This post may not be true.
Actually, it is. But even if it weren’t, you’d be more likely to believe it. That’s because it has something some others don’t — a picture.
Advertising professionals have long known that a picture makes an ad stand out and attract more readership than an all-type ad. They’ve also known that pictures can go beyond being illustrative to becoming a vital part of the communication.
Sometimes they do this by appearing to contradict the headline, as in the classic Volkswagen ad that showed a picture of an apparently perfect VW Beetle over the headline “Lemon.” (The body copy explained that inspectors had uncovered a minor blemish which VW fixed before sending the car out into the marketplace.)
But even the ad pros didn’t know that, according to experiment results from New Zealand and Canada, the mere presence of a photograph, regardless of subject matter, can make ads more believable.
Research confirms some old cliches
You’d have to be deaf, blind or illiterate not to have heard, seen or read the old adages that “seeing is believing” or that “one picture is worth a thousand words.”
Now, scientific research proves them.
When Victoria University (of Wellington, New Zealand) researchers “wanted to examine how the kinds of photos people see every day…might produce ‘truthiness,’” said lead investigator Eryn J. Newman, “We were really surprised by what we found.”
What they found was that people believe claims – any claims – are true when a picture – any picture – appears beside them.
In four experiments conducted in New Zealand and in Canada, they showed people a series of printed statements. Some were true. Some, like, “The liquid metal inside a thermometer is magnesium,” weren’t. Some appeared with pictures (chosen to shed no light whatever on the truth or falsity of the claim), and some didn’t. They then asked the people, statement by statement, whether it was true or false.
And whenever a picture appeared with a claim, more people said it was true.
That’s why GM’s misleading ad got pulled
Apparently, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority was more aware of the fact that people believe what they see than large advertiser Vauxhall Ampera (AKA Chevrolet Volt), whose commercial they banned from the airwaves for being misleading.
The spot’s video showed closeups of an electric charging cord, headlights coming on, a closeup of a big “Battery Power” dashboard gauge, a power line pylon in the background, and a super claiming a 360-mile range.
Running on the battery only, that range is more like 50.
The order banning the commercial read, in part:
We considered that throughout the ad the emphasis was on the fact that the car was being driven electrically, and that most viewers would not understand that the car was in some circumstances being powered by electricity generated with a petrol engine.
That emphasis came from what viewers saw, not from what they heard or read.
Even if you’re a small, local advertiser, you can easily afford to buy some credibility.
Just Google “stock photo,” and you’ll find tons of photo libraries. Many offer royalty-free photos, meaning once you buy one, you can use it forever. Some are free. Many more are cheap (around $30 for a large, hi-res file). Google shows about 1,390,000,000 results, so you’ll have plenty of sources to choose from.
If you have an advertising agency and they’re not doing this for you, then find one that will.
Then, make sure your ads are not only believable, but also honest.