The Exposure Effect
It’s a fact. We like the things we see the most. It’s called The Exposure Effect. It states that people prefer, or feel more positively toward, the things to which they have been repeatedly exposed – even when they aren’t aware of the exposure.
The exposure effect probably originates as a component of the deeply rooted social phenomenon known as in-group favoritism. It is an evolved mechanism that exists to instill strong bonds among our immediate family and social groups. In short, we have the most positive feelings toward those we are most closely associated with. “In-groups and out-groups” are powerful psychological mechanisms that have implications far beyond the exposure effect. We’ll certainly be covering them in future posts.
The exposure effect is one of the most common findings in psychology, and as the study below describes, it even holds true when we aren’t aware we’re being exposed to something.
Research: Banner Ads Work — Even If You Don’t Notice Them At All
Research has shown that banners don’t have to be flashy (no pun intended) to be effective. Actually, they don’t even need to be noticed at all to sway attitudes positively.
Banners sit in the periphery on the typical web page. The majority of online ad exposure occurs when the viewer’s attention is focused elsewhere on the page – like on the content they’re actually on the page to see. Studies show that even this incidental, passive exposure to banner advertising positively effects consumer attitudes.
“Regardless of measured click-through rates, banner ads may still create a favorable attitude toward the ad due to repeated exposure.”
The researchers investigated whether “mere exposure effect,” a condition in which people develop a positive perception of stimuli not presented to them on a noticeable level, was also applicable to incidental advertising.
In a series of experiments, they discovered that even if people couldn’t recall the ad content, repeated exposure led to familiarity, which then led to positive feelings. Participants had more positive evaluations toward the target banner ad as exposure frequency increased.
Participants also showed high levels of tolerance for banner ads on which they were not directly focused. According to the researchers, even after twenty exposures, common wear-out effects were not apparent.
So, this research isn’t an excuse for delivering underwhelming ads or letting your ads get stale, but it does show how consistently repeating certain branding elements in your ads helps build and reinforce positive attitudes towards that brand.