by Donna L. Roberts, PhD

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In the realm of consumer behavior research, a successful advertisement must accomplish four basic tasks: 1) Exposure – the consumer must come in contact with the ad message; 2) Attention – the consumer must have thoughtful awareness and consideration of the content; 3) Interpretation – the ad must be accurately understood; and 4) Memory – the ad must be retained in memory in a manner that will allow retrieval under the proper circumstances (Hawkins & Motherbaugh, 2009).  Following this model, advertising has a long history of quantifying effectiveness in relation to memory of a specific ad, advertising campaign, or advertised brand (Clark, 1990; McDaniel & Gates, 1999).  Various widely accepted theories – including Day-After Recall, the Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) and Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results (DAGMAR) models – are based on the fundamental argument that an ad’s memorability (i.e., its ability to sufficiently intrude into a consumer’s consciousness) is measured by degree of recognition (Brierley, 2009; McDaniel & Gates, 1999).

Specifically, the majority of the advertisement-testing measures are based on the assumption that when consumers make purchase decisions they attempt to recall advertising for brands in the relevant category, as well as other brand knowledge.  The extent to which this search for advertising information is successful is thought to depend on how well advertising messages have been attended to and learned.  Thus, the measure most often used to assess advertising effectiveness is verbatim recall of the message content.  This measure is referred to as an explicit measure of memory because it reflects the extent to which people retrieve the content of an explicit message (Brierly, 2009; Lindquist & Sirgy, 2008; McDaniel & Gates, 1999).  While there is little dispute that familiarity with the advertising content is a useful indicator of the extent to which the message has been learned, interpreting the impact of advertising – i.e., the subsequent and/or corresponding purchase decision – from a measure of explicit ad recognition can be more complex and problematic (Arens, Weigold & Arens, 2011; McDaniel & Gates, 1999; Young & King, 2008).



Arens, W., Weigold, M., & Arens, C. (2011). Contemporary advertising. (13th ed.). Hightstown, NJ: McGraw-Hill/Irwin

Brierley, S. (2009). The advertising handbook. New York: Routledge.

Clark, E. (1990). The want makers. New York: Viking.

Hawkins, D., & Mothersbaugh, D. (2009). Consumer behavior: Building marketing strategy, (11th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Lindquist, J. D., & Sirgy, M. J. (2008). Shopper, buyer and consumer behavior: Theory, marketing applications and public policy implications. (4th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Atomic Dog Publishing.

McDaniel, C., & Gates, R. (1999). Contemporary marketing research (4th ed.). Cincinnati: South-Western College Publishing.

Young, C. E., & King, P. (2008). The advertising research handbook, (2nd ed.). Seattle, WA: Ad Essentials.