Nature imagery in advertising: attention restoration and memory effects

Patrick Hartmann and Vanessa Apaolaza

University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU

Patxi Alija

Adimen Research Institute

Introduction

Memory is still considered a key variable in terms of advertising effectiveness (Delattre & Colovic 2009; Jeong et al. 2011; Lee et al. 2012). The effect of images on advertising memory has been addressed by a stream of research. Memory for visual advertising stimuli has been found generally superior to memory for verbal messages (Childers & Houston 1984). However, memory for verbal advertising messages seems to be enhanced by emotional reactions to affective advertising imagery (Leigh et al. 2006). Environmental psychology may hint at the existence of a not previously addressed perceptual mechanism linking psycho-physiological responses to nature imagery in advertising with enhanced cognitive elaboration and memory of advertising messages. Attention Restoration Theory (ART; Kaplan & Kaplan 1989; Kaplan 1995) and Ulrich’s psycho-physiological stress reduction theory (Ulrich 1981, 1983; Ulrich et al. 1991) postulate that visual exposure to nature scenery, compared to urban scenes lacking natural elements such as trees, reduces stress and enhances cognitive functioning. Contact with nature seems to facilitate the restoration of attention capacities that are depleted by activities demanding prolonged, effortful attention. These findings may also be relevant for advertising research, since pictures of nature presented in an advertisement could potentially induce the suggested effects of exposure to nature, such as favourable influences on cognitive processing and memory, as well as positive emotional effects. The present research analyses in three experimental studies, including an eye-tracking experiment, the behavioural effects of nature imagery in advertising, addressing emotional responses, cognitive message elaboration and memory.