Advertising, being a form of mass communication, reaches numerous people simultaneously. Because it is highly visible and touches our lives, almost everyone has some pet views about it. Advertising produces both intended and unintended results. The intended results serve the objectives of the advertiser such as increasing brand awareness or producing profitable sales. Roland Berman has made the following observations
“Advertisements do more than inform or persuade. They eloquently translate feelings and opinions. Through advertising and the media we receive an enormous amount of silent information: how to act in relation to people, property and ourselves. And that information is a barometer, attuned to social change.” (Roland Burman, “Advertising and Social Change,”Advertising Age, April 30, 1980, p. 18.)
Much has been researched and written about how advertising works and the effects it produces. However, at the very outset, it is important to appreciate that the nature of subject is such that there are few definitive answers. Perhaps everyone associated with advertising has something to say on this subject. The persuasion process can occur as a consequence of exposure to an advertisement. The exposure can result in creating awareness and a feeling of familiarity about the brand. Exposure to an ad can also lead to relevant information about the product’s attributes and, more importantly, the resulting benefits to the consumer. Ad exposure can often generate feelings – positive or negative -which consumers begin to associate with the brand. Use of testimonials or brand endorsers can help create an image or brand personality. Ad exposure can also create an impression that the brand is in fashion and favored by friends and acquaintances, etc. These effects can lead to liking, preference, conviction and, finally, purchase of the product or brand.
Understanding the advertising response process that the consumers may go through in moving or eliciting a behavior, as a result of exposure to advertising, is perhaps the most important aspect in developing an effective advertising programme. The objectives of the advertiser may relate to cognitive, affective, or behavioral aspects.
Advertising Response Models
A number of Advertising Response Models have been developed to explain how consumers may pass through various stages in eliciting some behavior.
1. Exposure And Familiarity Model
Many ads are just repetitive and have very little information content but manage to be effective in changing the consumers’ attitudes, more so with increased repetition. R B Zajonc proposed that simply repeated exposure, with no associated cognitive activity, can develop preferences in the audience. The results of research conducted to understand this effect imply that exposure effect occurs at some precociousness level. Some aspects of ads such as domination by pictures, text, or color can create feelings of like or dislike among us at a pre-attentive level without any awareness of these effects. These studies suggest that even when consumers do not pay attention to product related information, advertising repetition itself may create liking or preference for a product in some situations. The implication is that the advertiser may consider maintaining high levels of brand awareness as a possible objective. This is of particular importance when the objective is to increase brand purchase frequency among existing consumers rather than to attract new ones. According to Ehrenberg, Tellis and others, advertising serves mostly to reinforce brand preference rather than create brand preference in case of most mature brands. When competitive advertising is intense, high levels of reminder advertising, with frequent repetition, perform the reinforcing function. This is often referred to as creating top-of-mind awareness or recall.
Another view suggests that repeated exposure can lead to familiarity with the advertised brand and, subsequently, liking for it. Obviously, consumers are often inclined to evaluate known and familiar products favorably as compared to the unknown ones. A feeling of uncertainty is often associated with unknown products and can create tension in consumers. Tension is undesirable and unpleasant in most cases. On the other hand, a feeling of familiarity is soothing and associated with comfort and security, etc. There is evidence that people can actually perceive objects with which they are familiar, pretty quickly.
2. Response Hierarchy Model
The Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) model which was developed in the 1920s, suggested that an effective sales presentation should attract attention, gain interest, stimulate desire and precipitate action (purchase). Ideally, an ad would prove to be really effective if it takes this route, however, in the real world of advertising, rarely ads take the consumer all the way from awareness through purchase. This model, however, suggests the desirable qualities of an effective ad.
3. Hierarchy-of-Effects Model
This model helps in setting advertising objectives and provides a basis for measuring results. It also suggests that advertising produces its effects by moving the consumer through a series of steps in a sequence – from initial awareness to ultimate purchase of product or service. This sequential order indicates the basic premise that advertising effects are elicited over a period of time and that advertising may not precipitate the desired effects immediately because a series of effects must occur before the consumer possibly moves to the next stage in the hierarchy.