The purpose of this paper is to investigate how matching an ad’s empty space color specifically to that of the advertised product’s color (instead of leaving it white) impacts consumers’ product buying impulse. It tests two competing hypotheses, where the salience explanation proposes a positive effect of empty space–product color matching on product buying impulse, while the contrast account predicts an opposite effect.
Data was gathered from US-based MTurk panelists under three experimentally designed studies. The proposed effects were tested across multiple product categories, colors and online advertising formats. Qualitative responses from experienced marketing executives were also assessed for managerial insights.
Across all studies, findings reveal that using a product-colored (vs white) empty space in an ad increases consumers’ product buying impulse, favoring the salience rather the contrast explanation. Increased ad salience owing to an enhanced exposure to product color (an important sensory aspect), in turn improving the product’s hedonic appeal work as serial processes explaining this effect.
This research is not only the first to investigate the effects of using colored empty space (where limited prior research has only focused on white empty space), but also the first to study its impact on impulse buying intentions. Counter to prior advertising research which suggests using greater contrast by using white empty space to achieve positive effects, this research empirically tests and finds that using a product-colored empty ad space instead has a positive impact on product buying impulse.