The impact of visual sexual appeals on attention allocation within advertisements: an eye-tracking study

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Abstract

To address a longstanding gap in the literature examining distraction effects resulting from the use of sexual appeals, a mixed-factors eye-tracking experiment (N = 108) was conducted to gauge how the use of sexual appeals in the form of partially clad, decorative female models impacts visual attention to competing ad components: model, product, advertising copy and the logo or brand. Findings suggest a visual distraction effect for ads containing models to operationalize sexual appeals. Although sexual appeals did not increase overall attention to the ad, gaze data reveal that for both men and women, visual attention directed specifically to models in ads with sexual appeals was greater than attention to models in non-sexual appeals. Moreover, this was more pronounced for men versus women. In addition, attention to ad copy and the brand suffered when sexual appeals were employed. These results provide greater specificity with respect to how sexual appeals impact consumer response and suggest that advertisers who wish to achieve strategic messaging goals through advertising copy should use visual sexual appeals with caution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)708-732
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Advertising
Volume40
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Sexual appeals
  • attention
  • eye tracking

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