Pictures in advertising are very expensive. Not in the cost of good artwork alone, but in the cost of space. From one-third to one-half of an advertising campaign is often staked on the power of the pictures.
Anything expensive must be effective, or else it involves much waste. So art in advertising is a study of paramount importance.
Pictures should not be used merely because they are interesting. Or to attract attention. Or to decorate an ad.
We have covered these points elsewhere. Ads are not written to interest, please, or amuse. You are not writing to please the hoi-polloi. You are writing on a serious subject – the subject of spending money. And you address a restricted minority.
Use pictures only to attract those who may profit you. Use them only when they form a better-selling argument than the same amount of space set in type.
Mail-order advertisers, as we have said, have pictures down to a science. Some use large pictures, some small, some omit pictures entirely. A noticeable fact is that none of them uses expensive artwork. Be sure that all these things are done for reasons made apparent by results.
Any other advertiser should apply the same principles. Or, if none exist that apply to his line, he should work out his own by tests. It is certainly unwise to spend large sums on a dubious adventure.
Pictures in many lines form a major factor. Omitting the lines where the article itself should be pictured. In some lines, like Arrow Collars, and most in clothing advertising, pictures have proved most convincing. Not only in picturing the collar or the clothes, but in picturing men whom others envy, in surroundings which others covet.
The pictures subtly suggest that these articles of apparel will aid men to those desired positions.
So with correspondence schools. Theirs is traced advertising. Picturing men in high positions taking upward steps forms a very convincing argument.
Advertising pictures should not be eccentric. Don’t treat your subject lightly. Don’t lessen respect for yourself or your article by any attempt at frivolity. People do not patronize a clown. There are two things about which men should not joke. One is business, one is home.
An eccentric picture may do you serious damage. One may gain attention by wearing a fool’s cap. But he would ruin his selling prospects.
Then a picture that is eccentric or unique takes the attention from your subject. You cannot afford to do that.
Your main appeal lies in the headline. Over-shadow that and you kill it. Don’t, to gain general and useless attention, sacrifice the attention that you want.
Don’t be like a salesman who wears conspicuous clothes. The small percentage he appeals to are not usually good buyers. The great majority of the sane and thrifty heartily despise him. Be normal in everything you do when you are seeking confidence and conviction.
Generalities cannot be applied to art. There are seeming exceptions to most statements. Each line must be studied by itself.
But the picture must help sell the goods. It should help more than anything else could do in like space, else use that something else.
Many pictures tell a story better than type can. In advertising Puffed Grains, a picture of the grains was found to be the most effective. It awoke curiosity. No figure drawing, in that case, compares in results with these grains.
Other pictures form a total loss. We have cited cases of that kind. The only way to know, as is with most other questions, is by comparing results.
There are disputed questions in artwork that we will cite without expressing opinions. They seem to be answered both ways, according to the line which is advertised.
Does it pay better to use fine artwork or ordinary? Some advertisers pay up to $2,000 per drawing. They figure that the space is expensive. The art cost is small in comparison. So they consider the best worth its cost.
Others argue that few people have an art education. They bring out their ideas, and bring them out well, at a fraction of the cost. Mail-order advertisers are generally in this class.
The question is one of small moment. Certainly, good art pays as well as mediocre. And the cost of preparing ads is very small compared with the cost of insertion.
Should every ad have a new picture? Or may a picture be repeated? Both viewpoints have many supporters. The probability is that repetition is an economy. We are after new customers always. It is not probable that they remember a picture we have used before. If they do, repetition does not detract.
Do color pictures pay better than black and white? Not generally, according to the evidence we have gathered to date. Yet there are exceptions. Certain food dishes look far better in color. Tests on lines like oranges, desserts, etc. show that color pays. Color comes close to placing the products in an actual exhibition.
Written in 1923, Scientific Advertising is published here as 21 blog posts – one for each chapter.