A Look Inside the Advertising Industry: A Conversation with Professor Meeds

By: Kaia Karim, Yelka Gonzalez, Marissa Montes, Litzy Alvarado

We interviewed Professor Robert Meeds, a professor at California State University of Fullerton, on his 2007 study Factors affecting information processing of internet advertisements: a test on exposure condition, psychological reactance, and advertising frequency. The interview consisted of questions regarding the reason for the study, the methods used, his perspective on the study looking back, and how he views the industry of internet advertisements today. The interview was 35 minutes in length and conducted through Zoom. 

Read More…: A Look Inside the Advertising Industry: A Conversation with Professor Meeds

What was the reason for the study, and what question were you trying to answer?

When originally asked, Meeds began to explain how the experiment was his student’s idea. At the time, he was teaching at Kansas State University, and one of his graduate students, Cong Li whom he was an advisor to, was doing an experiment to get into his PhD progam. The experiment was mainly Li’s idea to make him more attractive to the competitive program he was applying to. 

As Meeds explained, the Internet was a completely different time in the early 2000s. He discussed how internet advertising had some annoying and intrusive qualities. There were no regulations of the types of advertisements and it was believed that ads would slow down page loads, making it even more frustrating for Internet users. This study was, “trying to understand, what were the factors that influenced people’s attitudes toward internet advertising.” Overall, both Meeds and Li were studying the psychological reactance of users, which was a big predictor for people’s attitudes about internet advertising.

When was the study conducted? How long did it take to conduct the study and gather results? Was it easy to make time for it in your schedule?

Professor Meeds and his colleague published this study in 2007. The study was conducted two years before that, in 2005. The experiments that were conducted in the study had to be approved through IRB since the subjects in the study were people. Along with receiving their participant’s consent to participate in the study, this resulted in the study taking about three to six months to conduct. Professor Meeds said this particular study was easy to fit into his schedule because he was only teaching three classes a year. He was teaching at Kansas State University which is a research based university, so they had time built in for research.

Photo by Flavio Negrini

Was there anything in your results that surprised you?

Although Meeds does not recall on this particular study if he had differing expectations from his results, he finds the way in which our brains respond to stimuli to be surprising at times. He says the way we respond to advertising is the same way we respond to everything else in our environment, visually and physically. Since his research is based on how people process information, he finds it interesting that the human information processing system can actually be very predictable.

Why do you think that H5 did not show any significant results for the effects between psychological reactance and exposure condition?

Since it had been a while since he had looked over the study, Meeds wasn’t entirely sure as to why this hypothesis did not show any significant results. He went on to say that if the high reactance and low reactance people were more negative about being exposed to ads in general, then there would be no interaction effect, or no difference between the reaction of the two. This hypothesis showed that the exposure condition had a main effect on both high and low reactance people, thus not showing any significant results. 

In your experience, what is the hardest part of gathering survey and questionnaire based research?

Professor Meeds said the most stressful part of designing an experiment is that one mistake can cause the whole experiment to be invalid because that would cause an internal validity flaw. When conducting surveys, it is easier to work around a mistake because you are making correlational analyses. Instead, with experiments, by definition, you are trying to isolate differences based on groups, so if you make a mistake, months of work could be considered invalid.

If you were to conduct this study again, is there anything you would change?

As discussed in the interview, psychological reactants are still valid in today’s society with the types of advertisements being used. Meeds explained how those are, “very stable personality traits,” and how it would be interesting to do the study again with a focus on the different formats on mobile ads. He mentioned that advertising frequency is a huge problem in today’s industry, and that the type of pop up ads that are being used nowadays are completely different from what is being used today. 

(Meeds & Li, 2007)

We also discussed how although the ads aren’t as intrusive, the industry is continuously finding ways to sneak in ads without having consumers even realize that they are ads. Additionally, peoples’ attention spans have decreased significantly, and it has become more difficult for companies to get and keep consumers’ attention when it comes to products and brands. 

Do you think the way ads are perceived are changing for better or for worse? What do you think the future of advertising looks like?

Professor Meeds believes general consumer cynicism towards advertising ebbs and flows throughout different periods of time. When people first began to see new advertisements on platforms such as Tik Tok, it was perceived in a positive light and people found it interesting. As time went on and people became accustomed to the ads, people began to react negatively. This pattern goes for any advertisement on a social media platform over a long period of time. 

Advertising adapts to how people are consuming media.

Professor Meeds

According to Meeds, the advertising industry advances faster than other forms of messaging, such as journalism, because there is a lot more money that supports it. The advertising industry will transform to fit whatever the future of media is. In terms of attention spans and how they continue to get shorter, Meeds points out that ads nowadays can be as short as 5 – 10 seconds when decades ago, the norm used to be 60 seconds. 

(Meeds & Li, 2007)

The advertising industry struggles in a few areas. Professor Meeds believes that the ad industry is still behind on mobile advertising, despite the fact that digital advertising is the biggest financial component in the United States. He believes that the field has not figured out how to effectively communicate from a design and visual communications standpoint in the tiny space that is the standard phone screen. Although animations and other features are used in digital advertising, one cannot promote visuals like they do on billboards. 

To adapt to the ongoing changes of advertising, Professor Meeds has altered his courses to accurately fit the new media and trends. In his COMM classes, he used to assign print ad assignments, but they have been replaced with social media ads and animated banner ads. He has to keep up with the new techniques enough to be able to provide insightful assignments for students. 

What is the most important thing to remember in the research process? What is your biggest tip?

Work backwards.

Professor Meeds

Professor Meeds provided us with a simple tip: work backwards. When going about any research process, Meeds states we should first figure out where we want to end up, and formulate a plan backwards from that to achieve said results. Although this is not the way we are taught in class, getting an idea of where we want our study to end up, and working backwards from there is a good way to go about it in hopes of receiving the results we want.

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