Examining effects of advertising campaign publicity in a field study

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Date: June 2006
From: Journal of Advertising Research(Vol. 46, Issue 2)
Publisher: World Advertising Research Center Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,540 words
Lexile Measure: 1460L

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Previous experimental research found that the pre-exposure of publicity about advertisements has two distinct but related effects in advertised brand recall: (a) a facilitative effect on publicized brands and (b) an inhibitive effect on nonpublicized brands. We speculate that publicity effects exist beyond the controlled experiments. In this article, we used a field study to investigate the effects of publicity messages related to the commercials aired during three Super Bowl games. We found that publicity had a positive impact on the memory of subsequent advertisements for both recall and recognition, but publicity effects were more evident in recall than in recognition.

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IN AN ARTICLE ENTITLED "Commercials Become News and the Airtime is Free," Philip Dusenberry, a former chairman of the BBDO advertising agency, told The New York Times (Rothenberg, 1990):

The advertising in news takes on more value because it's being mentioned in a non-advertising context.... Anytime you release a new advertising campaign, you would be wise to bring in your PR people and ask: Is there anything in this that can stretch it beyond our media expenditure?

Major newspapers report on the day-to-day business of advertising. More than 3,000 news items about advertising campaigns were found in four major metropolitan daily newspapers over a three-year span, and The New York Times publishes about 700 advertising stories per year--almost two items per day on average (Pasadeos, Phelps, and Lamme, 2000). The mere launch of a new campaign is often deemed newsworthy, and the topic of product advertising was frequently covered in the news media.

Publicity about an advertising campaign can be an effective marketing communication tool; that is, the publicity stimulates excitement, builds expectations, and heightens awareness for the advertisement (Marketing, 1995). Ries and Ries (1999, p. 42) describe the value of this kind of marketing activity as a situation where "publicity is the nail, advertising is the hammer," Harris (1998) labels it "value-added public relations," and Yates (1995) found that a common element among successful brands is that their advertising campaigns hit the headlines.

While there have been anecdotal cases showing the effects of publicity about advertising campaigns (Harris, 1998; Ries and Ries, 1999; Rothenberg, 1990; Yates, 1995), and experimental studies provide empirical evidence of publicity effects (Jin 2003; Jin, Suh, and Donavan, in press), we speculate the publicity effects exist beyond controlled experiments. There are many recommendations about how to break through crowded advertising clutter and make a brand's advertising more memorable. This study extends previous research to examine whether and, if so, how much long-term memory may be strengthened for brands that have benefited from publicity in a field study.

The strength of controlled experiments in laboratory settings is their ability to establish causality. The trade-off, however, is a lower degree of generalizability. Accordingly, researchers argue that field studies are critical in substantiating the findings of controlled experiments (Lutz, 1996; Wells, 1993). In this article, we used a naturalistic field study to investigate the effects of publicity messages related to the commercials aired during three Super Bowl...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A153564996