How Men Look at Women: One Online Marketer's Surprise Answer

Last Updated Jul 13, 2011 8:26 AM EDT

What part of a beautiful women do men and women look at first? Hey, it's not what you think. Market research firm EyeTrackShop, which provides opt-in eye tracking tests via webcams for corporate clients, just finished a study that turns expected answers on their heads.

In a test in Norway (the company has also done additional tests in the U.S. and U.K. with similar results), 100 participants over two days looked at a test Web ad for H&M showing a beautiful woman in a bikini, like the one below:


Men and women showed distinct patterns in how their eyes scanned the ads. Men looked first at the face and stayed on it for 40 percent more time than the women, and then moved down to the torso. Women started at the torso, looking a little bit longer than the men, and then up to the face.

After examining the face and body, both men and women looked to the left at the ad text and then down to the legs, where men spent 20 percent less time looking than women. Then both moved to the text to the right of the woman's waist and then down to the information in the lower right corner, as the diagrams below show (warmer the color, the more time spent looking -- click to enlarge):



"We have some hypotheses" for the difference in patterns, says Jeff Bander, senior vice president of client services. "Women are comparing [their bodies to the image]."

Intriguing enough, and there were other interesting results that you might or might not guess. For example, with an image of a nude woman wearing sneakers -- a Reebok ad -â€" women spent 1.5 seconds more looking at the shoes. Men looked at the shoes for only a second. However, even here they spent 40 percent more time on the face ... and 50 percent longer on the posterior (click to enlarge):


In a car ad, men looked first at a block of text for 3.61seconds, then spent 2.23 seconds looking at the car and, finally, .16 seconds at the logo. Women first looked at the car for 1.2 seconds, then 3.47 seconds on the text, and .31 seconds at the logo.


Eye movement studies date back to the 19th century. Still, it's always surprising what a little research can reveal. For example, ads that are predominately text do better on the right side of a page, while ads that have a bigger image component do better on the left. In a single ad that has both text and image, you get more attention when the image is on the left and the text is on the right.

"If you're targeting a one gender audience, you have to be cognizant of where you put the text and logos compared to the bodies," Bander says -- text a little higher for men, a little lower for women.

Related:

Image: morgueFile user jdurham, site standard license.
  • Erik Sherman On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.