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Ad Science: Ads with Faces Eleven Times More Likely to Get Noticed

June 12 2020

Turn on your computer or grab your phone to read your email, browse the internet, or connect on social media, and what do you notice? Everywhere you look, someone is competing for your attention online. Buy this, download that, read these.

In fact, the average person sees about 360 commercial messages daily. You might not think that's very many, but it's way more information than your brain can process, particularly because much of it is irrelevant. This has led us to minimally process online content that looks like an ad, a phenomenon called banner blindness, which is a widely recognized challenge in advertising. The average online ad receives only one-third of a second of someone's time.

However, you likely see a lot of faces in advertising, and this is not a coincidence. There is science behind the phenomenon.

In an increasingly congested ad space, the question as an advertiser is this: how can my ad stand out and attract attention? It's a bit of a secret sauce when it comes to crafting ads, a spicy mix of art and science. Knowing the recipe will be crucial as you battle hundreds of other ads to compete for business.

The first step is understanding how people react to certain stimuli. Ninety-five percent of our purchase decision making takes place subconsciously, according to Harvard Business School professor, Gerald Zaltman. The inability to effectively measure those responses leaves marketers with quite a few blind spots, so it's important to have insight into the emotional and psychological reactions to specific elements. In this article, we'll discuss how to create eye-catching ads based on subconscious reaction to human faces.

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All About That Face

Studies show that 91.7% of ads featuring a person's face attracted more attention than non-face ads, with the effect being greater in scenarios where exposure time is short (like an ad on the internet or social media). Our brains are biologically hard-wired to process faces, so we're able to detect faces at least twice as fast as many other stimuli. Attention strengthens memory, so it's no surprise that the results also showed increased ad and brand recognition with face ads.

We are drawn to faces because people are social animals. We crave connection through community, and at the end of the day, our success hinges on our ability to cooperate with others. So, amid the overabundance of advertising stimuli, human faces can help your ads stand out and create a connection with your audience.

Face Forward Advertising

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Adwerx ad templates are created using the Face Forward Advertising method. Based on marketing best practices, your face is featured alongside your logo and headline, key message, and clear call to action.

Amy Youngren, real estate agent and co-founder of North Group, Canada, tested out the face forward theory with her sphere of influence ads through Adwerx. One ad featured her face and one featured a testimonial. The ad with her face outperformed the text ad 2 to 1.

Direct vs. Averted Gaze

You can leverage the power of the face to make your ads more effective. The eye will automatically be drawn to the faces in the ad, but where our eyes go next is determined by where the person in the ad is looking. We are biologically and socially trained to make eye contact with someone looking directly at us. A model in an ad smiling and making eye contact helps establish trust.

But how does this affect how we engage with the rest of the ad? Called gaze cues, there has been a lot of research on how people are affected by the orientation of another person's gaze. In advertising, research has proven that people spend longer looking at the product and the rest of the ad when the model's gaze was directed at those elements.

Humans are wired to subconsciously look in the direction that others are looking. Eye tracking technology has been used in research to determine how look-patterns are subconsciously altered by faces in ads. The images below show the visual attention being transferred from the model's eye to the product and the rest of the ad. People are encouraged to look first at the person, then our eyes move to what they're looking at.

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If you use faces in your advertising, be strategic in how you use them. Use the power of the face to draw the eye to the area of the page where you want them to focus, then make sure it leads them to the area you want them to look next.

Optimizing Your Ad

Given the volume of marketing being done today, advertisers need to increase the chances that messages will be processed. Mike Hall, Senior Marketing Designer at Adwerx, recommends keeping your ads simple. "Don't overcomplicate it, the last thing you want is for someone to be confused by your ad. Draw their attention with something they'll focus on – like a face – then keep your copy to as few words as possible, and have a clear call to action."

Integrate best practices, like using faces in your advertising, but be creative with your design. Take opportunities to test what performs best with your audience. Your business will gain a competitive advantage by using eye-catching ads that people subconsciously want to interact with.

To view the original article, visit the Adwerx blog.