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Images That Drive Action: Three Ways To Better Connect With Your Audience

Breaking through the clutter -- it’s what all advertisers strive for. So how can a brand keep its head above water in a sea of digital ads and content? In a marketing world constrained by character limits, images can enhance an ad and help tell the story in the most efficient way.

Yahoo has analyzed thousands of online ads to help advertisers optimize digital ad performance. We studied what makes an image work and why consumers respond. Through user interviews and ad campaign measurement, plus biometric studies, the team uncovered three best practices for identifying the most effective advertising images.

1 - Connect with the Consumer: Emotion Matters

Our research shows that emotional images - specifically photos that tell an aspirational story - establish the most powerful connection with consumers. And these connections are what make advertising memorable.

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In the example above, viewers could relate to the powerful connection between a father and his baby. They found this photo expressive, engaging and positive. As one study participant explained, "I'd be most likely to click the baby ad because I had kids and just to see what it is about [the ad] reminds me of my days staying at home."

This sample ad was effective because it allowed for the viewers to see a familiar setting that they could immediately relate to. In order to create this type of emotional connection, first choose the right imagery for your target consumer and colors to help your ad stand out, then communicate a positive and inspirational story that engages consumers. As seen in this example, the image, not the copy, is at the center of the viewer’s attention - your copy should bolster the emotional connection created through the image, not take away from it. 

2 - Connect with the Product: Simplicity and transparency sells

To break through the clutter, marketers have to declutter. The most effective ads convey information about a product or service using a simple and memorable image. It’s important to not let the size or abundance of products get in the way of messaging. The lipstick ad below is an example of how white space was used to allow viewers to focus on the product.

We've seen that an ad with a single product image can be more persuasive than an ad featuring an array of products. Interestingly, having white space and smaller product images, like this lipstick example, can be a successful approach, especially when promoting one specific product. With no other distractions in sight, the viewer's eyes are immediately tuned into the red lipstick, followed by the copy and brand name.

Additionally, our research showed that people preferred ads that included small logos, an especially relevant finding for native ad formats, where it is important to differentiate an ad from editorial content. Adding a logo boosted brand recognition by 20%. This shows the importance of simplicity in digital ads -- sometimes, less really is more.

3 – Connect with the Copy: Balance is Best

Digital ad space is extremely limited, especially when it comes to mobile ads, so make every word count!

Keeping copy to a minimum can maximize impact by focusing on a single element - the image itself. We found that the highest-performing ads struck a balance between a clear image and informative text. In fact, consumers responded best when text represented 20% or less of an actual ad.

As seen in the sample car ad below, only minimal copy was used to describe the key features of this new Cobra vehicle. Our survey showed that copy that relates to the image and tells a full story results in the best audience engagement. For products like cars, consumers want to not only see what it looks like, but also learn more about its benefits, such as miles per gallon or model name. Keep copy short and sweet, but make sure it covers important product information to help consumers make an informed decision.

As people spend more time consuming content across screens and digital advertising has become a critical success factor for brands, it’s even more important to create effective and compelling ads. It’s vital to consider how all elements - logos, text, images - work together to deliver the brand message you need to the audience you want to reach. The best ads connect on an emotional level, are simple and transparent, and provide a visual balance that makes viewers want to learn more. For more ideas about creating compelling copy, check out the my first article of this series on advertising effectiveness on MediaPost, “Copy that Connects: 3 Tips for Better Digital Ads.”

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