10 November 2023 793 words, 4 min. read

Advertising: improving effectiveness with eye-tracking

By Pierre-Nicolas Schwab PhD in marketing, director of IntoTheMinds
Eye-tracking is an advanced technology that can improve your advertising. But without going that far, you'll find in this article a simple tip for anticipating the effectiveness of your ads.

Eye tracking is an extremely powerful technology with applications in many sectors. I’ve talked about its applications in retail, but also in the field of culture. In this article, I’d like to share some of the research results conducted by scientists using eye-tracking applied to advertising. In particular, you’ll discover a technique that will enable you to check the “readability” of your advertising.

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Eye tracking publicity

Eye-tracking in publicity

Eye-tracking is an essential tool for marketing and advertising professionals. By researching eye movements in front of print ads, it becomes possible to understand how different elements of an ad are perceived, integrated, and memorized by the person facing the ad in question.

Pioneering research, such as that conducted by Witt in 1977, highlighted the impact of emotions on advertising perception. An ad that elicits a strong emotional response attracts more attention, as evidenced by the numerous eye fixations. However, this increased attention only systematically translates into better memory for some ad elements. This underlines the crucial importance of conceptual integration between image, text, and message.

Other research, notably that by Treistman and Gregg (1979), has demonstrated the power of the data collected by eye-tracking. By analyzing precisely where and how the eye moves, it’s possible to deduce which element of an ad attracts the most attention, whether it’s the product image, the slogan, or the price. In addition, external factors such as brand or product familiarity can influence how an ad is perceived and remembered.

Leven (1991) has highlighted the importance of the spatial arrangement of elements in an ad. Certain area, such as the center of the ad, naturally attract the eye, while others, such as the top right-hand corner, are often overlooked. This information is essential for creatives seeking to optimize the visual impact of their campaigns.

Eye tracking is much more than a simple measurement tool. It’s a window into the consumer’s mind, offering insights into how ads are perceived, processed, and remembered. By integrating these insights, marketing and advertising professionals can improve the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Eye tracking publicity exposure times

Eye-tracking experiments applied to advertisements show that human beings do not clearly perceive them. The eyes scan the image very quickly, making it blurred.

Short exposure times to advertising

Scientific research shows that exposure to ads is generally short. It is measured in milliseconds, and it is estimated that a consumer generally spends no more than 100 ms (i.e., a tenth of a second) looking at an ad. You realize, of course, that 100 ms is too short a time for the human eye to visualize what’s on a poster.

Eye tracking publicity consumer

The consumer doesn’t see the ad

As a result, many exposures to advertisements are not only brief but also blurred (see example above). When looking at an ad, the consumer only gets a general impression but needs more time to adjust their vision to see exactly what’s on it. Scientific research has shown that the central object and its color protect the integrity of the advertising message so that the background of the image does not interfere with the message’s memory. It is, therefore, essential to ensure, when designing the advertising message, that even under very brief exposure conditions, what is perceived by the eye can still be interpreted by the brain. In other words, you, as the advertiser, must ensure that the shape perceived by the eyes is defined enough to be recognizable. If you don’t, the risk is that consumers will, at best, see a shapeless object they won’t remember.

Eye tracking publicityad memory

The secret to increasing ad memory

I’m sure you don’t want to be forgotten, do you? Then follow this recommendation the next time you have an advert, flyer, banner, or other commercial medium to conduct. First, position the object you would like to highlight in the center of the ad and make sure it contrasts sharply with the background.

If you want to do a simple test to ensure your ad is well designed, apply a “blur” filter in your image processing software (Photoshop, for example) and observe the result. If you can’t recognize what’s on the ad after you’ve blurred it, return to your office, and try again.

What do you think of the photos below? Do they meet the visual recognition criteria? Did their creators do a decent job or not?


Leven, W. (2013). Blickverhalten von Konsumenten: Grundlagen, Messung und Anwendung in der Werbeforschung (Vol. 30). Springer-Verlag.

Treistman, J., & Gregg, J. (1979). Visual tracking helped identify the more sales-effective ad in five out of six pairs. Journal of Advertising Research, 19(4), 41-47.

Witt, D. (1977). Emotional  advertising: The relationship between eye-movement patterns and  memory–Empirical study with eye-movement monitor. Unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, University of Saarland,(described in Kroeber-Riel 1979).


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