NEW YORK: A paper in the latest issue of the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) explodes the toolkits of generations of magazine publishers that have insisted the top portion of a right-hand page is the most desirable advertising position.

Neuroscience-led research by Edith G. Smit and Sophie C. Boerman (University of Amsterdam) and Lex van Meurs (GfK/Netherlands) suggested this received wisdom is inaccurate.

"Although the top of the page traditionally has been regarded as the most effective placement for an advertisement," they state unequivocally, "the current study showed the opposite: eye fixations were drawn to the bottom of the page."

The authors contend that their "Direct Context" work – the study of the entire content an observer can view at the same time he or she views an ad – demonstrates how neuroscience can offer a fresh look at the way consumers understand and use legacy media.

"Context characteristics appeared to influence the visual attention paid to magazine advertisements, especially visual attention paid to the three main elements of advertisements: colour, page, and the amount of text in the direct context influenced the magazine reader and directed less visual attention to advertisements," they wrote.

The effect of colour on the printed page, the authors found, was particularly powerful.

"The results showed that the eye fixates on advertisements with multiple colours but also on direct context represented in multiple colours. This colour effect was observed for both types of visual attention."

The article – entitled, The Power of Direct Context as Revealed by Eye Tracking – A Model Tracks Relative Attention to Competing Editorial and Promotional Content – appears as part of a four-part special "How Does Neuroscience work in Advertising?" section in JAR.

Also included in this section were considerations on the reliability of neuromarketing tools, a psychophysiological approach for measuring response to messaging and the way visual processing can affect sponsorship programs.

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff