VISUAL COMPLEXITY IN BANNER ADS: THE ROLE OF COLOR, PHOTOGRAPHY,AND ANIMATION
The principles of visual communication are beginning to be tested in an Internet context.This article focuses on one of these principles, visual complexity. Visual complexity isdetermined by the elements comprising an image. Images with more elements or detail (e.g.,colors, animation/movement, or photography instead of line art) are more visually complex.Thus, for example, an image with even just two colors against a background is more complexthan a monochrome image in which one color is placed against a background.The influence of visual complexity on communication effectiveness of pictorial stimulihas long been of interest to scholars (e.g., Berlyne 1960, 1974; Cox and Cox 2002; Morrison andDainoff 1972; Rimmer 1984; Vitz 1966). Increases in the complexity of a visual stimulus have been found to encourage a variety of desirable audience responses, such as greater attention(Berlyne 1974; Lang, Zhou, Schwartz, Bolls, and Potter 2000; Morrison and Dainoff 1972) and better memory (Berry 1991; Gilbert and Schleuder 1990; Lang et al. 2000).Research on visual complexity has primarily involved print media (e.g., Gilbert andSchleuder 1990; Micklos 1982; Morrison and Dainoff 1972) or television programming (e.g.,Lang et al. 2000; Thorson and Lang 1988; Welch and Watt 1982). However, audience responsesto visual complexity in an Internet context are in need of exploration. Thus, the purpose of this paper will be to investigate visual complexity in banner ads through two studies, a contentanalysis that documents the visual complexity of actual banner ads and an experiment that teststhe impact of visual complexity on processing images similar to those found in banner ads.