Author(s): Jeffrey Niederdeppe
Research suggests that specific stylistic message features have meaningful implications for message recall. Laboratory experiments have shown that ad characteristics such as cuts and intense images increase visual attention and enhance recall of televised messages. It has been suggested that attention to a televised message is a function of the correspondence between one's need for sensation (NFS) and the level of stimulation provided by the message. NFS is the desire to seek varied, novel, complex, and intense sensations and experiences. Thus individuals with a high NFS may be more likely to recall highly stimulating messages. However, it has also been suggested that overuse of stylistic features may expend cognitive resources and reduce recall of the central message. This study combines ad content analysis (n=45 ads) with survey data from the Legacy Media Tracking Surveys (n=32,977 teens), a national survey used to evaluate the truth antismoking campaign. Our objectives were: (1) to identify the effects of specific visual, audio, and format features on recall of antitobacco ads; and (2) to test whether these features have stronger effects among youth with a high NFS. We tested for the effects of edits, unrelated cuts, intense images, sound saturation, loud and fast music, acting, and surprise endings. Consistent with prior research, five of the seven hypothesized stylistic features increased the likelihood of ad recall. However, the magnitude of these associations did not differ by NFS, contrary to prior research. The results underscore the importance of stylistic considerations in designing health marketing campaigns.