Measuring Advertising Effectiveness

By William D. Wells | Go to book overview

Comments on Chapters 11 Through 14

William D. Wells University of Minnesota

Two themes unite the diverse observations in chapters 11 through 14. The first is the importance of context. All four of these chapters, and all of the comments associated with them, suggest that the effects of advertisements depend to a very large degree on stimuli that come from the environment: other advertisements (especially similar advertisements), the media, and broader economic and social events.

This theme explains some of the tensions between academicians and practitioners. In their completely understandable efforts to minimize the clamor of context, academicians "control away" influences that have exceedingly important influences in the real world. Having controlled away those influences, they fall prey to the assumption that their findings are universal. When practitioners become aware of these decontextualizations, they wonder whether academicians are really interested in how advertisements really work.

A second theme that unites these four chapters is segmentation. In chapter 14 -- after a detailed real-world examination -- Vuokko concluded that "there is, in general, no such thing as 'the optimal amount of repetition'" (p. 255). Instead, she concluded, the optimal amount of repetition depends on "the receiver, the advertising stimuli, and the communication environment" (p. 255). Different kinds of receivers, different kinds of stimuli, different kinds of environmental situations, and all the interactions among those differences, produce sharply different effects.

Similarly, the Wyer-Srull theory -- recounted in chapter 11 -- predicts that an advertisement's place in its receiver's memory depends on the receiver's processing goals, which in turn depend on how the product fits into the receiver's purposes and the advertisement's competitive mission in the real world. Thus, types products, types of competitive situations, and types of receivers are major segmenting variables. As previous chapters have demonstrated, advertisements produce one effect for one kind of product in one kind of situation, a different effect for a different kind of product in a different kind of situation, and so on.

The experiment reported in chapter 12 shows that context mediates the effects of positively valenced advertisements but not the effects of neutrally valenced advertisements -- another form of segmentation. The experiment reported in chapter 13 indicates that even positive valence should be segmented. An advertisement can have too much originality and too much emotional impact, but not too much relevance. With that many critical con-

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