
purchase intent than the same set of advertisements in a single exposure. Collectively, the
result of this study provides strong support for three ad-exposures as more appropriatefor
testing advertising effectiveness in experimental study setting compared to single exposure.
Keywords: Single exposure, three exposures, recall, attitude, purchase intent
1. Introduction
In today’s era of competition, the role of advertising has increased many folds
than ever. As compared to other promotional tools, advertising captures greater
chunk of total promotion budget. A large amount of companies’ income is spent
each year on advertising the company’s products and services (Higie& Sewall, 1991;
Kim, 2007). Advertising spending statistics show that only in the United States, the
advertising spending were $70.8 billion and $200 billion during 1988 and 1998 re-
spectively,whereas in 2005, the total advertising spending touched $475 billion with
a growth rate of 6.7% a year4. Due to such hugespendings, company’s concern about
the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns has much increased today than ever.
However, the advertising effectiveness has always been an important issue in the ad-
vertising profession (Jeong, 2004). Review about this debatable issue (the assessment
of advertising effectiveness) indicates that different research studies on advertising
1 Institute of Management Sciences, KUST, Kohat. Email: wisalkust@hotmail.com
2 Department of Management Sciences, BAHRIA University, Islamabad. Email: zahid2749@gmail.
com
3 Department of Management Sciences, COMSATS, Wah Campus. Email: ayazciit@gmail.com
4 The Economist (2006), Do we have a story for you!, available at http://www.economist.com/
node/5418124
Business & Economic Review: Vol. 8, Issue 2: 2016 pp. 23-32
Wisal Ahmed, Zahid Mahmood, Ayaz Ahmad
24
effectiveness have used different methodologies. Some of the studies, while consid-
ering one or two factors necessary for the valid assessment of the advertisements,
ignore the other important factors. For instance, some of the previous advertising
studies have manipulated the effects of the television program as well as the brand
familiarity effects on participants’ assessment of the respective advertisements when
embedding experimental advertisements in the respective television program (Camp-
bell & Keller, 2003). However, many other studies have considered some other factors
important for valid experimentation (e.g., Ang & Low, 2000; Kover, Goldberg, &
James, 1995). In line with the same debate, the use of single advertising exposure in
previous experimental studies on advertising has always been a major limitation for
valid results of the concerned study (Till &Baack, 2005). There is sufficient amount
of literature emphasizing on the number of ad-exposures in which cognition and
attitude of advertising viewers reach to peak (Belch, 1982; Sawyer, 1981; Tellis, 1997;
Pechman& Stewart, 1992; Campbell & Keller, 2003). Based on this available literature,
this study argues that unlike previous advertising studies, advertising phenomenon
should be studied in more than single advertising exposure as more than one adver-
tising exposure provides a more objective and valid base for precise understanding
of the nature of a given advertising issue. However, previous studies investigating the
effects of different number of advertising exposures on advertising effectiveness lack
consensus about an optimum number of advertising exposure at which both recall
and persuasion increase simultaneously. This study attempts to explore the relevant
literature on advertising exposure and suggest an appropriate amount of advertising
exposure at which the understanding of advertising reachesan optimum level.
2. Literature Review
Literature evidencesthe use of different measures of advertising effectiveness.
However, in general, the behaviouraldimensions of ‘advertising effectiveness focuses
on persuasion or and recall being the important factors of ad effectiveness (Ang &
Low, 2000; Till &Baack, 2005; Groza, 2015). In addition, advertising studies which
investigate the causal effects of a stimulus (e.g., effects of cause related marketing on
advertising effectiveness) have mostly used lab-experimental study settings. Therefore,
to investigate the causal effects of ad-exposures on the assessment of ad- effectiveness
and review the relevant literature, this study considers those advertising studies which
examine the effects of ad-exposure levels in a laboratory setting. More precisely, this
study explores the advertising literature related to the influence of various experience
on recall, attitude and purchase intent in a contrived lab-experiment setting.
