How Best to Use Imagery to Drive Ad Campaigns

imagery for ad campaigns charlotte tilbury example
Rosie Johns
by: Rosie Johns
Something catch your eye? Imagery is central to ensuring your ad campaign reaches who it needs to.

Due to the sheer amount of competition in the beauty industry, it can be tough to stand out. Competing brands use a variety of tactics, but for all the most successful campaigns, there is a well thought-out visual element.

What are the best display ads examples you can think of, and what makes them special? Typically, the most memorable ads will be ones that hit the right colour tones, directional cues, placement and composition.

Creativity and being on-brand matter too, but when it comes to imagery there are a few simple rules that can help immensely. Keep reading to see some of our favourite image advertising examples, and to discover our top design tips.

Use the Direct Gaze

The direct gaze is an advertisement method that has been used for over a century: it’s easy to make a connection with someone if you stare right at them. However – a biggie here – it is much more successful when there’s a noteworthy or famous personality central to your campaign.

Can the direct gaze work with ordinary models? In short, yes – but the shot has to be confident. It’s easy for your audience to pick up on even slight indications of discomfort or fear in a model if they’re staring head-on. So, if you go down this route, make sure your imagery is spot-on.

If you are lucky enough to be working with a great model, the direct gaze is the easiest option to send your message across, particularly for fashion and cosmetics brands.

It’s easy to play around with gaze, too: models can stare at products or slogans so viewers can implicitly follow their gaze to specific brand imagery.

Make an Association

Your ad should associate with a principle or emotion that you’re trying to push across, with the effect of the image linking to your brand’s message and ethos.

This effect is magnified if a brand uses someone of high fame or value in the ad, as it associates that person’s achievements with the brand.

Association in beauty advertising is everywhere: Maybelline predominantly use supermodels, like Gigi Hadid, in their advertising and create associations with high fashion;  Dove take an alternate approach by featuring ‘real women, never models’ to better align with the concept of natural beauty.

The association doesn’t even need to be explicitly linked to your target audience. Back to Maybelline, and the brand has also launched the ‘Brave Together’ initiative. A departure from their cosmetics-focused marketing, the campaign aims to “de-stigmatise anxiety and depression, provide critical one-on-one support and help everyone, everywhere bravely take on their world.”

It’s ever more popular for brands to mix up their messaging this way, and engage with relevant social issues – even if it means a departure from traditional product marketing.

Keep it Simple

In marketing, it’s easy to get preoccupied with adding things rather than opting to streamline or take away. The majority of great advertising campaigns have kept it simple. After all, having a convoluted, messy message is the exact opposite of what you want.

If you think about the most iconic beauty brands, their logos and campaigns attempt to keep it as simple as possible. L’Oréal, Estée Lauder and LUSH all use plain, textual logos that are recognisable and easy to read. Nivea does too, adding the instantly familiar blue circle.

Brand imagery is at its best when it can put shape, symbolism, colour and purpose together in a simple design. It’s not reserved for the big boys, either. Dollar Shave Club, for example, shook men’s grooming titans like Gillette to the core with its simple message, excellent service and, of course, simple branding.

The Rule of Thirds

Unsure what the rule of thirds is? Basically, it is a technique that divides an image vertically and horizontally into a grid. If you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve probably got an option to put this grid on when you take photos – neat, right? Now you can take compositionally perfect selfies forever!

In ads, the grid equates to the need to put important information at the intersection of these lines. This, typically, is where potential clients’ and customers’ gazes will fall, so putting all the important information here will up the chances of it being taken notice of.

Take luxury skincare brand Noble Panacea’s partnership with actress Jodie Comer. The image on the left takes full advantage of the rule of thirds – the eye is drawn first to Comer’s eyes, in the centre, then immediately down to her hand in the left third. The brand has placed their product here, making it unmissable. With the arch of Comer’s shoulder and back stretching across the final third of the image, you take this in last.

Action Stations

A strong call to action is perhaps the most important element of an advertisement’s image. Several beauty brands have cashed in with succinct yet successful calls to action. To name but one example, L’Oréal Paris has been using its tagline “Because You’re Worth It” since 1971 when it was introduced to try and poach sales from competitor Clairol. These days, the slogan is synonymous with the brand and has been translated into 40 languages, for use in countless global campaigns.

What “Because You’re Worth It” represents is the power call to actions have as part of an advertisement’s imagery. In some ways, a strong call to action can excuse pitfalls elsewhere in the campaign.

Put Ad Imagery Front and Centre

Imagery in all realms of marketing is a powerful tool when used in the right way. The majority of people, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, are affected by images every day. Following the steps above will help your ad stand out, whether it’s destined for Google, social media, e-mail advertising or the high street. Want to know more advertising magic from our marketing spell book? Then read more of our insights on the Foundation blog.

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