The perceived behaviour of models in print advertising may help indicate the effectiveness of a brand’s messaging, according to a new study in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

The study, Face Presence and Gaze Direction in Print Advertisements: An Eye-tracking Study of How They Influence Consumer Responses, was grounded in the shared assumption that attracting consumer attention in a cluttered advertising environment is essential for brands.

Safaa Adil (ESCEM, Tours/France), Sophie Lacoste-Badie (Lille Graduate School of Management/University of Lille) and Olivier Droulers (Université De Rennes 1) exposed research participants to three kinds of print ads with: no face visible to the reader; a face gazing towards the reader (direct gaze); and gazing toward the product (averted gaze).

“The findings of the current study show that the presence of a face in an advertisement has a positive impact on attitude toward the advertisement, attitude toward the brand, and purchase intention,” they wrote.

“For the influence of gaze direction on attitude toward the advertisement, no difference was observed between gaze toward the viewer and gaze toward the product.

“It shows that using image-processing software to change gaze direction did not affect advertising credibility, which was evaluated in the same way under both experimental conditions.

“The model’s gaze direction toward the product, however, seemed to be advantageous to attitude toward the brand and purchase intention.”

More specifically, the paper continues, “The eyes are the most attended facial feature, and the direction of the gaze orients the viewer’s attention.

“By focusing on the model’s gaze direction in advertisements, this study has identified that gaze direction toward the product had a positive effect on attention to and memorization of advertisements, as well as on attitude toward the brand.

“When the model’s gaze was directed toward the product – versus toward the viewer – this led to higher purchase intent.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff