21 September 2017 Christian Caldato

Look where I look: the mechanisms of visual communication

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There is a popular saying that reads: “When the wise man indicates the moon, the fool looks at the finger”. And this thing is not very far from reality. Not so much in terms of intelligence and stupidity, but to understand how ours work automatic behaviors. There are stimuli that capture our attention.

The finger is generally processed as a part of the whole and, to understand it, we need to complete the information with the indicated object. This phenomenon is so well known that it is widely used also in   world of cinema . We find a famous example in the Kansas City Shuffle of the film Slevin in which, the diversion serves to distract the subject.

In fact, however, experience leads us to know which stimuli will mechanically attract our attention. The world of communication is aware, for example, that photos of children work for attention, like honey with a bee. From the analysis of the gaze (see gaze plot below) we can see how the children magnetize our eyes.

The eye tracking specialist James Breeze discovered that children succeed in to drive our attention towards the point where they are looking (You Look Where They Look).

The heat map above shows how simply changing the direction of the child’s gaze can get a completely different experience. Result: the entire advertising message is more effective.

However, this phenomenon does not only occur in the presence of children. In general we tend to look at what people are looking at. In the image below we can see how, by changing the direction of the gaze, the product and the claim receive (in the same amount of time) more fixations.

And again, the study by Leonhardt and colleagues demonstrates how automatically we tend to look into direction which indicates the object. In the representation below the two products are facing in opposite directions. In one case the images are directed towards the claim, while in the other towards the outside. In light of this, Apple‘s ADV it is without any doubt more performing compared to that of Dell precisely because of the ability of the former to bring attention to a salient point.

Know the mechanisms of visual attention is essential to create increasingly effective ADV campaigns. So be welcome eye tracking validations.

Sources: Leonhardt, J. M., Catlin, J. R., & Pirouz, D. M. (2015). Is Your Product Facing the Ad’s Center? Facing Direction Affects Processing Fluency and Ad Evaluation. Journal of Advertising, 44(4), 315-325.

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TAG: digital marketing