Meta-analysis of incidental advertising and consumer choice.

Author:Afef, Amami

    Researchers have long recognized that despite-or perhaps because of-the increasing volume of daily advertising, any individual advertisement is rarely the primary focus of consumer processing. Rather, consumers principally focus on the non-advertising or editorial material that surrounds the ads. Under such circumstances, most ads will receive no processing, some ads will receive partial or surface processing, and a few will be processed in depth (McQuarrie and Mick, 2006). Firms have turned to this method because its stealth nature allows it to be more innocus than traditional print and television advertising, and can thus potentially influence perceivers without their attempts to avoid or counterargue the message. Compared to cognitive psychology, a relatively small number of studies have examined consumers' preattentive processing in the context of advertising, although much advertising is received and processed, under some circumstances, in a preattentive manner.

    In this dissertation, we examined different ways that nonconscious exposure to advertising influences can affect one's consumption behavior. However, some researchers have argued that these demonstrations are not as powerful as they could be because it is not entirely clear if the experimental exposures were really non-focal (Vanhuele and al., 2005). Ferraro, Chartrand and Fitzsimons (2006) wonder: Is this type of incidental exposure worth the expense? In other words: does it work? ). Adams (2007) made some doubts, too, about the effects of incidental advertising as they may be small or non existent in certain circumstances and that modifying the emplacement of advertising made this effect null on consumer choice. He found that incidental advertising does not make great changes in people's overall attitude toward advertised products. One of the advantages of this meta-analysis is to make sure of the effects of incidental advertising on consumer choice. Our objective is to put the validity of previous results into question. We integrate conflicting empirical evidence on the impact of incidental advertising in the consumer choice. Many keys variables influencing the incidental exposure effect are best assessed using meta-analytic techniques. Our work concentrated on those measures that examined the effects of incidental advertising on consumer behavior. Specifically, we examine whether or not incidental exposure to choice alternatives increases the likelihood of their subsequent inclusion in a consideration set. But first, we begun with conducting a narrative review of existing research on incidental advertising effects.

  2. Conceptual framework

    We developed the conceptual framework on the basis of the extant incidental advertising and metaanalysis research. The framework depicts the relationships among the most frequently examined effects of incidental advertising, as well as the relationships involving the effects of measurement and the substantive moderators on incidental advertising. Three categories of response variables were considered as measures of effectiveness of incidental advertising: cognitive, affective and attitudinal constructs. A summary of studies results are given in table 8.

    2.1. Incidental advertising and cognitive route

    Incidental advertising processing, states of unconscious learning and preattentive exposure effects remain hotly debated topics in advertising and marketing literature (Janiszewski, 1993; Mc Quarrie and Mick, 2003). People often do not actively involve or process the majority of the ads in their immediate environments (Bauer and Greyser, 1968), but those ads can cause changes in people's subconscious minds (Hawkins and Hoch, 1992), because most learning; emotional reactions and thought generation take place beyond awareness (Coulter, 2007). Shapiro and al. (2005) suggest that" while a person focuses his/her attention on a primary task, other information that is not the object of attention can be processed. Incidental exposure to ad information in this manner, can affect, in turn one's attitude toward the ad and brand and increase the likelihood that a product depicted in an ad will be included in consideration set (Shapiro and al., 1997)". These effects occur despite the fact that subjects show no explicit memory for the ads. Within a brand context, the cognitive route of influence involves semantic activation of association to the brand name(Anderson and Bower, 1973).As a result, preferences and subsequent behavior are influenced such they are guided by these activation associations. This activation is a purely cognitive process (Coulter, 2007). During incidental exposure there is a feature analysis, memory access, implicit memory formation and perceptual construction (Janiszewski, 1988, 1990).

    2.2. Incidental advertising and affective responses

    Past studies clearly demonstrate that subconsciously processed messages can affect conscious decision making by creating positive affective responses toward the stimuli (Bornstein, 1989; MacInnis and Jaworski, 1989; Zajonc 1980). Janiszewski (1990) further explains that positive affective responses that result from incidental exposure increase preferences and favourable attitudes toward the stimulus, thus making it more appealing among the set of alternatives (Acar, 2007). Janiszewski (1988) found that pictorial ads were more liked when placed in to the left, as opposed to the right visual field because this layout encouraged the viewer to use the holistic processing resources of the right hemisphere to initially. Janiszewski (1993) found that mechanisms that are responsible for the affective responses that result from incidental exposure can be thought of as consisting of preattentive and attentive processes. They can engage increased resource availability in the less activated hemisphere and if a stimulus is present, a mental representation or record of the feature analysis is made. Familiarity created via incidental exposure makes a stimulus easier to perceive perceptual fluency and increases likelihood it will be seen on the store shelf (Jacoby and al., 1992).

    2.3. Incidental advertising and evaluative route

    Mackenzie and al. (1986) argue that attitude toward an advertisement is influenced by the cognitions (thoughts and feelings) that the consumer has about the advertisement. This advertisement attitude affects product brand attitudes, which in turn affects intention to purchase the product. Attitude toward an advertisement affects the attitude of consumers toward the advertised product directly and indirectly through the way it shapes or influences the cognitions of the consumer-to the advertised product. The inclusion of such affective responses contributed to a fuller understanding of advertising (Edell and Burke, 1987). Nowadays, it is widely accepted that both cognitive and affective responses are important in advertising (Vakratsas and Ambler, 1999).

    Choices in consumer research have typically been categorized into stimulus-based choices and memory-based choices (Lynch and Srull, 1982. Lynch, Marmorstein and Weigold, 1988). Consumer decisions however may be made under mixed choice conditions, where some alternatives are physically available while others must be retrieved from memory. Most real-life purchases are made in these circumstances, as when one looks at several brands at one store, and later makes a purchase at another store (Lynch, Marmorstein and Weigold, 1997).Their study aims to investigate how an incidental exposure to brand names can affect subsequent brand choices even when the consumer is not aware of the effect of prior exposure. The current study views brand choice as an implicit memory test in the sense that brand choice may be implicitly affected by earlier exposure to brand names even when the consumer is not aware of fact his choice is influenced by previous exposure.


    The meta-analytic approach provides rational criteria for the combination of those inconsistent results, and for replicable conclusions about divergent trends in the material (Ijzendroom, Dijkstra and Bus, 1994). To define the meta-analysis, Farley and Lehman (1986) reveal one necessary condition that we should respect which is the similarity of the studies' subject. They claim: "The essence of meta-analysis is a comparison of similar but not necessarily identical estimates of quantities measured in different settings that is under various treatments in a sort of natural experimental design"(Gharbi, 1994). One goal of a meta-analysis will often be to estimate the overall or combined effect.

    3.1. Selection of studies

    To identify relevant studies, a series of bibliographic searches was first carried out. Quotations from various studies were also examined to identify further studies. The literature search covered from 1988 to 2008.The approach is consistent with recommendations made by several authors (Cooper, 1982; Hunter and Schmidt, 1990), and closely follows the steps taken in earlier meta-analyses published in the marketing literature. Proquest, Jstore, Sciencesdirect databases were reviewed. Proceedings from AAA, AMA and ACR were searched for further studies. Because of the small number of studies included in the meta-analysis for each response variable, we considered separate analysis.

    3.2 .Inclusion criteria

    Studies that were...

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