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How can you make your print creatives more impactful? – Run it through the Visual Attention System

VAS (Visual Attention System) is an online analysis tool that simulates how we take in things at first glance, even before we’re fully aware of what we are looking at and is a new way of helping to analyse and validate print creative.

VAS produces 4 different forms of results and each has its own useful insight to be taken from:

  • Heat Maps – Show graphically the distribution of visual attention within the first 3 to 5 seconds. Red areas are likely to draw the most immediate attention followed by yellow to green to blue areas which are least likely to draw attention.
  • Region Map – This view shows the predicted probability that a person will look at the region within the first 3 – 5 seconds.
  • Areas of Interest – Allows the user (advertiser/agency) to take a different approach to this technology. Rather than looking at the most likely to be viewed areas on the creative, instead this allows us to select key regions of the creative and quantify the probability that these will be viewed during this important opening engagement.
  • Visual Sequence – Shows the most likely path that the human eye will follow when viewing the image. The numbers indicate fixation points; successive spots where the visual gaze is maintained on a single location.

According to the Royal Mail VAS information pack, the VAS system has been validated against numerous eye-tracking studies and is stated to have an accuracy of 90% for the first 3-5 seconds of viewing.

It is important to remember however that VAS is not a full eye-tracking study, this software cannot predict conscious viewing beyond this opening viewing time and therefore the tool is more about getting people’s attention and drawing them to your ad than the ability to sell your product/brand once you’ve gained their attention.

While this tech provides value to any static media, arguably its greatest value is for Door Drops and Direct Mail. This is reflected in the free of charge service offered by Royal Mail for any advertiser buying either of these media through them. The value here is due to the nature of the media, being easy to discard without a second glance this 3-5 second window becomes key to ensure potential customers don’t put your ads straight in the bin.

All Response Media viewpoint

Whilst it’s important to remember that VAS is not a full eye-tracking study (this software can’t predict conscious viewing beyond the opening viewing time), the tool is more about getting people’s attention and drawing them to your ad and showing them what they need to see as quickly as possible.


Latest trends from brands who have tested this, specifically in utilities, telecoms and financial sectors have indicated that +50% insist on running this analysis before sending any mail out.

As a free-to-use technology, VAS really is a great addition for any client looking to run activity across print media (door drops/direct mail/loose inserts/press). The additional insight that you can have on your creatives before full rollout is invaluable.