Want to make your web advertising more effective? Then change direction — literally.

New research from the University at Buffalo (N.Y.) School of Management claims the secret to effective web advertising is having the product change direction while moving across the screen.

It makes potential customers subconsciously perceive the product as innovative, according to Junghan Kim, a doctoral candidate in marketing at the UB School of Management, and Arun Lakshmanan, an assistant professor of marketing there.

More specifically, kinetic property in advertising, defined as direction changes in the paths of moving on-screen ad elements, enhances consumer judgments of product novelty.


Arun Lakshmanan“Psychologically, we don’t expect inanimate objects to be able to change directions,” Lakshmanan noted in a statement about the research, published this month in the Journal of Marketing (paywall).

Apparently, when potential customers see something change orientation in an advertisement, it subconsciously tricks our brains — and "causes us to make judgments instantaneously about the product’s novelty, without even thinking about it,” Lakshmanan continued.

The research builds on past findings that simple geometric figures are perceived as alive when their motion involves changes in speed and direction simultaneously. Lakshmanan and Kim argue that speed and direction changes embedded in ad elements enhance product novelty perceptions, and argue that speed and direction changes would lead to greater aliveness perceptions because such kinetic property typically represents how living agents move.

Why Does This Matter? 

The researchers contend that product novelty is a critical success factor, noting that products perceived as innovative are adopted faster by consumers and bring in higher profits.

They base their conclusions on a series of studies involving more than 740 consumers, who were asked to viewed fictitious Web ads for such products as tablets, smartphones and cameras. "Dynamic ads proved more attention-grabbing than static ads,” Lakshmanan noted.

But as anyone who has ever done or said anything ridiculous in public can attest, getting attention is one thing — and generating desire is another. They found consumers were most receptive to ads in which the product changed direction, sparking some hidden perception of aliveness.

“For marketers, particularly those working with smaller companies and low-budget brands, kinetic property offers a robust, subtle and powerful mechanism to communicate product innovation and influence consumer attitudes," Lakshmanan said.

Conversely, the study found the novelty-enhancing effect of kinetic property is lost when consumers viewed multiple animated ads in a row or watched an ad with too many moving elements. The researchers advise advertisers to use behavioral targeting to determine when and where to position animated ads to maximize their effectiveness.

Title image by Mario Calvo