Attention to Banner Ads and Their Effectiveness: An Eye-Tracking Approach

JooWon Lee and Jae-Hyeon Ahn
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 17 Number 1, Fall 2012, p. 119-138.

Abstract: As with all forms of advertising, exposure is a necessary prerequisite for Internet banner ad effectiveness. However, exposure does not guarantee a user’s attention, an issue especially relevant to the Internet, where ad avoidance occurs most frequently. And if an ad is noticed, the message may or may not remain in the consumer’s memory after cognitive processing. However, even if the advertising message is not consciously remembered, the exposure can be unconsciously processed and subsequently change the user’s affective state. To investigate how attention levels influence users, this study uses eye tracking to measure the level of attention that results from an advertisement exposure and explores how different levels of attention influence users in conscious and unconscious ways. Also, we examine the effect of animation—one of the most popular attention-grabbing tools—on attention and how it moderates cognitive processing.

By measuring and analyzing users’ actual eye-movement data, we found that animation in banner ads not only attracts less attention than static ads but also reduces the positive effect of attention on memory. In addition, although more than half of the participants could not recognize the advertised brand, the animated banner ad was unconsciously processed and did influence attitudes toward the brand. The results suggest that animation in banner ads does not necessarily increase user attention, but that even if a user does not consciously notice a banner ad, the user’s attitude toward the brand is influenced.

Key Words and Phrases: Animation, attention, banner ads, eye tracking, Internet advertising effectiveness.