Summary of Special Session Real-Time Ad Processing: Tracing Dynamic Responses

Douglas L. MacLachlan, University of Washington
[ to cite ]:
Douglas L. MacLachlan (1994) ,"Summary of Special Session Real-Time Ad Processing: Tracing Dynamic Responses", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 225.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, 1994      Page 225



Douglas L. MacLachlan, University of Washington

Consumer researchers are taking increasing interest in the ways people respond to stimuli presented to them in dynamic fashion such as TV and radio commercials. The purpose of this special session was to demonstrate and encourage continuing research on the processing of dynamic stimuli. Both methodological and theoretical issues were addressed in the session's papers.

The first paper by Piet Vanden Abeele and Douglas MacLachlan, which is included in these proceedings, investigated with a new approach the reliability and validity of a method long used by researchers and practitioners, namely galvanic skin response (GSR). This is a sequel to an article forthcoming in JCR (Vanden Abeele and MacLachlan 1994).

The second paper, by Joel Cohen, Michel Tuan Pham, and David Hughes, used real-time measurement to test predictions of the Cohen and Areni (1991) model of affective responses to advertising. The model distinguishes three phases of affective responses involving increasing levels of affective-cognitive interaction. In the first two phases, affective responses are elicited automatically. In the third phase, affective responses result from elaborative interpretation, which involves the recruitment of additional knowledge. Depending on the kind of knowledge that is accessed during elaborative interpretation, phase-3 affective responses may differ in valence, intensity, and subjective experience from those elicited in the first two phases. Continuous affective responses to a commercial were recorded with a dial-turning instrument (DTI) developed by Hughes (1992) and validated by Pham, Hughes, and Cohen (1993). The commercial was expected to elicit primarily positive phase-1 and phase-2 affective responses. The knowledge accessible for elaborative interpretation was manipulated through a priming task administered in a purportedly unrelated study. The task involved reading and elaborating upon a short news article. A finding of the experiment that the priming manipulation had only local effects supports Cohen and Areni's propositions that (1) Phase-3 affective responses involve the recruitment of additional knowledge, and (2) phase-3 affective responses may differ in valence from spontaneously elicited phase-1 and phase-2 affective responses.

The third paper, by Dan Padgett, Hans Baumgartner, and Mita Sujan, investigated how viewers of television commercials integrate their moment-to-moment affective experiences into an overall emotional evaluation of the ad and Aad. The goal was to determine which characteristics of an extended sequence people use to form a global evaluation. Subjects used a computer based "feelings monitor" to chart their moment-to-moment emotional responses to 30 positive emotional ads, and then indicated their overall emotional reaction and Aad. Consistency of responses in the affect tracing task and the global evaluations allowed ad level analyses. The results revealed subjects use a combination of proxy moments (e.g., mean, peak experience, final moment), magnitude of the linear trend, and duration of the episode to form global evaluations of affective response and Aad. One implication of the findings is that ads which have a goal of liking should end on a high note and arrive there quickly. Also, longer ads have a better chance of eliciting stronger positive reactions than shorter ads, and the peak emotional experience should occur later rather than earlier in the ad.

The fourth paper, by Esther Thorson, examined the results of three studies that observed "cycling patterns" in over-time measures of either intensity or selectivity of attention to TV commercials, news and other programming. The selective attention measure involves videotaping subjects as they watch and analyzing the tapes to determine, for each half second, whether their eyes are oriented toward the TV screen or not. The studies found clear indications of an approximate 60-second cycle of high to low and back to high attention. Results can be interpreted as offering evidence for attention being guided by an internal cognitive model of the environment.


Cohen, Joel B. and Charles B. Areni (1991), "Affect and Consumer Behavior," in Thomas S. Robertson and Harold H. Kassarjian (eds.), Handbook of Consumer Behavior, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 188-240.

Hughes, G. David (1992), "Realtime Response Measures Redefine Advertising Wearout," Journal of Advertising Research, 32 (May/June), 61-77.

Vanden Abeele, Piet and Douglas L. MacLachlan (1994), "Process Tracing of Emotional Responses to TV Ads: Revisiting the Warmth Monitor," Journal of Consumer Research, 21 (March).

Pham, Michel Tuan, G. David Hughes, and Joel B. Cohen (1993), "Validating a Dial-Turning Instrument for Real-Time Measurement of Affective and Evaluative Responses to Advertising," Marketing Science Institute, Report No. 93-116 (October).