Research Reveals ‘Visual Vampires’

NEW YORK Wendy’s red wig-clad ads are hard to miss. However, new research shows that the character in a ponytailed toupee greatly overshadows the products featured in the same ads.

“It is a visual vampire. There is high engagement, but when they show the food, it drops like a rock,” said Lee Weinblatt, CEO of PreTesting, Tenafly, N.J.

In July, the 35-year-old firm launched its Engagement Level Factor (or ELF) measurement capabilities.

When consumers are interested in something, their eyes vibrate faster, a reaction called saccadic eye movement. ELF scores are derived from special recorders that have the ability to track not only where one looks, but the rate of saccadic motion and fixation as well. This allows for measurement of interest levels. Clients include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

The majority (68 percent) of viewers of the Wendy’s ad were riveted when the wig was on screen, but interest fell to 24 percent when hamburgers were shown. Wendy’s said its “That’s right” ads, launched May 23, have helped increase sales in its core hamburger business by 5 percent. “The red wig certainly is a device to get people’s attention,” said Bob Bertini, a rep for Wendy’s.”It offers currency, humor and tonality that resonates with consumers 18-34.”

Other TV ads dominated by visual vampires: Subway (Jon Lovitz), Chrysler (Dr. Z) and Burger King (Coq Roq). Overall, iPod’s spots were among the best. They drew up to 80 percent of viewers 15- to 24 years old and 43 percent of older consumers. Not bad, considering the baseline for most consumer electronics ads is less than 30 percent. The most captivating ad star is Geico’s gecko. “At one point he scored over 80 percent,” said Weinblatt. “He’s one of the most amazing icons we’ve seen.”