2.1. Advertising Exposures and Recall
To judge the memory performance of advertisements, researchers have used
Does Advertising Exposure Level Matter? Implications for Experimental Research in Advertising 25
consistently recall as one of the important elements of the effectiveness of advertising
(Till &Baack, 2005; Stone, Besser & Lewis, 2000). The main reason for this is that
it measures the likelihood of a brand presence in the minds of consumers(Loudon
& Della Bitta, 2002).Concerning the effects of advertising exposures on consumers’
memory, numerous research has demonstrated that exposure levels have a close rela-
tionship with consumers cognition which produces higher recall. From research, it
is confirmed that higher level of advertising exposures provides greater opportunity
to advertising viewers to sense and process the advertising information at a deeper
level in their minds. According to Cacioppo and Petty (1979),respondents’ recall is
significantly higher in three exposures than in a first and second exposure. Moreover,
respondents have significantly greater recall of advertisements when exposed to the
advertisements more than four times compared to those who are exposed to same
advertisements three times. Similar to these results, Sawyer (1981) found that subjects’
retriebaility of ad information in three exposures was significantly higher as compared
to single and two exposures of the experimental advertisements. The same findings
were replicated by Belch (1982) who found that as the number of advertising exposure
increases, so as the respondents’ recall. Overall, early laboratory studies have found that
recall moves upward linearly as the advertising exposures increases from first to six ad
seeing (Pechmann& Stewart, 1992). In line with these arguments, the recall level of
advertising viewers is supposed to be significantly higher if they are exposed six times
to advertisements than if they watch the same ads for the first time (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Ad Exposure and Recal
Source: Cacioppo and Petty (1979); Belch (1982)
Wisal Ahmed, Zahid Mahmood, Ayaz Ahmad
26
2.2. Advertising Exposures and Persuasion
In addition to the above discussion on the linearly increasing effects of advertis-
ing exposures on recall of advertising viewers, literature also states that consumers’
cognitive and hence the advertising exposure moderate the attitudinal response of
ad viewers. It has been confirmed by studies that viewers understanding of the adver-
tisements gradually goes upward until it touches a certain level of exposure. Beyond
that level of exposure, the resulting effects on viewers ad and brand attitude starts
downward. According to Krugman (1972), first ad exposure leads to inquisitiveness,
ambiguity and lack of recognition about the advertisement, which is referred to “what
is it” stage. This stage produces motivation viewers to comprehend the ad message
in the second ad seeing. This stage is reffered as “what of it” stage. In the third ad
exposure, the adertismenet being watched is evaluated in altogather. Ccording to Ca-
cioppo and Petty (1979), advertismenet viewrs brand attitude become more favourable
when the ad is seen three times, and it becomes weekly favourable on next occurring
exposures. Similalry, according to Calder and Sternthal (1980), consumers positive
thoughts in mind are created in three ad seeing which further produces positive ad and
brabd attitude. After three advertising exposures, negative thoughts start in viewers’
minds which make their attitude unfavourable. According to Sawyer (1981), the intial
two advertisement seeing procures low recall and week positive attitudinal response.
However, both the attitude and recall gets optimum on third exposure. Belch (1982)
substantiated similar findings. This has been shown in figure 2.
Figure 2: Ad Exposure and Cognition
Source: Calder and Sternthal (1980); Belch (1982)
According to Pechman and Stewart (1992), even the first advertising seeing
produces favourable effect. However, for optimal understanding, it is suggestd that
researchers shold rely on three ad exposures. According to Naples (1997), optimal
advertising exposures in earlier research work stands at three ad seeing and after which
Does Advertising Exposure Level Matter? Implications for Experimental Research in Advertising 27
the effectiveness of advertisement starts dimisnhing. This substantiates the results
of Sawyer (1981). Accoording to Sawyer (1981), the consumers advertising responses
gets the shape of the Inverted-U which means that earlier ad seeing leads to positive
effects which resultantly optimizes at third seeing and beyong third seeing, it results
into negative response. In line with these arguments, it can be implied that respon-
dents who obtain three exposures of the experimental advertisements are supposed
to have a more positive advertisement and brand related attitude than those who are
exposed to the same advertisements only once.
