Advertising Voodoo #4: Right Isn’t Always Right

Found on: isn’t Always Right

Some decades ago, there was some research that indicated a slight boost in effectiveness for ad pages on the right-hand side of magazines. Since then, advertisers have demanded pages on the right.

But over the years, something interesting has happened in the publishing world.The popular “right-hand pages catch the reader’s eye most effectively,” myth has caused a page shift that may mean pages on the right aren’t right any more.

Magazines are businesses, and lets not forget that the singular purpose of any business is to make money and then make money again by keeping customers happy. Now, if your customers are asking you for “premium” right-hand page positions, and giving it to them will sell more pages and keep them happy, you’re going to give it to them. But how? You can’t add more ad pages without more editorial, and editorial cost money.

The magazines simply shifted pages. If you do a quick survey of just about any magazine, you will find that the majority of ad pages can be found on the right while the majority of the editorial is on the left. Those “premium” right-hand pages are standard fare these days, and that creates problems for advertisers. Two, in particular, are habituation and sensitization.

In psychology, habituation is a form of non-associative learning characterized by a decrease in responsiveness upon repeated exposure to a stimulus.

Sensitization is another form of non-associative learning that is characterized by an increase in responsiveness upon repeated exposure to a stimulus

Here’s how they apply to the right-hand page problem.

Lets assume people read magazines for the editorial content – not the ads. If over a period of time, their experience with a magazine is that ads are primarily on the right, they become habituated to the lack of interesting information on the right and grant less attention to that side. At the same time, they experience that the editorial they want is on the left, so they will become sensitized to the interesting information on the left and grant more attention to the left.

The result is that the primary focus of a reader is consistently opposite those “premium” right-hand pages and that right-pages may be ignored the majority of the time.

Maybe advertisers should start demanding “premium” left-hand pages?

Advertising VooDoo Series

Advertising VooDoo is a series of articles that explore neuroscience and psychology of what makes advertising work.


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