Reconsidering Recall and Emotion in Advertising

Abhilasha Mehta
Gallup & Robinson, Inc.

Scott C. Purvis
Gallup & Robinson, Inc.


Recall is one of the several major measures used in advertising effectiveness testing today, in addition to others such as persuasion and advertising liking. However, despite a strong base of empirical validation, recall has been among the most criticized of the measures. And while many of these criticisms have long since been resolved, doubts about the measure linger from the days when recall was used by many as the solitary indicator of advertising effectiveness.

Among the more important of the historical criticisms of recall was that it favors more "rational" commercials over more "emotional" ones. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, several researchers suggested and reported that the recall of rational commercials was, on average, higher than the recall of emotional ones. This viewpoint subsided in later years as other research and the reanalysis of the early studies showed no inherent disadvantage. Additionally, several important validation studies in the past two decades have delivered strong independent empirical evidence of the role of recall in identifying commercials that produced higher in-market business results. Recently though, Unilever along with one of its research partners, Ameritest, has resurrected the issue and concluded "recall misses the emotion in advertising that builds brands," using new data to bring into question once again the value of recall when measuring emotion based advertising (Kastenholz and Young, 2003).