2.3. The Intersection of Advertising Exposure Level, Recall and
Persuasion
The majority of studies concludes that viewers’ recall increases from low on the
first two seeing, then high when the ad is seen thrice and recall optimizes on sixth
exposure after which recall gradually decreases. However, early laboratory studies
found that peak cognitive response reaches on third exposure and hence positive
attitudinal response from advertising viewers. In the first two exposures, the adver-
tisements produce negative cognitions and less favourable attitude, however, third
exposure produces positive effects on cognitions and hence leads to more favourable
attitude (Cacioppo& Petty, 1979; Sawyer, 1981). Beyond three exposures, the negative
thoughts in viewers’ minds outnumber the positive thoughts which exert negative
effects on their attitude.
In line with the above argumentation, it may be possible that with more than three
exposures, the attitude of advertising viewers may become negative; however, recall
will steadily increase till the sixth advertising exposure. Therefore, the right amount
of advertising exposure should be one which exerts the maximum positive effects on
viewers’ attitude as well as produce sufficient amount of recoil. In other words, the
right amount of advertising exposure should be the point where recall while linearly
increasing with the number of exposures, intersects the positive cognition and atti-
tudinal response. This has been depicted in figure 3 below.
As shown in figure 3, the cognitive response of advertising viewers and hence
their attitudinal response towards the respective advertisements touches the linearly
increasing curve of recall on the third exposure. Beyond third exposure, cognitive
response becomes negative, which further affects the attitude of advertising viewers
negatively. In line with this argumentation, this study argues that three exposures,
being a more stable and valid ground for obtaining peak response of research partic-
ipants, should be used for investigation of an advertising phenomenon as compared
to single advertising exposure where the viewers’ response still remains in the process
of maturation.
Wisal Ahmed, Zahid Mahmood, Ayaz Ahmad
28
Figure 3: Optimum Level of Advertising Exposure and its Effects on Persua-
sion and Recall.
2.4. Hypotheses
Based on the literature discussion, the following hypotheses are deduced.
H1: The experimental advertisements will lead to significantly higher unaided
brand recall in three ad-exposures than single exposure.
H2: The experimental advertisements will lead to significantly higher unaided ad
recall in three ad-exposures than single exposure.
H3: The experimental advertisements will lead to significantly more favourable
advertisement attitude in three ad-exposures than single exposure.
H4: The experimental advertisements will lead to significantly more favourable
brand attitude in three ad-exposures than single exposure.
H5: The experimental advertisements will lead to significantly greater purchase
intent in three ad-exposures than single exposure.
Does Advertising Exposure Level Matter? Implications for Experimental Research in Advertising 29
3. Methodology
Randomized control group experimental design was used to test the theory of
the study. Being a more homogenous group of subjects which is cruicial for internal
validity of an experiment, data from 177 business students was collected. The par-
ticipation in research was though subject to the willingness of research partcipants.
Subjects were randomly assigned to each of the two experimental groups: single and
three advertising exposures. Total twelve advertisements with each two ads representing
one similar product category were edited by a professional editor for unfamiliar brand
names and were embedded in a television program. Serious attention was given to
the sequence of the advertisements so that effects of first and last seen advertisement
could be controlled. After watching television program and embedded advertisements,
subjects asked to fill the questionnaires measuring unaided brand and advertisement
recall (Till &Baack, 2005) and the subjects’ brand and advertismenet attitude (Baker
& Kennedy, 1994; Burke &Edell, 1986) and purchase intent (Pelsmacker, 1998). The
data was analysed for exposure wise ad-effectiveness as well as the interactive effects of
ad-exposure levelsusing Analysis of Variance and Multivariate Analysis of Variance.
4. Analysis &Results
Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was used as most suitable analysis
tool to analyse the responses of advertising viewers on different measures of advertising
effectiveness in single as well as three exposures. Test statisticsare given in table 1 below.
