Use Negative Ads to Grab Attention

Use negative ads if your goal is immediate action or awareness.

Nick Kolenda
Updated on
Seatbelt ad with car flipped over

Humans are built to avoid pain.

Thus, we notice negative stimuli more easily. In advertisements, negative framing attracts more eye fixations (Ferreira et al., 2011).

...heart rate was slower during exposure to negative messages... participants allocated more attention to the negative advertisements (Bolls, Lang, & Potter, 2001; p. 646 – 647)

Consequently, negative ads can trigger immediate behaviors, like impulse buys (Shiv, Edell, & Payne, 1997).

Want somebody to notice your banner ad? A negative frame might work better.

  • Bolls, P. D., Lang, A., & Potter, R. F. (2001). The effects of message valence and listener arousal on attention, memory, and facial muscular responses to radio advertisements. Communication research, 28(5), 627-651.
  • Ferreira, P., Rita, P., Rosa, P., Oliveira, J., Gamito, P., Santos, N., ... & Sottomayor, C. (2011). Grabbing attention while reading website pages. Journal of Eye Tracking, Visual Cognition and Emotion, (1), 64-68.
  • Shiv, B., Edell, J. A., & Payne, J. W. (1997). Factors affecting the impact of negatively and positively framed ad messages. Journal of Consumer Research, 24(3), 285-294.