Conditions Under Which a Single Ad May Have a Delayed Persuasive Effect

ABSTRACT - The four papers in this session represent two independent lines of research which have been converging on the conclusion that, in addition to whatever immediate persuasive effects an ad may have, it may also cause persuasive effects which accrue over time. Further, these papers contain indications of the conditions under which such delayed effects are most likely to occur and suggest some directions for future research.


Robert M. Schindler (1986) ,"Conditions Under Which a Single Ad May Have a Delayed Persuasive Effect", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13, eds. Richard J. Lutz, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 566-567.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13, 1986      Pages 566-567


Robert M. Schindler, University of Chicago


The four papers in this session represent two independent lines of research which have been converging on the conclusion that, in addition to whatever immediate persuasive effects an ad may have, it may also cause persuasive effects which accrue over time. Further, these papers contain indications of the conditions under which such delayed effects are most likely to occur and suggest some directions for future research.


The issue of whether at least part of the persuasive effect of an advertisement can be seen only after a delay of days or weeks is of importance for both practical and theoretical reasons. The practical side concerns the adequacy of current copy-testing methods. Since most copy-testing questioning occurs within a day after the consumer is exposed to the ad (Aaker and Myers 1982; Schlinger 1979), the measures are blind to delayed effects. Since copy-testing is usually used to compare the effectiveness of alternative ads, this insensitivity to delayed effects would not be a problem as long as all ads had equivalent delayed effects. But if ads differ in their ability to cause delayed persuasive effects, then the inability of current copy-testing methods to detect such effects could cause erroneous conclusions about the relative effectiveness of alternative ads.

On the theoretical side, researchers who are studying the psychological processes behind delayed advertising effects are likely to propose advertising mechanisms which would not have been considered by researchers who assume that the entirety of an ad's persuasive effect can be measured immediately after the ad is presented. Several of the papers in this session have proposed such mechanisms and thus enrich the study of how advertising works.


The papers by Hoch and Ha (1985) and Deighton (1985) are rooted in the tradition of considering the everyday per son a "naive scientist" who uses predictable (and some times erroneous) strategies in his or her attempts to make sense of the world.

Deighton reviews two studies where subjects who experienced both product advertising and ambiguous product evidence gave more positive product evaluations than did subjects who experienced only one or the other or neither. Through a third study and a review of the literature, he concludes that this ability of product experience to enhance an ad's persuasive effect is due to two factors. First, the ad increases the availability of the ad's claim in the consumer's memory, and thus increases the chances that the consumer evaluates this claim against the evidence. Second, since consumers tend to evaluate a claim by checking for the presence of confirming instances (without taking into account the number of disconfirming instances), they will come to believe a claim they are evaluating if they encounter any confirming instances at all in the product evidence.

Hoch and Ha confirm Deighton's finding that the persuasive effects of an advertisement can be enhanced by subsequent product experience, but argue that the ambiguity of the product evidence is necessary for this effect to occur. They support this argument by showing that the effect occurs for a product category which provides ambiguous evidence as to product quality (polo shirts), but does not occur for a less ambiguous product category (paper towels). Although it is possible that differences between polo shirts and paper towels other than ambiguity could be responsible for their results (e.g., level of involvement with the category), it is extremely plausible that it would be more difficult to persuade someone, by any means, when that person has access to unambiguous evidence.

Hoch and Ha also found that advertising caused their subjects to spend more time examining the advertised brands. They conclude, as does Deighton, that advertising leads to the evaluation of the advertised claim when subsequent product experience is available. However, they suggest that consumers may often try to disconfirm the claim. When the product experience is ambiguous, such disconfirmation becomes difficult, and the claim tends to be accepted.

Only one of the four studies described in these two papers actually observes the change in advertising effects over a sizable (two-week) delay. However, the mechanisms proposed in both papers suggests than when an ad is followed by product experience (e.g., during external research or routine brand switching), the persuasive effects of the ad may increase. Further, the results suggest that such delayed persuasive effects are most likely to occur if the product experience is ambiguous or at least contains some confirming instances.


The papers by Kisielius (1985) and Hunt, Kernan, and Bonfield (1985) concern the likelihood that all parts of an advertisement will not be remembered equally well. This research could be considered to follow in the tradition of the sleeper effect, which has commonly been attributed to a tendency to remember the content of a persuasive message but to forget its source (Pratkanis and Greenwald 1985; see also Hasher, Goldstein, and Toppino 1977).

Kisielius investigates the view that parts of an ad which receive more cognitive elaboration when the ad is first seen (i.e., are associated with a larger number of items in long-term memory) will be more likely to come to mind after an extended delay than will parts of the ad which receive less cognitive elaboration. She expects, for example, that pictures in ads tend to receive more cognitive elaboration than verbal statements. This implies that if the pictures in an ad are more favorable to the advertised product than the verbal parts of the ad, the persuasive effect of the ad will be greater after some delay than at the time the ad is originally presented.

