Wait! Why is it Not Moving? Attractive and Distractive Ocular Responses to Web Ads
 
Student ResearcherS

Smita Chaturvedi & Nokon Heo (PhD Students)

Faculty supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

For a complete report of this research, see:

Heo, N., Sundar, S. S., & Chaturvedi, S. (2001, August). Wait! Why is it not moving? Attractive and distractive ocular responses to Web ads. Paper presented to the Advertising Division at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Washington, DC.

Introduction

There are several problems associated with some of the existing measures of Web advertising, particularly banner advertisements. Until now, Web advertisers have relied on a kind of "traffic report" that provided estimates of click-through rates, reach, frequency, and gross rating points. However, it has been reported that these measures were hard to identify visitor characteristics and monitor visitor traffic and flow patterns, and thus raising questions regarding the accuracy of reach and frequency data. In this study, an alternative technique for measuring the effectiveness of Web advertisement was provided by monitoring Internet users' moment-to-moment eye movements during Web browsing. More specifically, we tracked participants' eye movements while they read news stories on the Web to see if certain features of banner ads could generate cognitive responses including visual attention to banner ad features. Three banner ad features examined include animation, position, and product involvement.

Hypotheses

In order to generate hypotheses regarding three independent variables, distinctiveness theories, limited-capacity theory, spatial information acquisition theory, and orienting response theory were used.

H1a: Animated ads will generate lesser number of horizontal eye movements than static ads.

H1b: Animated ads will generate greater number of vertical eye movements than static ads.

H2a: Ads positioned near the bottom of the page will generate lesser number of horizontal eye movements than those near the bottom of the page.

H2b: Ads positioned near the top of the page will generate greater number of vertical eye movements than those near the bottom of the page.

H3a: Ads featuring high involving products will generate lesser number of horizontal eye movements than ads featuring low involving products.

H3b: Ads featuring high involvement products will generate greater number of vertical eye movements than ads featuring low involving products.

Method

A 2 (animation) X 2 (position) X 2 (product involvement) within-participants factorial experiment was designed. A total of forty-six participants read 8 different online news stories on a computer screen. Embedded within each news page was a banner ad positioned either at the top or bottom, either animated or static, and featured either a high-involving or low-involving product. During the browsing, participants' eye movements were recorded on a separate computer by online recording of electrooculography (EOG). The EOG recording produced two separate eye movements: vertical and horizontal. Vertical movement was operationalized as an indicator of the distracting effects of banner ads to reading the news stories. Horizontal movement, particularly saccadic eye moments, were assumed to indicate participants' levels of attention to the news stories.

Results

H1a & H1b: Not supported. Both animated and static ads generated about the same number of horizontal and vertical eye movements.

H2a: Supported. Top ads generated lesser number of horizontal eye movements than bottom ads indicating a distracting effect by position.

H2b: Not supported. Bottom ads generated a greater number of vertical eye movements than the top ads.

H3a: Supported. High involving product ads generated lesser number of horizontal eye movements than low involving ads.

H3b: Not supported. However, there was no difference for vertical eye movement between high and low involving products.

In addition to the observed main effects, we also found several significant interaction effects between the three independent variables.

Conclusion

The null effects for animation can be explained by "Why not moving effects" for static ads. The findings from this study also suggest strong "novelty effects" for position. Also, the presence of strong content and form lead to discernible interaction effects. In addition, the results revealed that EOG is a valid indicator of OR. A useful recommendation is that a multi-measure approach to investigating animation effects can present a fuller picture.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University