An eye-tracking study of attention to brand-identifying content and recall of taboo advertising


Despite widespread use in advertising, scholars have not been able to agree if taboo themes have a positive effect on advertising outcomes. The conflicting findings in prior research are further complicated from using self-report and indirect attention measures. The current study includes responses to 23 actual advertisements using a combination of eye-tracking and self-report data to understand attention and recall effects relating to the brand-identifying elements in ads. Findings indicate that taboo positively affects recall and attention, and attention to brand-identifying information also influences recall. The results demonstrate that taboo increases time to first fixation and fixation count for both product images and brand logos. Thus, taboo seems to encourage processing of brand- identifying information. Additionally, high ad complexity mitigated the effects of taboo on attention. Together, the results suggest a holistic approach to considering how attention is allocated to different areas of the ad.

Publication Title

Journal of Business Research