Visual Attention to Advertising on Social Media

Jessica BowryThe following is a guest post from Jessica Bowry, who graduated from The University of Sussex last month. Jess recently completed a Masters degree in International Marketing with a dissertation which focused on visual attention to social media. We provided use of our eye tracking equipment for of her study, details of which can be seen below…

Advertising through social media is extremely popular for marketing purposes. However, when compared to its’ popularity within business; it is surprising to find that there has been relatively little research on this area. This is part of the reasoning why Jessica Bowry (a recent International Marketing graduate), decided to look at participant’s visual attention towards social media alongside the associated implications for advertising effectiveness in her final research project.

The investigation took the form of an eye-tracking experiment, with the test lab and equipment provided for by ‘NPP Digital’.  A key part of the study was through monitoring visual attention towards two manipulated Facebook pages. These web-pages used the same mobile phone advert, but were adapted accordingly to fit the standardized size and location of two key places where advertising can usually be seen (in the middle of the newsfeed or on the right-hand side).

Eye tracking screenshot

Variation 1 – Advert shown centrally

Each of the specifically developed Facebook home-pages were then inserted onto a ‘visual display’ of various other websites and social media pages, and the order of the visual display was exactly the same for each condition, changing automatically at seven second intervals. Participant’s eye-movements were then monitored throughout the process, but ultimately data was only used from the Facebook page. There were 62 participants in total and all participants were assigned to their condition upon arrival. This allowed for an equal split between males and females, as well as an equal split between all participants for each condition in the experiment. Each participant only saw one version of the Facebook page, and participants were initially not aware of the goal of the study.

Following on from the eye-tracking, participants were then asked to fill out a questionnaire to test their recall, product involvement, and attitude towards the advert. There were 32 ‘tick-box’ style questions, and of these were all modelled on a previous paper. Cronbach’s Alphas for each theme were calculated and refined using SPSS.

Eye tracking screenshot

Variation 2 – Advert shown to the right

The results showed that our visual attention towards social media is rather behavioural, and that we naturally look towards the top-centre of the page (as this may be more relevant to us). There was little difference between the heat mapping results, which showed a strong amount of interest in the centre of the newsfeed. In terms of participant’s navigation, the more central advert received visual attention much earlier than when it was located on the right-hand side.

Furthermore, a recall cross tabulation revealed huge differences depending on which advert participants viewed. In the condition with the more central advert, 71% of participants recalled it without any assistance. In the second condition, only 45% of participants recalled the advert. A Spearman’s RHO correlation also revealed that attitudes towards the advert significantly increased if participants could recall it, implying that the more central advert may be more effective against the one on the right. There were no significant relationships between gender and visual attention or recall.

Therefore, as the results revealed a more behavioural approach in terms of visual attention to social media, and that we generally look to the centre of the home-page; it would be interesting to further analyse the role of centrality for advertising effectiveness across other types of web-pages.

Jessica Bowry – 2014

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