Products should face the center of your ads
People like ads up to 24% more when the product is positioned facing the center of the ad (vs outward)
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The creative of your ad has a huge impact on conversions.
But there’s another fundamental choice you face when finalizing your product images or ad creatives.
Which direction should your product be facing?
P.S.: If you’re a small brand, try copying the ad creatives of large competitors. If you’re a large brand, make sure you change your creatives often to stand out.
People will like your ad more if your product is facing the center of your image
Channels: Image Ads | Ads | Print Ads | Website
For: Both B2C and B2B
Research date: June 2015
In your product image and ads, position the product so that it faces inwards toward the center of the image.
This makes it easier for people to mentally process the ad and makes them like it more.
People like ads more when the product advertised faces inward (vs outward).
As part of 3 experiments across 15 product categories with 18 ads:
Images of products facing inward were liked 24% more and processed 27% more quickly.
Items on the left of the frame facing inwards were viewed 6% more positively than items facing inwards on the right side of the frame.
🧠 Why it works
When an object is facing inwards, the “face” is closer to the center of the frame, as compared to when facing outwards. This means our eyes have to move less from their initial fixation point at the center of the image.
It’s also easier for us to process an object when its face is visible, as compared to its back.
When it’s easier for our brains to process something, like an image, we tend to look at it more positively.
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The researchers studied people’s preference for ads across many product categories, but didn’t test whether that impacts people’s liking or choice of the product or brand itself, or its effect on sales.
The study focused on images of products. It’s not clear if this effect would hold for experiences (e.g. luxury cruise, spa), where there isn’t a clear physical product to position.
The effect is weaker for exciting products (e.g. a sports car), as compared to items considered safer (e.g. a minivan or sedan). In this case, it only works if the product is on the left side of the image facing inward.
The research was run in the US with English speakers. The same preference might not hold for languages where native readers read right to left (e.g. Urdu, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian).
🏢 Companies using this
Marketers don’t seem to be aware of the advantages of positioning products to face a particular direction. In an analysis of 156 print ads, only 30% faced toward one side.
Some electronic brands (e.g. Samsung, Apple, Black and Decker) occasionally use this.
The technique seems to be popular in car ads as well, with companies from Tesla to Honda positioning their vehicles at an angle.
Toyota correctly positioned their car in this ad creative.
⚡ Steps to implement
Review your product images and ads to check if you’re using photos of your products at an angle, or if the product is either directly facing the front or back of the image.
Ask your product photographers, designers, and ad agency to make sure you’re using photos of your product at an angle, facing inwards.
Photo-editing software can help you edit the direction your product faces in your existing images.
In some rare cases - if your product is risky and exciting - the effect might work better if you position your product on the left facing the outside of the ad. Test it.
🔍 Study type
Is Your Product Facing the Ad's Center? Facing Direction Affects Processing Fluency and Ad Evaluation. Journal of Advertising (June 2015)
James M. Leonhardt. College of Business, University of Nevada, Reno.
Jesse R Catlin. College of Business Administration, California State University, Sacramento.
Dante Monique Pirouz. Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.
Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
Correction to previous insight: Thank you Professor Shinhyoung Lee for pointing out an error in the ‘Use gifts to reduce product returns’ insight. The results of 1 experiment should not have been translated to a 14% difference, since the results were on a Likert scale 4.98/9 vs. 6.10/9, and therefore not convertible. This has now been corrected.
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