Simple trick for ad success: add art
Feb 22,2008 00:00 by Bend_Weekly_News_Sources

Ad­ver­tis­ers try­ing to boost their prod­ucts’ ap­peal may need to look no far­ther than the near­est art mu­se­um. New stud­ies sug­gest throw­ing the im­age of a paint­ing—al­most any paint­ing—onto a prod­uct, or into a prod­uct pitch, con­sist­ently makes view­ers rate the items as more lux­u­ri­ous.

“Art has con­nota­t­ions of ex­cel­lence, lux­u­ry and so­phis­tica­t­ion that spill over” on­to goods with which it’s as­so­ci­at­ed, said the Va­nes­sa M. Pat­rick, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Un­ivers­ity of Geor­gia’s busi­ness col­lege, who co-authored the re­search. 

This so-called “art in­fu­sion ef­fect” seems to work for eve­ry­thing from sil­ver­ware to soap dis­pensers, she added.

The re­search­ers said they were pleas­antly sur­prised to find that even in to­day’s crass, loud me­dia en­vi­ron­men­t—where ad­ver­tis­ers rely on sex, celebr­i­ties and ne­on col­ors to cut through the din—some­thing rep­re­sent­ing class and tra­di­tion still gets at­ten­tion.

Café Ter­race at Night (c. 1888) by Vin­cent van Gogh was found to make view­ers rate sil­ver­ware more pos­i­tive­ly in a stu­dy, but re­search­ers say al­most any paint­ing would work.

But the con­tent of the paint­ing was­n’t im­por­tant to the “art in­fu­sion ef­fec­t,” the re­search­ers said, sug­gesting con­sumers might not ap­pre­ci­ate the spe­cif­ic art­works them­selves. 

It’s the “gen­eral con­nota­t­ions of art it­self” that seem to mat­ter, Pat­rick said. 

Sound­ing a some­what more op­ti­mis­tic note, study co-author Hen­rik Hagtvedt said the ef­fect re­sults be­cause even con­sumers who don’t both­er to exa­mine a spe­cif­ic pic­ture still ad­mire the gen­er­al “quest for ex­cel­lence” that art rep­re­sents.

Peo­ple nat­u­rally “rec­og­nize the cre­ati­vity and skill in­volved,” he said. “It’s a un­iver­sal phe­nom­e­non, and it stands out.” Hagt­vedt, him­self a paint­er from Nor­way, added that “vi­sual art has his­tor­ic­ally been used as a tool for per­sua­sion... It has been used to sell eve­ry­thing from re­li­gion to pol­i­tics to spa­ghet­ti sauce to the artist’s im­age.”

Hagtvedt and Patrick con­ducted three stud­ies. First, they posed as wait­ers at a res­tau­rant and showed 100 pa­trons sets of sil­ver­ware in boxes. The top of the box had ei­ther a print of Vin­cent Van Gogh’s Café Ter­race at Night or a pho­to of a si­m­i­lar scene. 

Even af­ter a brief sight of one of the im­ages, din­ers rat­ed the sil­ver­ware in the box with art as more lux­u­ri­ous, they found.

A sec­ond stu­dy, they said, found that a rel­a­tively un­known art­work can suc­cess­fully vie with a famed celebr­ity in con­vey­ing lux­u­ry. The third found the pic­ture’s con­tent is­n’t as im­por­tant as art’s gen­er­al con­nota­t­ions: in­deed, even a paint­ing of a burn­ing build­ing on a soap dis­pens­er re­sulted in the ob­ject be­ing seen as lux­u­ri­ous. 

The find­ings are to ap­pear in the Jour­nal of Mar­ket­ing Re­search.

The “art in­fu­sion ef­fect” may even beat oth­er ad­ver­tis­ing tools in some ways, the re­search­ers ar­gued. Celebr­ity en­dorse­ments might ap­peal to only cer­tain groups of peo­ple, and for lim­it­ed times, but art is un­iver­sally and al­ways rec­og­nized. Its ef­fect works for all kinds of prod­ucts, not just lux­u­ry goods, Pat­rick added; the prod­ucts in the stud­ies were rath­er “or­di­nary items such as sil­ver­ware, soap dis­pensers and bath­room fix­tures.”

Courtesy University of Georgia and World Science staff