While Kisielius relies on the concept of cognitive elaboration to account for memory of an ad, Hunt, Kernan, and Bonfield report a test of the value of the schema plus tags notion for predicting what parts of an ad will be more memorable. Although they conclude that they have found little evidence to support the schema-plus tag view, the delay vs. typicality interactions for both their recall (Correct) and recognition (Item 5) conditions were in the direction predicted by schema theory. The failure of these interactions to reach statistical significance can hardly be considered conclusive given the small sample size in the study (n=42). Moreover, computing the mean recognition score for the typical/unpresented items (3.11) and comparing it to the mean recognition score for the atypical/unpresented item (1.66) indicates that among the unpresented items the typical ones were considerably more likely to be rated as having been presented in the ad. This also is Just as a schematic view of memory would predict.

While these two studies are far from conclusive, they do suggest that an ad is more likely to have a delayed persuasive effect if, (1) the cognitively elaborated parts are more positive than the non-cognitively elaborated parts, and (2) if the parts that are typical of a consumer's existing knowledge structure are more positive than the parts that are not typical of any of the consumer's existing knowledge structures. Further, if the Hunt et al. result of more false positives for the typical items than for the atypical items can be replicated, it would suggest that the deceptive persuasive effects of advertising might also accrue over time (see Sawyer and Semenick 1978).


There are obviously many interesting variables yet to be explored in both the naive scientist and differential-memorability lines of research. But there is also value in research directed at integrating these two research traditions. In both lines of research, it is essential that at least one positive claim in the ad be remembered. In the differential memorability research, the delayed persuasive effects result from this positive claim being more memorable than negative information which was also present in the ad. The naive scientist research also involves a remembered claim which is positive toward the brand. Here, however, forgetting of negative information in the ad isn't necessary because the delayed persuasive effect results from the way the consumer actively tests the claim during experience with the brand. But will a consumer always actively test a remembered claim if the opportunity arises? Or is it necessary that the claim be salient, i.e., very memorable? If the memorability of a claim is related to the probability of its being actively tested, then both types of delayed persuasive effects have a causal variable in common. Moreover, the memorability of the positive claim of an ad is something which can easily be measured. Of course, day-after recall probably wouldn't do. It might take something more like "week-after recall" to have an effective practical measure of an ad's delayed Persuasive effects.

Another research direction which could lead toward integrating these lines of research would involve studying how a consumer's environmental input affects his or her response to ads. Cues in the environment certainly can enhance retrieval of advertised information (see Hutchinson and Moore 1984), but they may also enhance delayed persuasive effects in other ways. For example, if a manufacturer coordinates an advertising campaign (e.g., one claiming increased product effectiveness) with a change in product appearance (e.g., the addition of "blue action crystals"), the confirming instances that the consumer happens to experience would tend to become more salient and thus more memorable. Increasing the availability in memory of confirming instances of an advertised claim should enhance delayed persuasive effects of the ad, and suggests another route by which basic memory principles may be able to provide a unified explanation for delayed advertising effects.


Aaker, David A. and John G. Myers (1982), Advertising Management, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Deighton, John (1986), "Persuasion as Directed Inference," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 13, ed. Richard J. Lutz. Provo. UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Hasher, Lynn, David Goldstein, and Thomas Toppino ( t 977) , "Frequency and the Conference of Referential Validity," Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, t 6, 107-112.

Hoch, Steven J. and Young won Ha (1985), "Consumer Learning: Advertising and the Ambiguity of Product Experience," Working Paper, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637.

Hunt, James, Jerome 8. Kernan, and E. H. Bonfield (1986), "Memory of Ads: A Schema-Based Model of Advertising Response," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. t 3, ed., Richard J. Lutz, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Hutchinson, J. Wesley and Danny L. Moore (1984), "Issues Surrounding the Examination of Delay Effects in Advertising," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 11, ed. Thomas C. Kinnear, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 650-655.

Kisielius, Jolita (1985), "The Effect of Delay on Vividness," Working Paper, Department of Marketing, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60680.

Pratkanis, Anthony R. and Anthony G. Greenwald ( 1985), "A Reliable Sleeper Effect in Persuasion: Implications for Opinion Change Theory and Research," in Psycho- logical Processes and Advertising Effects: Theory, Research, and Application, eds. Linda F. Alwitt and Andrew A. Mitchell, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sawyer, Alan G. and Richard J. Semenik (1978) , "Carryover Effects of Corrective Advertising," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 5, ed. H. Keith Hunt, Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Research, 343-351.

Schlinger, Mary Jane (1979), "A Profile of Responses to Commercials," Journal of Advertising Research, 19 (April), 37 - 46.



Robert M. Schindler, University of Chicago


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13 | 1986

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