The spark orientation effect

REFERENCE:

Rodero, E. (2015). The Spark Orientation Effect for improving attention and recall. Communication Research, on line before print. DOI: 10.1177/0093650215609085.

Abstract

Although some sound elements such as music or sound effects are commonly used in audio-visual messages, little research has been conducted to determine whether they guarantee better cognitive processing. The purpose of this study is to improve listeners’ cognitive processing by determining the effectiveness of several sound elements in an audio message. We analyzed the capacity and the position in radio commercials of three orienting elements – appeals to the listener, music and sound effects – to determine if and how they enhanced the listener’s attention and recall. The findings indicated that the use of orienting elements significantly increased the level of attention and recall of the listeners, especially in the case of sound effects. Regarding the position of the orienting elements, the study showed they were used effectively when focused on the whole structure of the message, applying the so-called spark orientation effect.

Video and audio (coming soon)

Significance of the project

The audio-visual industry continues to seek ways to hold the listener’s attention during commercial breaks. One of the most common strategies to produce audio messages in general, and advertising more specifically, is having elements such as music or sound effects accompany the voice to develop a more appealing message. This strategy seeks to create an acoustic contrast to the verbal information. While these elements have been and are commonly used on radio, television or the Internet, little research has been conducted to determine whether they guarantee better cognitive processing, in terms of attention and memory, among listeners. This is particularly important because in the case of an advertising message such as a commercial, optimal cognitive processing should be an expected consequence. If listeners do not pay attention to the message, they will retain few if any of the details in their memory. Accordingly, analyzing the cognitive processing of a listener exposed to this kind of message is a significant topic within the context of advertising communication.

Goals of the Project

Advertisers have a set of options at their disposal to make the audio message more effective. But what are the different effects of each option? How should they be used to improve the cognitive processing of the listener, in particular with the clear objective of improving recall? This experimental study analyzes the effectiveness of three sound elements – appeals to the listener, music, and sound effects – and how they should be applied to radio ads to enhance the attention and recall of the listener. It therefore addresses two questions: first, their effectiveness in a radio commercial to improve attention and recall; and, secondly, if the position of these elements affects the cognitive processing of the listener. These are two issues that so far have not been addressed but may be answered by applying the spark orientation effect.

Main Results

The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of the spark orientation effect in an audio message to improve listeners’ cognitive processing in terms of attention and memory. The spark orientation effect is a strategy for focusing the listener’s attention on the important parts of a message by applying novel sounds called orienting elements. To this end, we analyzed the effectiveness and the position of three orienting elements (appeals to the listener, music, and sound effects) to attract the listener’s attention and to improve recall. The findings indicate that the application of the spark orientation effect obtained positive results. The use of orienting elements significantly increased the level of attention and recall of the listeners, especially in the case of sound effects. Regarding position, the most effective option was highlighting the whole message structure at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the commercial focusing on the most important information.

Additional Information

RODERO, E. (2014). The spark orientation effect. National Communication Association, Chicago, USA