AdVice Articles by Sam Harmon

The following article was published in Media Inc. Magazine

Take A Picture, It Lasts Longer

Here is one of those questions that is guaranteed to get any party conversation rolling: If your print advertisement was stuck on an uncharted deserted Island, what would be the most valuable element it would need to survive?

The company logo at the top? Nope. A bulleted features list? Nada. Some clever headline? maybe.

The answer: Big, beautiful, in-your-face, I-know-exactly-what-you’re-offering image!

I can hear the murmur of the mobs as they question the answer:

‘Shouldn’t we make our company name the first thing they notice?’ Not unless you’ve already spent your kid’s College fund on name recognition, or your name sells your product/service as it rolls off the tongue.

“If we list all of the wonderful benefits first, wouldn’t they come running?.” Only if you can get them to stop and read the benefits in the first place.

‘How about a clever headline to grab their attention?  Only if it is completely thought out and immediately rewarding to the reader (and supported by a great photo).

Any of the above could work if done correctly, but I believe there is nothing as safe, impactual, impressionable and immediate as strong visual stimulation.

1. Consumers have a scattered conscious and subconscious mental list of items and stimulus they want. A strong visual image immediately links itself to those internal desires. Lets say, for instance, you’ve seen one of those cute little PT Cruisers; You liked it, thought about it, but put it on the back burner for some reason or another. Then, two weeks later, you see it in a dealership ad. The desire returns. The color is right. The offer is right. The car will be yours. A bold ‘PT Cruiser headline would work, but it doesn’t make the emotional connection as strongly as showing why you loved the car in the first place.

2. The mind has this incredible, unlimited filing system that can immediately categorize and recognize pictures. Want proof? Grab that old shoe box full of photos you have stashed in your closet. Open any package and pull out any photo. Yep, you’ll remember. Not only the photo, but a few stories about it. You can even find an old newspaper or magazine; and within seconds youÕll know whether you’ve seen it before by the photo on the front.. Retention is the most important goal of an ad and a visual image is one of the best ways of achieving that goal.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words. Since your average person doesn’t slow down to read ads…well, you get the picture.

Speaking of ‘getting the picture’, how do you go about it? Right up front, I highly recommend contacting a commercial photographer. They know tons of tricks and effects that can make your photo dance off the page. Most photographers estimates are based on half-days or full-days. Their rates vary depending on the subject, difficulty, location, etc. On average, quality commercial photographers rates start at around $500 for half a day and $1000 for a full day. This does not include talent, props, staging, travel etc. The final result is well worth the money.

When you’ve hired a photographer, use your time wisely. Have a solid concept and mock up of your ad and plan the photo shoot in advance with the photographer. Take as many photos of as many things as possible for use in future advertising materials. If possible, take your stuff to the photographers studio; they will have better access to lighting, backdrops, photo supplies, props and their snack bar. To watch a good photographer at work is usually worth the admission.

Alrighty, lets pretend that for some crazy reason you simply cannot afford a photographer at this time. I shutter to even suggest this, but you can take the photos yourself or have your amateur photographer in-law help you (gasp). If you absolutely have to do it yourself, here a a few ‘musts’: Interesting subject matter. Perfect focus. Strong object contrast. Low Background detail. Interesting and descriptive subject angle.

1. Use the best digital camera you can get your hands on. (Note: make sure your photo settings are high-resolution. The default resolution is usually below newspaper print quality.

2. Set up lighting to fully illuminate your subject from different angles to bring out better details.

3. Use a tripod to stabilize that camera for optimal focus.

4. Take at least 10 photos of each subject, resetting the camera’s exposure and the lighting for each shot. If you are taking photos of people or animals, take 20 of each. For photos of children; take 4 aspirin and call a photographer in the morning!

5. Upload your photos to your computer and open them in a photo-manipulation program (Photoshop, etc…) Make sure the focus, resolution, lighting, etc are as professional as possible. If you are creating a black and white ad, make a copy of the photo and convert it to grayscale.

There you have it. As always, take a look at the ads in newspapers and magazines that caught your eye. You will usually discover a hierarchy of enticement (see article):

1) The ad immediately grabs their potential customers attention with something that is interesting to them (strong photo with a strong headline or offer).

2) The ad motivates them with wonderful, irresistible enticements.(price point, selection, quality, trust, service, image).

3) The ad tells them what to do or where to go to get it (store location, contact information, email).

The key is to effective advertisements is to draw them into the ad in the first place. Great photos are one of the best ways to accomplish that. So go get ’em…with Big, beautiful, in-your-face, I-know-exactly-what-you’re-offering photographs!