The role of images in advertising

Billboards are effective as advertising tools, but it is vital that they appeal to the targeted audience

Billboards are effective as advertising tools, but it is vital that they appeal to the targeted audience

Knowledge Mushohwe Art Zone
Graphic design without a message is worthless. There is no point in presenting a work of graphic art that has no meaning. Graphic design for marketing, information, education and entertainment are the most common products developed by computer artists.

Most companies employ design with the sole intention of exposing their products or services to the public and hoping that the combination of text and images would convince potential consumers to sacrifice their dollars for whatever the organisation offers.

For an advert to succeed, it does not necessarily have to be ‘good’ aesthetically, but it is vital that it appeals to the targeted audience. An image used in marketing design should strike a chord with the market it is communicating with.

Billboards along Borrowdale Road are dominated by glossy images that mainly suggest status symbols because they target the high income earners. By contrast, images found on billboards in high-density suburbs are of basic commodities such as bread, mealie meal or cooking oil.

There are universal images too, those that appeal to a wide demography. Images of smiling models speaking on cellphones, or magnified bank cards may be found anywhere because the market for the advertised products is broad.

Images for marketing are often guided by the text for the advert. It is important that the text and the image refer to the same idea or philosophy. It is often said that the most frequently used parts of a human being to convince another are the teeth.

Just about every human figure used for marketing smiles, grins or laugh so as to exude a happy feeling which is associated with gratification and sometimes indulgence. Such imagery can only work if the text suggests the same emotion.

An advert for a funeral parlour would be in bad taste if the figure in it looks happy because the text is always about how wounds can be healed by a ‘‘caring’ organisation willing to provide services for a fee.

The emotional state of the targeted audience has to be gauged so that the image they see relates to their situation. Another consideration for marketing images is the space the advert would take. Wide, or landscape space means that vertical imagery may pose problems for the graphic designer. If an image of a full-length adult human being is to be included, it would look small because of the limited vertical space.

When looking at an image for marketing, one has to pose the question, ‘How much value do all the components of the picture add to the combined context and objective of the design?’

It would rather be pointless to insist on using a full figure for a toothpaste advert, because the shoulders and hands may add to the facial expressions but anything from the chest downwards says absolutely nothing about the product.

A ‘back to school’ campaign by a shop selling everything from the hat down to the shiny shoes would need a full figure. If the advertising space is difficult for the human eye to see clearly, then a portrait style with more height than horizontal space would make more sense.

It is also vital that images specific to the product or service advertised are used. The internet has some very lovely pictures but using them at the expense of what potential customers may get is false advertising. ‘MaIndeginous’ dotted around the CBD are guilty of this.

There are several cellphone TV or laptop selling companies that tell the public about a product they may be selling, then splash an image on their advert that can’t be found anywhere else but on Google images.

It is also vital that images sourced from the internet or from anywhere are not copyrighted, or if they are, prior permission is granted from the rights owner.

A big problem from internet-sourced images is the quality. Web pictures with a resolution below 300 dots per inch often look hazy, even after conversion of the bitmap to a higher resolution. The standard procedure with the bigger advertising agencies is that an internet-based image may be used to show a client the general context of the advert but after, live models are photographed striking the desired pose or mimicking the preferred emotions.

Internet-based images have the ability to cripple an otherwise good idea if the quality is bad or if the image does not adequately communicate with the target audience.

The big difference between informative media graphics and marketing graphics is that one does require permission from everyone captured in the image used. Models for marketing designs expect to be paid for their trouble and they should.

Marketing of products or services is done with the expectation of higher returns. It is an investment achieved through a combination of creativity and planning. But for it to work, the image or images in the design should be displayed in such a way that there is value addition and the message to the targeted audience is as clear and relatable as possible.

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