Get access

The Effects of Incidental Ad Exposure on Consumption-Enhancing and Consumption-Critical Processes


Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to: Martin Sauerland, Economic Psychology, University of Koblenz-Landau, Fortstraße 7, D-76829 Landau, Germany (


This article focuses on consumers’ unconscious counter-reactions to incidentally received advertising appeals. Recipients can be influenced automatically by incidental ad exposure due to evaluative conditioning processes, mere-exposure effects, or priming events. However, it is assumed that such processes, especially priming events, can also lead to automatic counter-reactions. To test this assumption experimentally, the type of ad exposure was systematically varied between focused, incidental, and control. Among other variables participants’ response latencies to consumption-critical word pairs in comparison to neutral pairs were measured to assess the ability to counter-react received advertising information. Response latencies were considerably lower in the focused and incidental test conditions than they were in the control group. Since participants in the incidental group were only able to analyze the ads preattentively, results indicate an automatic activation of consumption-critical motives or cognitions—critical associations were more available here. Thus, results provisionally support the underlying hypothesis.