Insight from RAMetrics
Humans are visual creatures – we eat with our eyes. Almost half of our brain is involved in visual processing and although we have five senses, an astounding 70% of all our sensory receptors are in our eyes.
It is also said that as a society, we are becoming more visually biased, with easily comprehensible content with strong visuals more likely to be shared across social media by millions of strangers.
It’s not surprising then that ads with strong visual ideas are far more likely to be lauded at Cannes than long copy ads. That being said, we know that in times of emergency, crisis or social injustice, advertisers turn to news brands to speak directly to readers, using long copy ads in trusted and engaged environments.
Using the RAMetrics database, we investigated the measures which were most responsive to three different types of print ad: ads that are mostly image-based; ads that are mostly text-based; and ads that are balanced between both image and text.
Images and text can complement each other
When it comes to memorability, image-based ads perform better: 74% of readers recall seeing ads that are predominantly visual, compared with 70% of readers for text-based ads and 71% for ads that contain both, text and image.
In fact, image-based ads outperform their text-based counterparts across all metrics; readers are more likely to find image-based ads more engaging and they’re more likely to encourage readers to take action.
It’s not surprising then that visual ads draw more of the reader’s attention than text-heavy ads. However, those that utilise both components come out on top (attention: 46% vs 42% vs 48% for image-based ads vs text-based ads vs both text and image ads).
Similarly, ads which are both image and text-based provoke more of an emotional reaction (32% vs 34% vs 39% for image-based ads vs text-based ads vs both text/image ads). Readers tend to find them more likeable (like ad: 48% vs 43% vs 52%) and generally more appealing (appeals to me: 48% vs 43% vs 51%).
Where images have an advantage
Ads containing both visuals and copy generally tend to achieve more balanced performance and are best for activation, but there are some brand metrics that favour image-based ads.
Readers find it easier to recognise brands via image-based ads (branding: 49% vs 39% vs 45% for image-based ads vs text-based ads vs both text/image ads) and even find them more familiar (familiarity: 65% vs 55% vs 59%).
Interestingly, image and combination ads perform similarly when persuading readers to take action: they encourage recommendations (39% vs 35% vs 39% for image-based ads vs text-based ads vs both text/image ads), discussions (23% vs 20% vs 24%) and even influence actual purchasing (have bought/will buy: 23% vs 16% vs 22%).
What about long copy ads?
Contrary to expectations, long copy ads are less effective at delivering new information. We might expect readers to garner more information from text-heavy ads, but in practice, readers prefer ads that contain a bit of both (new information: 56% vs 52% vs 58% for image-based ads vs text-based ads vs both text/image ads).
Does that mean that it is all over for the long copy ad? No! It’s not really about the amount of text and image that matter, it’s the strength of the creative. The category of the advertiser will also have significant a bearing: among the text-based ads in the RAMetrics database, several are for funeral directors. You can’t blame readers for not loving those!
The best copy rich ads can easily compete with image-led executions. One thing that we can be certain of is that there will be an increased need for storytelling in the future. The need for quality, creative communications – whether we call them content or advertising – will only increase. This can be done entirely through visual means, pictures and videos, with maybe a bit of text to show the way.
There should still be a role for beautifully crafted, engaging copy. It would be a brave advertiser who would turn their back on the power of the written word.