AdVice Articles by Sam Harmon

The following article was published in Media Inc. Magazine

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Online dating ads exemplify the awesome power of first impressions in advertising. The example isn’t as much in the ads themselves, but how we look at them.

Imagine an online dating ad that has a photo of someone that just doesn’t flick your Bic. They may be super-fine for someone else, but they remind you of, let’s say… your first crush who (when you finally got your turn together on the make-out beanbag chair while at your friend’s 16th Birthday party) told you about another crush they have, just when that damn “Torn between two lovers” song was belching out of the radio in the corner…Sorry. Where were we? Oh, right: The photo in the personal ad. If the image strokes you the wrong way, there is very little chance, no matter how ideal they describe themselves, that the wording will override that crucial first impression.

When it comes to visual communication, the first impression is the strongest, placing the viewer in a state of mind that effects the perception of the entire marketing message.

Be it an ad, mailer, poster, brochure, billboard, website, or any form of visual communication, the last thing you want to do is redirect a wayward mental state right off the bat. The safeguard against misdirection is to clearly identify the target market and their personal hot buttons. Then, you must have discipline over your creative urges to not stray from your findings. Those wacky words basically mean: know what they want and show it to them.

Choosing the best impression will depend on identifying what the target market’s most powerful desire is and hitting them with it. It may be showing the actual product. It may be a visual representation of an emotional ideal. It may be an awakening reality check. It may be a phrase that hits the very core of their need. It may be a lot of things, but it has to be significant and powerful to them. Not to you, your spouse, your creative cohorts, your boss, your ego…but to them. Learning how to think like the end-user is an artform (and a separate article found on my website: in itself.

With a commitment to clearly identify the primary need your service/product fulfils in your potential customer, you’ll be able to create the most powerful first impression in your advertising effort.