The psychological impact of design choices in advertisement layout is under constant scrutiny. Powerful ad design can mean the difference between increased sales and squandered marketing budgets. So advertisers take heed of new scientific data. Research shows that the position of a product and its advertised results make a real difference in consumer perception. According to a study appearing in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers believe a product is more effective when images of the product and its desired outcome are placed closer together in advertisements.
Consumers tend to judge the product to be more effective when the two images are closer versus farther apart.
The authors of the study found that “Merely changing the spatial proximity between the image of a product and its desired effect in an advertisement influences judgment of product effectiveness. Consumers tend to judge the product to be more effective when the two images are closer versus farther apart.”
Many advertisements promoting the effectiveness of a product show both a product image (anti-wrinkle cream) and an image of the promised results (a face without wrinkles). Objectively, the distance between the two images should not affect how consumers judge the product’s quality.
In a series of studies, consumers were asked to judge the effectiveness of a variety of products promising specific results (acne cream, pain reliever, allergy nasal spray, bug spray, fabric softener). Consumers tended to assume a product was more effective when its image was placed closer to that of its promised effect. The proximity of the images was more influential when consumers were less knowledgeable about a product category or when the results were expected sooner rather than later.
The study shows that advertisers and designers need to be conscious of the subtle effect that spatial proximity between images has on consumer judgment of product effectiveness. To promote the immediate effects of products in display advertising campaigns, images of the product and its desired effect should be put closer to each other in an advertisement.