Radical Marketing Secrets: Millionaire Secrets to Creating Killer Advertising Photos

Photos and illustrations can be an important part of an advert.

Photos and illustrations can be an important part of an advert.

Welcome to another blog post on how to create effective advertising that can make you rich.  So far we’ve talked about the following subjects:

1) The importance of direct response advertising (how to commit small marketing suicide)

2) How to write advertising headlines that can make you rich.

3) How to pointlessly burn your advertising money.

4) The phenomenal power of copy writing. How to write proper advertising copy.

Today I’m going to talk about an often misunderstood, and incorrectly utilised part of an advert – the photo!

In his amazing book Marketing Lessons of a Mail Order Maverick, uber entrepreneur and super-star copy writer Joe Sugarman says:

The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is often true.  And you might think that in a print ad a good photograph is a critical element in selling your product or service.  It is true, to some extent.  But in this lesson, I want to put into perspective the relative value of a photograph in the entire scheme of your ad campaign.

You must look at whatever it takes to the tell the full story of your product.  When you need a photograph to help tell the full story, you use one; if not, you don’t.  But you still keep in mind the main purpose of any photograph – to get your prospect to read the copy, and in particular, the first sentence.

So, the purpose of the photo/illustration (if you use one at all) is to read the copy, same purpose as the headline.  The photo (or other graphic element) should be seen as subordinate to the copy, not the other way around.

In the book Mr. Sugarman goes on to explain that the product itself represents 80% of the success of an advert.  The copy maybe around 15%, and remaining 5% is divided “between the visual elements such as the layout, headline, typeface, order vehicle, logo and of course photography.”

There are many adverts that have brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of sales – and even millions – that have no photos at all.  Like joe said, you need to keep the purpose of the photo in mind.  It should NEVER be used for creativity’s sake.

Here’s photo-less advert I wrote back in 2004:
A non photo Zen-Do advert from 2004

Here are some more important points you need to keep in mind regarding photos in adverts:

– Show the photo with your product in use, portraying the advantages of having it (or the disadvantages of not having it)

– Avoid abstract, artistic illustrations that have no purpose.  If you’re selling a vacuum cleaner, put an photo of a vacuum cleaner.  If you’re selling a car, put it a photo of the car.

– Photos of attractive people work much better than “regular” folk.  Perhaps that one was obvious, but studies do show that response improves with better looking people.  We humans really are shallow.

– Photographs of children do well and increase response.  Photos of babies are especially powerful when trying to attract women.

– Make them curious.  David Oglivy in Confessions of an Advertising Man says “What do work are photographs that arouse the reader’s curiosity … he glances at the photograph and says to himself, ‘What goes on here?’ Then he reads your copy to find out.”

– Photographs of pets generally do well (but I’m not sure if this holds true here in the Middle East).

– Before and after photographs are EXTREMELY powerful.  Remind you of anyone? 🙂

– Readers assume that an advert that has a picture of someone of the same gender is aimed at them.  When advertising to men, use photos of men, and when advertising for women, use photos of women.

– Keep your photographs and illustrations as simple as possible.  Remember you only have few precious moments to attract your reader.  Don’t confuse him with complex illustrations.

– Pictures of celebrities do very well (remember you need their endorsement first)

– An enlarged photo of some sort of product detail can do very well.  But make sure it’s relevant.

The Caption

People will almost always read the caption under the illustration before reading the copy.  I forget the exact order (and I can’t remember which one of my books I read this in) but I think a reader will read the headline first, then the caption, then the copy.  So the caption is super-dooper important.  In Confessions, David Oglivy says “…you should never use a photograph without putting a caption under it, and each caption should be a miniature advertisement, complete with brand name and promise.”

My Secret Strategy

I’m about to reveal a really big marketing secret, ready?  Here goes; put a (human) face to your business.  Assuming you’re the owner of the business, avoid trying to look like a big corporation.  Make your business personal and put your photo in the ads, while making your promise or offer.

Remember this truism: people prefer to buy from someone they know, like and trust.  So give them a face that they can relate the business to.  Why not turn yourself into a celebrity in the process?

BIG FAT WARNING! Only do this if your adverts are customer, and benefit oriented.  If your ads are showy, self-centered or come across as bragging, then adding your photo will back fire.  But if you create a good, benefit-oriented advert, go for it!

Where to get your photos from

Every few years I bring in a professional photographer for half a day and take lots of photos to be used in catalogs and different ads.  Another great source I like is iStockphoto.com.  Whatever you do, don’t take random photos off the internet and place them in your ads.  Invest in getting the right photos.

Hope this helps and talk to you soon.

2 Responses to Radical Marketing Secrets: Millionaire Secrets to Creating Killer Advertising Photos

  1. Mahmoud 9 September 2010 at 3:40 am #

    Salam suhail. I hope your well. I’ve been reading some of your blogs recently, I’m find them interesting and inspiring. The explenations are simple to understand concepts that are useful to me as a business student. Thank you for taking the time to write your blogs.

    Kindest regards, Mahmoud (London)


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    […] 5) Millionaire secrets to creating killer advertising photos. […]

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