Memory For Advertising and Information Content: Comparing the Printed Page to the Computer Screen

Marilyn Y. Jones, Bond University
Robin Pentecost, Bond University
Gabrielle Requena, Deloitte Consulting
EXTENDED ABSTRACT - Increasingly, the Internet is used for marketing communication, making one wonder how the Internet compares to other marketing media with respect to traditional measures of communication effectivenessBi.e. memory, attitude, and intention to buy. Frameworks for research on online advertising have highlighted the importance of interactivity (Pavlou and Stewart 200, Rodgers and Thorson 2000), consumer control (Pavlou and Stewart 200, Rodgers and Thorson 2000), and consumer tasks (Rodgers and Thorson 2000) for driving needed changes in measuring effectiveness of online advertising. Essential differences notwithstanding, these models continue to acknowledge the roles of traditional measures, including memory for information.
[ to cite ]:
Marilyn Y. Jones, Robin Pentecost, and Gabrielle Requena (2003) ,"Memory For Advertising and Information Content: Comparing the Printed Page to the Computer Screen", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, eds. Punam Anand Keller and Dennis W. Rook, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 295-297.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, 2003     Pages 295-297

MEMORY FOR ADVERTISING AND INFORMATION CONTENT: COMPARING THE PRINTED PAGE TO THE COMPUTER SCREEN

Marilyn Y. Jones, Bond University

Robin Pentecost, Bond University

Gabrielle Requena, Deloitte Consulting

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

Increasingly, the Internet is used for marketing communication, making one wonder how the Internet compares to other marketing media with respect to traditional measures of communication effectivenessBi.e. memory, attitude, and intention to buy. Frameworks for research on online advertising have highlighted the importance of interactivity (Pavlou and Stewart 200, Rodgers and Thorson 2000), consumer control (Pavlou and Stewart 200, Rodgers and Thorson 2000), and consumer tasks (Rodgers and Thorson 2000) for driving needed changes in measuring effectiveness of online advertising. Essential differences notwithstanding, these models continue to acknowledge the roles of traditional measures, including memory for information.

Firms clearly benefit from the breadth of reach and immediate access to their target audiences but few studies have measured differences for identical content and layout disseminated in a paper versus an online form. Conflicting results for the effect of medium (online advertising versus print) on memory emerge from recent studies. In lab settings, there is evidence for no memory differences (Gallagher, Parsons and Foster 2001a) and also for memory differences (Sundar, Narayan, Obregon and Uppal. 1998). Field settings show memory differences (Gallagher et al. 2001a, Gallagher, Foster andParsons 2001b), particularly for less experienced users (Gallagher et al. 2001b). None of these have isolated the display medium itself. Further, advertising responses and responses to product information have not yet been clearly distinguished, although Sundar et al. 1998 found that a blended measure of recall and recognition showed a difference for ads but not informative content. Thus, it is unclear whether one medium is superior to another for evoking consumer responses and whether this would differ, depending on the type of information Bpersuasive or informational. A third question of note arises from the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, when many firms took advantage of the Internet’s immediacy to allay fears and deliver important information. A key feature of that time period was the natural state of heightened fear, raising the question of whether consumer information processing in fearful states would show that memory from the Internet is equal to the traditional print media.

Memory for information has been linked to a variety of factors that influence encoding and retrieval. Research comparing the screen medium to print has addressed a number of factors, which might mediate the effect of medium on memory measuresBvision and feelings (Gould and Grischkowsky 1984), skimming (Muter and Maurutto 1991), fatigue ((Dillon, McKnight and Richardson 1988), and reading speed (Muter, Latremouille, Treurniet, and Beam 1982, Wright and Lickorish 1983, Gould and Grischkowsky 1984, Gould, Alfaro, Mills and Weldon 1987, Barnes, Finn, Grischkowsky and Minuto 1987, Dillon et al. 1988, Smith and Savory 1989, Dillon 1992, Smart, Whiting and Detienne 2001). There are also factors, which might moderate the effect of medium on memory measuresBexperience (Faccoro and DeFleur 1993) and preference (Murphy 2000, Smart et al. 2001). Greater encoding effort yields better memory, recognition and recall, for information, chiefly through the elaboration of a more detailed network of associations (Craik and Lockhart 1972). Structural differences between screen and print might be expected to reduce or interfere with the amount of elaboration dedicated to screen information and might account for the preponderance of evidence that suggests that print recall will be superior to screen recall. Different patterns between recall and recognition results may shed light on the differences between print and screen.

The prevailing view is that the threatening message ("fear appeal") should be segregated from the effect it is designed to produce, an emotional arousal (Hunt and Shehryar 2002, Keller and Block 1996, LaTour and Rotfeld 1997). Emotional arousal is posited to trigger elaboration to justify or complete the picture for the experience of emotion (Clore and Gasper 2000, Frijda and Mesquita 2000), so one might expect recall and recognition to be higher for information examined in a fear aroused state and this would overcome the poor performance of screen information in memory tests.

The research questions were examined in a small (n=48) experiment designed to test recognition and recall for information and ad claims about a cold medication. Medium (print versus screen), fear message condition (an anthrax warning versus no anthrax warning), and order of viewing (ad first versus information sheet first) were the three manipulated variables.

The recall results show an effect for medium (print versus screen) on both ad and information recall measures. Memory for print was higher; supporting Hypotheses 1 and 2. Additionally, brand name recall was higher for print, supporting Hypothesis 3. Fear did not produce any significant effects on recall.

The number of items recognized was always higher than recall, implying that subjects recalled only a portion of what they had really examined. Recognition results for ad content and product-related information were as expectedBequal across print and screen media. Hypotheses 4 and 5 were supported.

Although Hypothesis 6 was not fully supported, the fear message raised recognition for the health information but not the ad (persuasive) information. No interactions were significant and there is no support for Hypothesis 7Bthat fear arousal would diminish memory differences between print and screen.

The results of this study highlight the role of marketing goals in applying results to marketing activities. For tasks requiring consumers to retrieve information for offline purchases, print media might perform better than screen media but the retrieval constraint might disappear for consumers purchasing online, making screen and print seem equally suitable. Similarly, using the Internet to disseminate post-terrorist-attack information was an appropriate choice; the results suggest that consumers would have absorbed the essence of it and there was clear value in being able to deliver and update information quickly.

For the future, stronger tests of the processing differences between print and screen would be valuable. Differences not due to display quality and familiarity may not go away easily, leaving ongoing effectiveness differences for print and screen. Two, the focus on the functional qualities of screen (i.e. interactivity) has directed attention away from structural qualities that remained largely unexplored.

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