Table 1: Ad-Exposure Wise Response on Advertising Effectiveness Measures
Measure Mean 1-Exposure Mean 3-Exposures F Sig
Unaided Brand Recall 0.32 0.44 69.47 0.001
Unaided Adv-Recall 0.24 0.37 73.39 0.001
Advertisement Attitude 4.79 5.49 81.19 0.001
Brand Attitude 4.74 5.28 70.87 0.001
Purchase Intent 4.39 4.99 31.68 0.001
Hypothesis one stated that advertisements will lead to significantly greater unaided
brand recall in three exposures than single exposure. To investigate the interactive
effects of exposure level (single Vs three exposures) on unaided brands recall, de-
scriptive statistic revealed that research subjects having seen the advertisements thrice
recalled the greater number of brand names (Mean: 0.44) as compared to those who
watched advertisements only once (Mean: 0.32). The results of MANOVA revealed
that mean unaided brand recall is also significantly different across the two exposure
levels and hence, H (1), suggesting the incremental role of three advertising exposures
Wisal Ahmed, Zahid Mahmood, Ayaz Ahmad
30
for brand names recall compared to single ad-exposure was therefore supported (F =
69.47, p < 0.05).
Hypothesis two stated that subjects in three advertising exposures will describe
the features of the greater number of advertisements as compared to those who are
exposed to these advertisements only once. The descriptive statistics revealed that
subjects recalled a greater number of advertisements in three exposures as compared
to single exposure. The MANOVA results also found that mean advertisement recall
significantly differ across single and three exposures (Mean 3-Exposures: 0.37, Mean
1-Expsoure: 0.24; F = 73.39, p < 0.05). Based on this statistical evidence, hypothesis
two was also substantiated.
Hypothesis four was based on the proposition that since favourable advertisement
attitude lead to positive brand attitude; as well as the superior role of three ads-ex-
posures than single exposure in forming more favourable advertisement or brand
attitude, it was hypothesized that subjects’ positive advertisement attitude in three
ad-exposures will also produce more favourable brand attitude in three ad seeing than
if the ad is seen once. Parallel with the result of hypothesis three, subjects’ brand
attitude was also found significantly more positive in three ad seeing than subjects’
brand attitude a single exposure (Mean 1-Exposure: 4.74, Mean 3-Exposure: 5.28; F
= 70.87, p < 0.05). Hence, hypothesis four was also substantiated.
Hypotheses five predicted positive brand attitude also produce greater purchase
intention, therefore, advertisements, developing a greater positive brand attitude
in three exposures will also produce greater purchase intent than advertisements
in a single exposure. The obtained responses of research participants in single and
three exposures were analysed for purchase intent respectively. The MANOVA result
confirmed for a significant mean difference in purchase intent in single versus three
exposures respectively. (Mean 1-Exposure: 4.39, Mean 3-Exposures: 4.99; F = 31.68,
p < 0.05). Hypothesis five was also validated.
5. Conclusion & Future Research Directions
This study investigated the comparative effects of single and three advertising
exposures in the assessment of advertising effectiveness. In three advertising exposures
as compared to single ad-exposure, significant means’ difference was found in viewers’
advertising and brand recall, their attitude towards the respective advertisements and
brands; and their purchase intent for the advertised brands respectively.
The results of this study in three exposures as compared to single exposure sub-
astantiates the popular theory of advertising exposures stating the superior effect of
greater attention and comprehension if the ad is seen in three exposures compared
Does Advertising Exposure Level Matter? Implications for Experimental Research in Advertising 31
to watching of ad once (Cited in Pechman& Stewart, 1992). This study found that
studies pertaining to measuring consumers’ brand and advertisement recall, and brand
and advertisement attitude should adopt three advertising exposures as a reliable base
for advertismenet comprehsion.
As with every research, this research has also certain limitations. One of the
limitations of this study is the use of students as the unit of analysis. The use of stu-
dents in this research was mainly based on the specific experimental requirements
of this study; however, it has the genralizbility issue. In future, similalr study could
be replicated with other research subjects. Finally, unlike developed countries where
university setting is commonly used for experimental research, the lack of tendency
towards experimental research among university students in Pakistan may have affected
the findings of the study. Hence, it is strongly suggested that such study should be
replicated in some developed country to further understand the effectiveness of three
advertising exposures as compared to single exposure.
Acknowledgements
The researcher heartily acknowledges the generous financial support of Higher
Education Commission of Pakistan in the completion of the first author’s PhD pro-
gram of which this study is a major part.
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