(Photo credit: Betharie)
“Visual storytelling is in renaissance — but with a twist. Photography, rather than video, is fast becoming the lingua franca of a more global, mobile and social society…. Businesses that bank on visual storytelling with images will win,” says Steve Rubel in his recent column for Ad Age.
When you observe consumers using mobile devices, social networks or the web, you see a strong preference for photos over other media formats. Facebookers upload 300 million photos a day, and Harvard Business School study concludes that 70% of all activity inside social networks involves a photo. iPhone users can choose from over 10,000 photo-related apps in Apple’s App Store. All told there are more than 3 trillion images online. Rubel attributes the popularity of photos to three factors: images are global (they transcend language and cultural divides), they’re distributable (small files are easy to share across digital pipes, even skinny pipes), and they’re digestible (full of content that humans can process more quickly than text or video).
Meanwhile big marketers, who credit moving pictures (not still ones) with building their brands, show a different preference — a desire that digital, social and mobile media platforms create space for TV-like ads. They seek out inventory into which they can insert those very same (if slightly reformatted) television spots, and when that runs out they create animated banners they hope will deliver similar results.
Results are bound to be disappointing, however, when consumers gravitate to one type of content (photos) and advertisers try to foist another type (animated banners) upon them. A recent study by some folks at Moat, Accordant Media and the Advertising Research Foundation provides one startling data point. In their experiment, blank rectangles — IAB units with white space in them — performed twice as well as the industry average for animated banners created by brands and their agencies. In other words, the absence of advertising is working better than the average online ad.
Taking Rubel’s advice — telling your brand’s story through pictures — can hardly be worse than what you’re doing today. With a little practice, maybe you can outperform empty rectangles!