Attention Please…

Walking down the street, we are bombarded with brands competing for our attention. Every second of it counts to advertisers because the longer we pay attention to their adverts, the stronger our memory trace for that brand becomes. And the stronger our memory, the more likely we’ll recall or recognise that brand in future purchasing situations. However, some adverts are clearly more effective than others at grabbing our attention. In order to try and create more effective adverts a team of researchers from the Laboratory of Consumer Psychology were asked to investigate what psychological principles can be used to improve the effectiveness of billboard adverts.

Faces are powerful stimuli. In fact, we prioritise them over any other stimuli in our environment. Previous lab research found that print adverts where the model is looking away from the audience is more effective at increasing overall attention time towards the advert. However, to-date this research has not been tested outside of the lab and with ‘real’ adverts. Working with  Pixel Inspiration, one of the UK’s leading digital out of home agencies, we develop two adverts. One with the model looking at the audience and one looking away (see below) which were then displayed at Pontio, Bangor University’s Arts Centre for a month.

Using specilised software called Quividi we were able to measure the number of people who looked at the advert & how long they spent looking at them for. The results clearly showed that the direct gaze advert was significantly more effective at grabbing passers by attention than the adverted gaze (21%: direct gaze v 17%: averted gaze). We speculate that this difference can probably be explained by our intuitive awareness that ‘somebody is watching us’, which understandably has evolutionary origins. However, unlike some previous lab-based studies, there was no significant difference in audience attention time between the two adverts; 1.87 seconds (averted gaze) v 1.81 seconds (direct gaze).

Therefore, whilst gaze orientation had no effect on the length of attention paid to an out of home advert, a direct gaze produced a material increase in the number of people looking at it. For something as simple & inexpensive as altering the orientation of a gaze, this is a powerful finding & one that can deliver a high ROI in the context of attention & memory formation.

If you’d like to hear more about this research or you’ve got a specific research question you’d like us to investigate, why not get in touch.

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