A Levels-of-Processing Model
of Advertising Repetition Effects
Christie L. Nordhielm
Visual images, particularly those utilized in persuasive contexts, are rarely presented just once. In fact, a presumption of advertisers and others seeking to persuade is that one exposure will not suffice: repetition is a crucial aspect of visual persuasion. It is therefore interesting to consider how much (or little) repetition of a particular visual image is necessary to generate the hoped-for consumer response. Both popular wisdom and academic research suggest that, beyond some level, additional exposures to a particular persuasive image may have a deleterious impact on effectiveness. This issue has generated substantial research seeking to identify the optimal level of exposure under a variety of conditions. For example, advertisers have spent considerable resources attempting to determine how long and how frequently they should employ a particular advertising execution, package design, or corporate logo. Researchers who have explored this issue have termed the outcome typically produced by overexposure to an advertisement or other stimulus wearout, meaning that at some level of repetition, people's affective response to a visual stimulus either is no longer positive or shows a significant decline (Pechman & Stewart, 1988, p. 286). Several experimental studies found that wearout of specific advertisements occurred after 3 to 10 exposures (e.g., Batra & Ray, 1986; Belch, 1982), although the precise point at which wearout occurs presumably depends on a variety of advertising-specific (e.g., advertising complexity) and/or context-related factors. Nonetheless, the typical relationship between exposure and affective response is believed to display an inverted U-shaped pattern, where initial exposures generate increasing familiarity and positive affect, but subsequent exposures eventually lead to wearout and a decrease in positive affect.
To stave off such wearout, advertisers frequently develop a pool of ads that employ different executions but convey the same basic material and claims.