The Surprising Difference In How Men and Women View Sexy Ads

“Sex sells” is a familiar advertising and publicity mantra, and although American Apparel seems to have proved that sometimes sex just makes feel people uncomfortable, a flash of flesh is still a sure fire way to draw attention to an ad. But does a sexy, highly visual ad sell product? Well, it seems like it depends on your gender, and the results probably aren’t what you’d first think.

Heatmap research firm EyeTrackShop (via Business Insider) put 3 ads in front of 50 men and 50 women to see where their eyes went when presented with two racy fashion ads, and one fairly standard auto ad. While Saab isn’t exactly a hot rod, how did the guys and gals view the hot bods?

For the H&M picture of a model in a bikini, one group was immediately drawn to the bikini top/model’s bosom, the other was pulled in by the face. Ladies, give the guys a hand. Even for a swimsuit model, most guys are looking you in the eye (or at least the facial area) before they check out anything else.

Women start at the chest first, and actually spend more time there than men. Not only do men spend more time than women looking at the model’s face, they spend nearly twice as much time looking at the model’s face than any of the other areas – torso, legs and text included. Even though the visualization path is similar for men and women, women actually spend more time reading the surrounding text (areas 5 and 6 above) and more women noticed it to begin with. The menu on the left was the 2nd most engaging point on the page for men.

Overall, the eye path suggests that a pretty face will draw men in, but only on to the most prominent additional information. Considering that the ad is for a bikini, perhaps men tune out on the pricing and description information when they realize the product isn’t for them.

Moving on to the Reebok ad (the one pictured above on the right), where there’s zero text and the product is somewhat less obvious, is there a pronounced difference?

Somewhat. Both men and women spend the most time on the model’s face, but the men’s next destination is the model’s bottom, while women spend more time on the shoes after taking in the complete picture. Men seem to skip over them almost entirely.

Ladies, now you know why you see ALL of those shoe ads on Facebook.

Finally, for a less sexy (no offense, Saab) ad for a car, where’s the difference in viewing?

While neither gender is highly attracted to the logo, women spend more time on it than men. The image of the car gets a longer gaze from men, but both men and women spend the most time checking out the car’s additional text information.

So what’s to be learned from all of this? Men are still the highly visual creatures  we’re always being told they are, but women are the ones who generally take in more detail. Everyone likes a pretty face, but advertisers who want to capitalize on that should make sure that any important information that both genders need to see is at eye level (of the model).  Women are more likely to take in the total picture, so while sexy images might sell, it’s only if there’s a clear product or bit of information for eyes to land on once they’ve been drawn in.

Meaning there’s now a documented reason why American Apparel’s weird sexual ads aren’t doing a lot to help sales.

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