Psychological Effects of Frequency and Clutter in Web advertising
 
Student Researcher

Sang Lee (PhD Student)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

For a complete report of this research, see:

Lee, S. Y. , & Sundar, S. S. (2002, July). Psychological effects of frequency and clutter in Web advertising. Paper presented at the 52nd annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA), Seoul, Korea.

Introduction

Frequency of exposure to advertising is considered one of the fundamental determinants of advertising effectiveness in traditional mass communication. However, in the realm of Web advertising, frequency remains a relatively unexplored variable, despite phenomenal growth in Internet advertising. Understanding the function of frequency is important because it is critical to deciding the effectiveness of advertising, regardless of whether it is traditional media advertising or Web-based Internet advertising. Unlike frequency, advertising clutter has generally been viewed as a factor inhibiting (rather than enhancing) advertising effectiveness, in terms of both memory and attitude toward ads. Given the nature of the Web that often displays multiple banners with same sizes and shapes, ad clutter can hinder the processing of information contained in a specific banner. The current investigation is a modest first attempt at pinpointing the distinct as well as combinatory effects of frequency and clutter in a typical Web advertising environment.

Hypotheses and Research Questions

Mere exposure effects, interference effects, three-hit theory and two-factor theory were used to generate hypotheses for this study.

H1a: Banner advertising repetition will have a positive impact on ad recall.

H1b: Banner advertising repetition will have a positive impact on ad recognition.

H1c: Banner advertising repetition will have a positive impact on attitude toward ad.

H1d: Banner advertising repetition will have a positive impact on attitude toward brand.

H1e: Banner advertising repetition will have a positive impact on trial intention.

H2a: Ad clutter will have a negative impact on ad recall.

H2b: Ad clutter will have a negative impact on ad recognition.

H2c: Ad clutter will have a negative impact on attitude toward ad.

H2d: Ad clutter will have a negative impact on attitude toward brand.

H2e: Ad clutter will have a negative impact on trial intention.

H3a: Level of Internet experience will have a negative impact on ad recall.

H3b: Level of Internet experience will have a negative impact on ad recognition.

RQ1: For users of a news Website, controlling for time spent viewing a Webpage, what is the relationship between level of Internet experience and attitude toward ad?

RQ2: For users of a news Website, controlling for time spent viewing a Webpage, what is the relationship between level of Internet experience and attitude toward brand?

RQ3: For users of a news Website, controlling for time spent viewing a Webpage, what is the relationship between level of Internet experience and trial intention?

Method

A fully-crossed 7 x 2 between-participants design (7 levels of frequency and 2 levels of clutter) with a control variable (time) was used in the experiment. Two hundred and fifty undergraduate students (150 females and 100 males) enrolled in communication classes participated in the experiment for extra credit. Participants were randomly assigned to one of fourteen conditions and were exposed to an experimental Website. At the time of recruiting, participants were told that the study concerned students' learning on the Internet. All participants signed an informed consent form prior to their participation in the experiment.

Results

H1a: Supported. Advertising frequency had a significantly positive effect on recall.

H1b: Not supported. The effect for frequency on recognition was statistically not significant.

H1c: Not supported. The statistical analysis failed to support the hypothesis that frequency would have positive effects on attitude toward ad.

H1d: Supported. However, the effect for frequency on attitude toward brand was marginally significant.

H1e: Supported. The effect for frequency on trial intention was statistically significant.

H2a: Not supported. The analysis failed to support the hypothesis that clutter would have a negative effect on recall.

H2b: Supported. A significant main effect for clutter on ad recognition was found.

H2c: Not supported. No statistically significant effect for clutter on attitude toward ad was found.

H2d: Not supported. No statistically significant effect for clutter on attitude toward brand was found.

H2e: Not supported. No statistically significant effect for clutter on trial intention was found.

H3a: Supported. However, the effect for level of Internet experience was marginally significant.

H3b: Not supported. The effect for level of Internet experience on ad recognition was not significant.

RQ1, 2, and 3: No significant effect for Internet experience on attitude toward ad, attitude toward brand, and trial intention was found.

A couple of important two-way interactions were observed. There was a statistically significant interaction between clutter and frequency on attitude toward ad. This interaction showed that, while frequency did not affect users' attitude toward ad in a non-cluttered environment, frequency of exposure had a positive impact on users' attitude toward the stimulus ads in a cluttered environment. Another interaction, between frequency and level of Internet experience on recognition, approached significance. This interaction indicated that, when the frequency is low, level of Internet experience did not matter. However, when the frequency is high, level of Internet experience had a positive impact on users' recognition of the stimulus ads.

Conclusion

Results from the analyses suggest that frequency can be a powerful determinant of advertising effectiveness. Specifically, it is found that the frequency effects were significant on ad recall, attitude toward brand, and trial intention. Contrary to our expectations, however, the effects of banner clutter were weak across dependent variables. The clutter effects were significant only on ad recognition. Additionally, the significant effect of Internet experience was observed only on ad recall.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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