Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Don't look at me

The above advertisement for Loreal Paris shampoo involves a pretty model with smooth and silky hair, smiling towards us. The advertised product (Elvive full restore replenishing shampoo) is placed next to the model. I think this ad is unpersuasive as I found myself stared at the lady’s hair for a much longer time than when I stared at the shampoo. I did not even pay attention to the brand. If I had no intention to even look at the brand, it is unlikely that I would actually buy the product. Given that attention is important in selling a product – within milliseconds when the viewer looks at an ad, the company has to make sure the advertised product captures the viewers’ eyesight, provides them with enough information about the product, and eventually persuades them to buy the product. Therefore, companies have to adopt effective strategies to focus viewer’s eyesight on the product and the brand.

One strategy is to effectively use ‘gaze cues’ by having the model stare at the products instead of gazing at the viewers (see the above example). Hutton and Nolte (2011) conducted an eye tracking experiment to look at the focus of viewers ‘s attention when they were looking at a printed advertisement in which the model either looked at the advertised product or looked towards the viewer. In the study, Hutton and Nolte created two versions of 16 advertisements. In the first version, the model (either wearing or holding the product) looked at the product, whereas in the second version, the model looked towards the camera. Model’s facial expressions were carefully controlled.

Figure 1. Average dwell time (Milliseconds) for product and brand regions as a function of the model's gaze (towards viewer vs. towards product)

Participant’s fixation times on the product and on the brand were measured (see Figure 1). Results show that participants spent a significantly longer time looking at the product region in the advertisement when the model was also looking at this region. Also, participants looked longer at the brand region when the model was gazing towards the product, possibly because the viewer’s curiosity for further information was sparked after paying enough attention to the product. The researchers concluded that the model’s direction of gaze can act as gaze cues that are powerful in orienting viewers' attention. 

The results of this study have implications for advertisement designs, which should make use of gaze cues to focus reader’s attention on the advertised product and brand.

Hutton, S. B., & Nolte, S. (2011). The effect of gaze cues on attention to print advertisements. Applied Cognitive Psychology,25(6), 887-892.

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