Ad gist: Ad communication in a single eye fixation

R. Pieters, M. Wedel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Most ads in practice receive no more than a single eye fixation. This study investigates the limits of what ads can communicate under such adverse exposure conditions. We find that consumers already know at maximum levels of accuracy and with high degree of certainty whether something is an ad or is editorial material after an exposure of less than 100 milliseconds and—if the ad is typical—which product is being advertised. Even after an extremely coarse visual presentation of 100 milliseconds, the product and brand in typical ads are identified well above chance levels, with atypical ads doing slightly better at the brand level. We propose a new metric that quantifies how effectively individual ads communicate their gist in adverse exposure conditions and that predicts the immediate interest that ads draw. Bayesian mediation analyses show that because of their better gist performance, typical ads rather than atypical ones raise immediate interest after very brief exposures. These findings challenge some of the received knowledge in advertising theory and practice, and they reveal the immediate communication benefits of typical ads.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-73
JournalMarketing Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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