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The issue of Recall versus Recognition is one of the oldest debates of advertising research according to experts like Alexander Biel. It started when Starch and Gallup introduced these measures in the 1930s. It became confused with other arguments after Schwerin introduced Persuasion measures into copy testing in the late 1940s. It was extended to left-brain/right-brain theories by Krugman and related specifically to his view of how print and TV advertising works, in the mid 1970s. Zielske extended the brain hemispheric theories to emotive/rational advertising in 1982. In the same year Gibson published his famous paper "Not Recall." In 1992 John Rice renewed this argument based on hemispheric theories in South Africa.
These are famous names, known to most researchers and advertisers. Few people have actually read what these authors really said, or critically inspected the empirical basis for their arguments. The fact is that there exists virtually no empirical evidence, nor consistency of views among these papers.
This paper first reviews these papers in terms of their conclusions and empiricism. Then scientists" current views of brain hemispheric theories and of memory are reviewed. Finally, the results of three experiments conducted to examine comparative measures for Recall and Recognition, all on a larger scale than any of the previous experiments, are discussed.
All decisions that human beings make involve memory. Even as simple as a decision to decide to walk from point A to point B involves memories of how to move one's legs, maintaining your balance, etc.
All purchase decisions involve the memory. A rational, conscious brand-choice decision depends on memories of the brands. Even a simple habitual purchase decision depends on memory of one's "regular" brand. A purchase decision that is largely emotional depends on memories of emotions.
All market research that involves asking people questions accesses memories. Research accesses memories directly: "How old are you?"; "Which brand did you buy last time?"; "Can you remember an advertisement for. . . ?"; etc. Or research can access memories indirectly by obtaining information from the mind that depends on the mind processing some memories: "Which brand are you most likely to buy next time?"; "What do you like about the advertisement?"; "Which brands have the following attributes?"; etc.
As researchers we need to understand memory. We should understand how memories are stored (even physically), what the characteristics of human memories are, and what the implication for research is when we access memory using different techniques.
Both Recall and Recognition access memory for traces of commercials. The difference lies in the cueing material used to prompt memory: Recognition shows the commercial (or a version of it) while Recall is a verbal prompt.
Not surprisingly, the two techniques yield different results, and this difference has led to some speculation about the reason for these differences. Some have related the differences to left-brain/right-brain theories; some have related it to "image/ emotive" advertising styles.
This paper reviews the arguments of these authors and, especially, the empirical foundation of the papers. It contributes by considering the current views of memory scientists and by showing the results of Recall and Recognition experiments based on a larger sample of commercials than what has been published before.
The Recall/Recognition debate is one of the oldest in advertising research. It is, in particular, a U.S. debate where most research companies offer some form of Recall measure as part o their copy-testing methodology. The other popular copy-testing methodology in the United States is Persuasion. Consequently, the debate is often confused in papers debating Recall versus Persuasion.
Alexander Biel described the history of Recall, Recognition, and Persuasion in ADMAP in May 1993:
Dr. Starch was measuring the
recognition of print ads as
early as 1932. Shortly afterwards
George Gallup developed
a measure of recall,
starting one of the great debates
of copy-testing. . . .
Later, Gallup and his partner
Claude Robinson adapted
their print measure to what is
today known as Day-After-Recall
In the late 1940's Horace
Schwerin introduced a Persuasion
measure to commercial
television . . . .
Although there are now
about a dozen firms in the US
specialising in ad-testing, virtually
all of them provide
measures that are remarkably
close to the patterns originated
by Gallup and Schwerin.
Biel does not mention the forms of Tracked Recall--introduced by Millward Brown in the United Kingdom in 1972. It is also used by researchers doing stochastic modeling. The objective of Tracked Recall is to establish traces of the commercial in memory using a Recall-cueing methodology, but the information is not applied as a copy-test measure evaluative of the ad) as Day-After-Recall is but to track the brand-linked presence of a commercial in memory.
The [A.sub.Br] and [A.sub.Ad] Schools
American academics now differentiate between the [A.sub/Ad] and the [A.sub.Br] schools of copy testing.
Essentially the [A.sub.Br] school feels that it does not matter what people think of the advertisement; all that matters is what they think of the brand as a result of having been exposed to the advertisement. In terms of Biel's categorization above, this would be the Persuasion testers who typically rely on pre-post exposure measures of intent to buy or attitudinal shifts and who would be using "simulated shopping" experiments. Similarly, researchers who mainly rely on "Main Message" measures would be in this school.
The [A.sub.Ad] school again would concentrate on what people think of the commercial. This would include people like Schlinger (1979), Aaker (1990), and Biel and Bridgwater (1990). It would also include most qualitative researchers (focus groups tend to be more involved with the advertisement's executional values and less with its Persuasion).
Obviously the whole school of thinking that has developed as a result of the ARF Copy Research Validity Project (CRVP) study showing advertising likability to be the best predictor of advertising success--as reported by Biel (1990) in "Like the Ad, Buy the Product"-would be squarely in this camp.
One would expect agencies to be [A.sub.Ad] due to its focus on creativity and marketers to be [A.sub.Br] due to its brand focus. In practice we have not found this to be the case--it appears to depend mostly on the politics around the particular commercial being measured.
Both schools would support, or denounce, Recall and/or Recognition. There is no clear adherance formed yet. The [A.sub.Br] school would say that as long as the advertisement "is in memory" it will do its Persuasion job. The [A.sub.Ad] school will argue that it is the [A.sub.Ad] which gets the advertisement into memory, and even after this it will continue to generate positive feelings.
It is most likely, in our view, that the "truth" lies somewhere in-between and comprises elements of both.
Review of Leading U.S. and S.A. Papers
In this section we briefly review the leading papers in the debate.
1. Herbert E. Krugman (1977). In 1977 Krugman published a paper titled "Memory without Recall, Exposure without Perception." He summarizes the basis of his argument:
With further research it became
clear that reading and
speaking are left-brain functions,
while the perception of
images is a right-brain function.
Therefore, the medium
of print is a left-brain function,
and TV largely or relatively
a right-brain function. I
would add that high involvement
is more a left-brain activity,
and low involvement a
right-brain activity; that gross
eye movements activate left-brain
activity, and that a motionless,
focused eye tends to
bring in right-brain activity.
The "research" he refers to is the work done by Sperry in 1967 when he severed the corpus callosums of patients--Krugman himself does not offer any empirical research. (One should note his use of "therefore" in the above quote presents a logical jump.)
What seems to happen is that
we store a picture memory, an
image memory, without
words. There is no recall because
recall is the word form
of the picture. There is no recall
because we have had only
right-brain involvement. There
is no left-brain involvement
because no connections, associations,
or thoughts occurred
at the time of exposure. There
is only a capacity--or an increased
capacity, if repetition
2. Zielske (1982). Zielske largely picked up from Krugman by supplying the first empirical evidence in the debate. He did not relate brain hemispheric theories to Recognition and Recall but investigated whether a "type" of ad is penalized by Recall.
In 1972 Herbert Krugman reported
that recall understates
the true remembrance of advertising.
However, an additional
concern has been …