It can be challenging to feel good vibes from meeting somebody who made absolutely zero eye contact with you. On the flipside, deep soul gazes during a casual conversation don’t quite hit the mark either. While the former can feel aloof, the latter can feel invasive. Ultimately, neither feels quite right.
But when you strike just the right amount of eye contact, you probably feel more trusting of your conversational counterpart. Or you may think you feel nothing at all. Why? Because the right amount of eye contact makes you feel comfortable — and comfortability doesn’t force you to acknowledge a certain emotion. It simply makes you feel at ease.
All of these scenarios back up the fundamental importance of eye contact.
So it’s no wonder that eye gaze in advertising — the direction of the model’s gaze in ad creative — could influence how consumers react to ads, too. It’s also no wonder we had to look into it.
To explore the relationship between eye gaze and creative performance, we reviewed more than 1.1 million ads to see if the subject of the image looked at or away from the camera (we refer to this as a direct vs. indirect gaze). Next, we looked at the effect on campaign performance. The high volume of ads analyzed offered a path to countless interesting observations about eye gaze. In our latest full report, Focus On: Eye Gaze, we took our analysis using more than 2 trillion global impressions and distilled insights that you can keep in your back pocket to improve your advertising creative.
To be frank: It’s not a linear equation. Just like how circumstances and duration can change how eye contact makes you feel in real life, context, messaging, and additional visuals in an ad, among other variables, can affect which direction of a model’s eye gaze will influence a viewer positively.
Aligning gaze direction with the natural flow of the story was seen to help brands reach their goals more efficiently, for example: Direct gazes were associated with higher click rates when brands were looking to purposefully engage viewers in the dialogue, like educational and gaming content. Indirect gazes were seen to lift click and view rates for sports, lifestyle, and medical content.
Depending on the context of your ad, different directions of a model’s gaze will work better than others. Engagement content, or attainable advertising, was boosted by a personal connection through direct eye gaze. On the other hand, aspirational content, like through sports, lifestyle, and medical, was heightened by a less attainable feeling through indirect eye gaze.
And while your context does matter, your platform matters too. Facebook may work for a certain ad strategy and Pinterest may work for a completely different strategy — it all depends on how the combination of placement, narrative, and your overall objectives combine.
When deployed intelligently, eye gaze can have a positive effect on ad performance, but its impact is influenced by ad placement, narrative, and campaign objectives. In some cases, direct gaze, or indirect gazes drove clicks and interest — and this differed by platform. While there is no silver bullet answer for consistent success, the data indicates that when objectives are aligned to platforms, performance indication is easier to identify and understand.
Check out these helpful insights and more tips to impress your audiences with more engaging creative, as well as your team with better performing creative on your next campaign.