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Repeated Exposures Effect of Fear Patterns


2.5 Repeated Exposures Effect of Fear Patterns

leaving the audience fearful, with no or little reduction of fear and if'the fear-relief

pattern ends by leaving the audience relieved and calm with significant fear reduction.

A description and justification of these new measures are detailed in Chapter 3 of this thesis.

Study 1 of this thesis (presented in Chapter 4) identifies the fear patterns, with the underlying fear-as-acquired-drive theory discussed in this chapter being carried through to the following studies. The fear patterns and relevant drive-theories are also examined in Study 2 (presented in Chapter 5), in a repeated exposure condition. Theory and

research findings on repetition of fear appeals will now be briefly reviewed as a precursor to Study 2.

attention or impact. "Shock" advertising has been a popular technique used by

Australian road safety authorities in recent years, and it is believed that shock

advertisements lose their impact after just a few exposures because their "shock value"

diminishes quickly (Moore and Harris, 1996; Tedmanson, 2001).

This loss of "shock value" was referred to by Hughes (1992, p.61) as wearout, that is, "a reduction in subjects' favourable responses after repeated exposures to a message". A favourable response from the social marketer's perspective, in relation to fear appeal advertisements, would be that the target audience does feel fear, and as a result of this feeling, does intend to adopt the promoted behaviour. Advertising wearout is very

important to commercial companies and there have been numerous studies (Henderson-Blair and Rabuck, 1998; Pechmann and Stewart, 1988) that have investigated wearout of advertising for general products and services. The measures used for wearout in these previous studies included sales, purchase intent, awareness, recall, persuasion, reminder potential and competitive imagery (Scott and Solomon, 1998). When studying advertising wearout in social marketing, different measures of wearout apply, such as expected changes in social behaviour rather than buying behaviour. This study

examines the issue of advertising wearout in the area of anti-speeding advertising as the wearout of fear appeal anti-speeding advertisements has received minimal attention by previous researchers.

There are several causes of wearout. It can occur because of diminished attention,

counter-learning (interference) from other advertisements, or loss of acceptance due to counterarguing with the message (over-exposure) (Rossiter and Percy, 1997). Emotion

wearout, for example diminished fear due to habituation, also occurs and is particularly

important for social marketing advertisements as the issues or causes being promoted

largely rely on emotions to motivate the target audience to act in a socially desirable way. Action measures of wearout can be used (Stewart, 1999); for example, brand

choice after advertisement exposure, or in the instance of anti-speeding advertisements, speed choice.

Both Ephron (1995) and Jones (1997) raise several disadvantages of media scheduling following the effective frequency theory. This theory assumes the traditional

perspective on advertising scheduling by purporting that advertising has to be repetitive for consumers to learn and remember advertising messages (Ephron 1995). It must be

noted, however, that their research is in regard to advertising for commercial products and services, with no mention of the implications of, or generalisability to, social marketing messages.

The new model that both authors support is based on continuous advertising that involves an advertisement being exposed to consumers only once just prior to their weekly purchase. The new model represents a shift from a focus on frequency to a focus on reach. The research suggests that "one exposure to a brand message has a greater effect on brand share than additional exposures" (Ephron, 1995, p. 18).

However, this rule holds only for well-known and established brands in a market.

Ephron also stated that "learning theory is largely irrelevant because brands are competing for purchases, not teaching messages" (Ephron, 1995, p.20).

These opinions demonstrate that both journal articles focus on commercial brands with data for each study being collected from such sources as AC Nielsen scanning data.

Research is required that explores effective frequency in social marketing areas, where learning theory is still relevant and where there are fewer competing brands (for example speeding behaviour versus driving within the speed limit).

There is no research regarding how viewers react during repeated exposures to fear appeals. Studies of repeated exposures to investigate "wearout" have typically used positive-appeal commercials for products (e.g., Belch, 1982; Machleit and Wilson, 1988; Silk and Vavra, 1974). Positive-appeal commercials have also been used in all previous studies using continuous "moment-to-moment" recording of reaction patterns to TV commercials (Aaker, Stayman, and Hagerty, 1986; Baumgartner, Sujan, and

Padgett, 1997), which is the pattern-recording method employed in this thesis.

The two types of fear patterns, given repeated exposures, may result in different effects.

It is argued that a fear-only advertisement (positive punishment) is likely to suppress the bad behaviour only temporarily. Therefore, there is a need for frequent reminders,

which is the reason why the TAC select a heavy media schedule for their hard-hitting

"shock" (fear-only) campaigns. These fear-only advertisements (especially the "shock"

subtype advertisement) may lose their "shock value" with repeated viewings, however, as mentioned previously, this is an uninvestigated question.

There is a distinction between emotion wearout of feelings such as fear, shock and tension, and behavioural wearout, that is measured by using a driving-simulation task

(this is discussed in Chapter 3). It is highly likely that emotion wearout will occur quite quickly with successive exposures of a fear-only advertisement. That is, once viewers

have initially seen a fear-only advertisement and have experienced feeling "shocked" by the graphic images, it is likely that they will be significantly less shocked on repeated

viewings of the advertisement. If emotion wearout does occur quite quickly this would be of concern to road safety advertisers who believe in the principles of positive punishment, as this theory would require the audience to feel as fearful as possible to have the greatest behavioural effect. Correspondingly, fear-relief pattern

advertisements could be considered blander than the fear-only ("shock")

advertisements, and thus may lose viewers' attention more quickly, resulting in fewer (or weaker) negative reinforcement "trials." This behavioural effect of repetition of hothfear-only and fear-reliefadvertisements, that is the more important outcome in regard to meeting the objectives of road safety advertisements, is unknown and requires investigation. The relevant study to explore the repeated exposures effect of fear patterns is contained in Chapter 5.