Are flashing visuals in ads effective?

Our eyes are attracted to moving visuals. Therefore moving visuals are useful for directing the viewers' attention (check also learning 4). However, if the visuals alternate too quickly, our eyes will only fixate at the centre, and no longer pay attention to details. Check it out here.

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Don't let ad visuals alternate too quickly

Previous learnings have shown that our eyes are attracted to (fast) moving images (learning 4) and that we follow others' gaze, pointing gestures or movements (learning 8). But what happens if different visuals are alternating very quickly?

In an ad produced by Bloemenbureau (Dutch flow company), the visuals alternate so quickly that 13 different visuals were shown in just 3 seconds. What do you think of the ad? Were you able to follow it?


We measured this ad with fMRI by having participants view it in the scanner. Simultaneously, we used an Eye Tracking analysis to track what participants' eyes were attending towards.

The ad scored above average on Engagement and Likability, which is a positive outcome. However, the Eye Tracking results show that such quick alternating visuals are not easy to follow - participants' eyes were only fixated at the centre of the screen (see the Eye Tracking video below).

By fixating at the centre, participants could still process the visuals globally, but could no longer pay attention to details.


Our advice

Use moving visuals to capture attention, but ensure that the visuals aren't alternating too quickly. For example, the following ad by Smint uses alternating visuals effectively.


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