Subliminal Persuasion

Advertising on the web falls into two categories – ads you don’t notice and those that pop up and annoy you.

Montclair State University Associate Professor of Marketing Patrali Chatterjee’s research explores how ads we think we’ve ignored actually get burned into our subconscious and shape our preferences. Her findings show that repeated exposures to the same type of ad over time while browsing the web – or even playing videogames or watching TV – generates familiarity with the images or logo in the ad, even if the consumer does not recall having seen the ad.

“This perceptual familiarity generates positive affect thereby making the consumer responsive and more likely to prefer it when it appears in other contexts or competitive situations,” Chatterjee explains.

Yet, because consumers are increasingly cynical of advertising messages, marketers often resort to intrusive forced-ad formats such as those that have to be closed, even though Chatterjee’s studies show those types of ads lead to negative associations with the brand.So when it comes to creating positive perceptions, advertisers do better with the repeated use of ads consumers don’t notice first – before introducing ads they have to notice.

“Subconscious advertising exposures function on an alternate route – they ‘prime’ or ‘prepare’ the consumer to prefer the brand and respond to its advertising when the need arises,” she says. “Multiple subconscious advertising exposures over time improve brand recognition and attitude but have never been shown to lead to brand recall.”