Just the faces: Exploring the effects of facial features in print advertising

Li Xiao, Min Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Human faces are used extensively in print advertisements. In prior literature, researchers have studied spokespersons in general, but few have studied faces explicitly. This paper aims to answer three questions that are important to both researchers and practitioners: (1) Do faces affect how a viewer reacts to an advertisement on the metrics that advertisers care about? (2) If faces do have an effect, is it large enough to warrant careful selection of faces when constructing print advertisements? (3) If faces do have an effect and the effect is large, what facial features elicit such differential reactions on these metrics, and are such reactions different across individuals and/or product categories? Relying on the eigenface method, a holistic approach widely used in the computer science field for face recognition, we conducted an empirical study to answer these three questions. The results show that different faces do have an effect on people's attitude toward the advertisement, attitude toward the brand, and purchase intention and that the effect is nontrivial. Multiple segments were identified and substantial differences were found among people's reactions to the faces in the ads across those segments. We also found that the effect of faces interacts with product categories and is mediated by various facial traits such as attractiveness, trustworthiness, and competence. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-352
Number of pages15
JournalMarketing Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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