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Spaced out - Does spacing affect the power of advertising


Eat at Joes. Eat at Joes. Eat at Joes. Eat at Joes. Eat at Joes. Eat at Joes. So, where are you going to eat tonight?! Repetition is a hallmark of advertising, but the advertisements to which consumers are exposed are not simply repeated without a plan. Instead, the idea of "spacing" or how often to repeat an advertisement is considered when trying to elicit a consumer response. Research in the September 2005 Journal of Consumer Research finds that such repetition must come with variation to be effective.

"The most straightforward interpretation of these findings is that variation does help later recall, but that variation can be counterproductive under conditions where such an ad variation fails to cue the retrieval of an earlier ad," found Sara Appleton-Knapp (San Diego State University) and colleagues. "Recall of print material benefits from spacing repetitions of that material, an effect often attributed to varied encodings induced by changes in contextual cues. We examined an alternative explanation: retrieving earlier presentations during later presentations strengthens memory traces, the more so the greater the difficulty of such retrieval."

When it comes to recollection, the human brain employs a complicated set of responses: "The dynamics of human memory are complex, multifaceted, and quite unlike the dynamics of man-made memory devices, such as a videotape recorder or a computer’s hard drive. They are only now becoming understood. Research on metacognitive processes has demonstrated that the mental model humans have of how their own memories work is often over-simplified and sometimes altogether incorrect," explain the researchers. "To optimize the effectiveness of advertising, therefore, may require overcoming, not drawing on, our common sense and intuition."

Carrie Olivia Adams | EurekAlert!
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