How Best to Use Imagery to Drive Ad Campaigns

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

Something catch your eye? Imagery is central to ensuring your ad campaign reaches who it needs to.

In a world where we’re overwhelmed by information, entertainment and visual sensations, it can be tough to stand out. A walk down the high street or flicking through television channels speaks volumes for the sheer amount of advertisement out there, so how do you stand out?

Think about memorable advertisements for a bit: what do you recall? Typically, ads that hit the right colour tones, directional cues, placement and composition will stick out. While the usual platitudes of being creative and on brand matter here, following a few of the simple rules below regarding imagery can help immensely.

Stop Staring!

The direct gaze is an advertisement method that has been used for over a century; it’s easy to make a connection with someone if you stare right at them. However – a biggie here – it only really works when there’s a prominent or famous personality central to your campaign. It can work with ordinary models, but the shot has to be confident; it’s easy for the audience to pick up on even slight indications of discomfort or fear in a model if they’re staring head-on.

In terms of advertisement, if you’re lucky enough to be working with a great model, the direct gaze is the easiest option to send your message across, particularly if you’re in fashion or cosmetics.

holding you stare advert examples

It’s easy to play around with the gaze, too: models can stare at products or slogans so viewers can implicitly follow their gaze to specific imagery or slogans.

Guilty by Association

Your advertisement should associate with a principle or emotion that you’re trying to push across. The way an image acts needs to link to your brand’s message and ethos.

This effect is magnified if a brand uses someone of high fame or value in the ad, as it associates that person’s achievements with the brand.

Association in advertising is everywhere: People in Coca-Cola adverts are always young and having a good time, McDonalds adverts feature “ordinary people”, FedEx focuses on its efficiency and ease, etc.

association in ads examples

The association doesn’t even need to be linked to your target audience, either. Red Bull, for example, centres all of its advertisement on alternative sports, adrenaline-inducing hobbies and moments of human ingenuity: little to no of its target audience partakes in such things, but the message it puts across resonates with the brand image. (Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t give you wings either…)

Keep it Simple

In marketing, it’s easy to get preoccupied with adding things rather than opting to streamline or take away. The majority of great advertising campaigns have kept it simple: having a convoluted, messy message is the exact opposite of what you want.

If you think about the most iconic brands, their logos and campaigns attempt to keep it as simple as possible. The Nike swoosh, the Starbucks mermaid, or the Coke script are all simple and straightforward.

Brand imagery is at its best when it can put shape, symbolism, colour and purpose together in a simple design. It’s not reserved for the big boys, either. Dollar Shave Club, for example, shook men’s grooming titans like Gillette to the core with its simple message, excellent service and, of course, simple branding.

dollar shave club simplicity

The Rule of Thirds

Unsure what the rule of thirds is? Basically, it is a technique that divides an image vertically and horizontally into a grid. If you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve probably got an option to put this grid on when you take photos – neat, right? Now you can take compositionally perfect selfies forever!

nicolas cage mont blanc ad

In advertisement, the grid equates to the need to put important information at the intersection of these lines. This, typically, is where potential client’ and customers’ gaze will fall, so stick all the important information and your clearly genius catchphrases here!

Take the advertisement to the left, starring known legend and certified madman Nicolas Cage…

Here, this advertisement follows the direct gaze element we discussed earlier, but also follows the rule of thirds, too. The watch lands in the perfect area on old Nic’s wrist, with a close up of the lines place at an intersection too. Overall, it’s effective, not due to Nic’s magnetism, but how Mont Blanc positioned the shot with the rule of thirds in mind.

Action Stations

A strong call to action is perhaps the most important element of an advertisement’s image. Perhaps the most succinct yet successful call to action in an advertisement campaign came in 1993 with the “got milk?” campaign by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

The ad, by simply asking “got milk?”, created a remarkably successful call to action. The addition of a question was enough to facilitate not a short-term reaction, but a long-term knock-on effect in its viewers. By just existing as a call to action alone, the slogan remained intact in the American milk industry for 21 years (they really “milked” that slogan, eh…I’ll see myself out).

got milk ad examples

What “got milk?” represents is the power call to actions have as part of an advertisement’s imagery. In some ways, a strong call to action can excuse pitfalls elsewhere in the campaign.

Imagery in all realms of marketing is a powerful tool when used in the right way. The majority of people, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, are affected by images every day. Following the steps above will help your ad stand out, whether it’s on the high street, e-mail advertising or on a social media page.

Want to know more advertising magic from our marketing spell book? Then hop onto one of our training courses find out more about our PPC services and check us out on our social media channels.

*imagery sourced from Google Images

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

Sophie has over 6 years of experience in the social media and content space, working in both in-house organisations and agencies. She has worked with exciting established brands in her time such as Campari, Aperol Spritz, Oppo Ice Cream and PayPal Australia. She enjoys the content creation process – from mapping out the shot and…

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