Advertising Recall

Advertising recall is one measure marketers use to gauge the effectiveness of advertisements. This method is in wide use by marketers. The day after recall test (DAR), for instance, is often used to determine the efficiency of a new television commercial in generating consumer attention.

In the DAR test, a test commercial is run on one television channel during a chosen time slot. A random sampling of consumers is phoned 24 hours later. The caller determines whether the subject watched that particular channel during the period the commercial was aired. Once the respondent verifies this fact, certain questions are asked in an effort to determine whether the subject remembers viewing the commercial. If the subject remembers seeing the commercial, the next step is to determine which details of the commercial are recalled.

The caller asks "unaided" and "aided probes." The language used in the caller questions is crafted to elicit responses with little prompting. DAR test scores are then used as diagnostic marketing tools. Advertising firms often decide on a base recall score. Any commercial that fails to meet the minimum DAR percentage will be taken out of circulation.

One issue in using recall for measuring advertising effectiveness, revolves around what it is that recall measures. It is impossible to demonstrate by theory or with empirical evidence that a direct link exists between recall and suasion. Cognitive psychologist R. Norman, in his work, "When what is said is important: A comparison of expert and attractive sources," in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that attention to a stimulus is a prerequisite for recalling the stimulus, but may not be sufficient.

Therefore, the use of recall as the only method for measuring consumer attention to a product would not generate a true or total picture of advertising effectiveness. Advertising recall overlooks two critical possibilities:

1. Outside or additional factors affecting recall and suasion

2. Advertisements that persuade consumers in spite of a lack of consumer recall

The marketer should consider these questions:

1. When the consumer does recall an advertisement, what level of persuasion is expected?

2. Can certain situations or factors be identified that might increase the value of recall as a reliable measure of consumer persuasion?

3. What factors might improve consumer memory for advertisements that might also enhance persuasion?

Research has shown only a tenuous relationship between recall and persuasion. For example, a report by H. L. Ross in 1982, "Recall versus persuasion: An Answer," in Journal of Advertising Research, on 142 commercials for products belonging to 55 different categories found that only 10 percent of the sampled viewers changed their brand preference due to television commercials. These results were based on the Mapes and Ross system which uses both the DAR and brand preference change as measures.

In 1983, L.D. Gibson reviewed eight studies that analyzed the connection between recall and persuasion in his work "Not Recall," in Journal of Advertising Research. Each of the studies found a weak or insignificant relationship between recall and persuasion. One study found that recall and persuasion had a correlation of 0.5. Another study found a negligible relationship between recall and persuasion for the 52 commercials tested.

These results show either no relationship between advertising recall and persuasion, or at the most, a very weak relationship. Still, none of the studies in question undertook to micro-examine the issue with psychological methodology and theory. Such theory might be applied to identify factors affecting advertising recall and which might mediate any link between recall and persuasion. This leaves open the possibility that there might be certain conditions under which the relationship is liable to exist.

There has been some research into the relationship between recall and persuasion using social psychology methods. Rather than exploring advertising recall, a number of these studies looked at persuasion literature. Here too, researchers found a weak or nonexistent relationship between recall and persuasion whether researchers employed methods of correlation as in the work of W. Wilson and H. Miller in their 1968 report, "Repetition, order of presentation, and timing of arguments and measures as determinants of opinion change," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, or compared attitude and trends in information retention times as in the 1963 report from D. Papageorgis, "Bartlett effect and the persistence of induced opinion change," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, and the 1964 work of W. A. Watts and W.J. McGuire, "Persistency of induced opinion change and retention of the inducing message contents," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. A. G. Greenwald reviewed this research in 1968 in "Cognitive learning, cognitive response to attitude change," Psychological Foundations of Attitudes, and found an insignificant relationship between recall and persuasion arguments.

Several other studies, such as the one outlined by S. T. Fiske, in his 1982 work, Schema-triggered affect: Applications to social perception, looked at impression formation as a vehicle for illustrating a possible relationship between information recall and persuasion. For example, subjects were presented with information about imaginary individuals and asked to give impressions of each individual. Later on, the subjects were asked to relate what they could remember from the original information presented.

An information integration model was created to discover which information was most significant in forming an impression. Here, the relationship between the importance of the information and the likelihood of recall demonstrated a correlation close to zero. Instead, the greatest impression was made by information presented first, while recall was best for information presented last.

Social psychological research only examined recall in relation to specific information, a single stimulus and evaluation. Despite these shortcomings, this research indicates no clear relationship between recall and evaluation or persuasion. In the field of advertising, more work needs to be done on the underlying cognitive issues in recall if a clear relationship between recall and persuasion is to be demonstrated.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Psychological Processes and Advertising Effects: Theory, Research, and Applications
Linda F. Alwitt; Andrew A. Mitchell.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The Relationship between Advertising Recall and Persuasion: An Experimental Investigation"
Marketing to the Mind: Right Brain Strategies for Advertising and Marketing
Richard C. Maddock; Richard L. Fulton.
Quorum Books, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Absurdities: How to Produce Memorable and Motivational Advertising and Marketing Campaigns"
Advertising Exposure, Memory, and Choice
Andrew A. Mitchell.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Memory Retrieval Factors and Advertising Effectiveness"
The Effects of Subliminal Advertising on Consumer Attitudes and Buying Intentions
Tsai, Ming-tiem; Liang, Wen-ko; Liu, Mei-Ling.
International Journal of Management, Vol. 24, No. 1, March 2007
Emotion in Advertising: Theoretical and Practical Explorations
Stuart J. Agres; Julie A. Edell; Tony M. Dubitsky.
Quorum Books, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Consumer Emotional Reactions to Television Advertising and Their Effects on Message Recall"
Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why
Max Sutherland; Alice K. Sylvester.
Allen & Unwin, 2000 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "Why Radio Ads Aren't Recalled" and Chap. 25 "Measurement of Advertising Effects in Memory"
Does Web Advertising Work? Memory for Print vs. Online Media
Sundar, S. Shyam; Narayan, Sunetra; Obregon, Rafael; Uppal, Charu.
Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 4, Winter 1998
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Implicit Memory Measures for Web Advertising Effectiveness
Yoo, Chan Yun.
Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 84, No. 1, Spring 2007
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Attention, Attitude, and Affect in Response to Advertising
Eddie M. Clark; Timothy C. Brock; David W. Stewart.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Music and Spokesperson Effects on Recall and Cognitive Response to a Radio Advertisement"
Measuring Advertising Effectiveness
William D. Wells.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Understanding Consumer Memory for Ads: A Process View"
Television and Political Advertising: Psychological Processes
Frank Biocca.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.1, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "Effectiveness of Ads: Influence and Recall" begins on p. 247
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