Line drawings, cartoons and other illustrations can often break through the clutter of a magazine, whose editorial and advertising environment is typically dominated by photography.
Illustrations are often visually dynamic and dramatic, and can sometimes tell an advertiser's story better than a photograph possibly could. Like a photograph, an illustration must be well matched to the headline, and it should be relevant to the advertiser's story. Let's look at a handful of examples beginning with an ad for BIGFIX, which helps companies protect their information systems.
It features the hard-breathing image of a ferocious, heavily armed Hellboy, star of “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” which opened in theaters this month. BIGFIX essentially drops its message on the movie poster, which hardly lacks for visual magnetism.
BIGFIX gets our attention, but the larger question is how well does the advertiser tell its story? The answer is quite well. The copy follows through on the headline—”BIGFIX before all hell breaks loose”—as it states: “Why in blazes spend months installing security and systems management in your organization? And then take days or even weeks to protect less than 60% of your systems? The forces of darkness attack in nanoseconds, not days.” BIGFIX goes on to make the case that it can protect a company quickly and thoroughly.
BIGFIX was fortunate to find a studio to partner with that helps it tell its story in such a compelling and relevant fashion.
Presenting far less fire and brimstone is an ad for the Society for Human Resource Management. The illustration consists of a night-and-day look at a corporate tower as employees enter in the morning and depart in the evening. It's an image we've seen many times before, so often, in fact, that it borders on cliché.
And at the risk of reading too much into the illustration, we couldn't help but notice how incidental the employees looked in relation to the skyscraper—ironic coming from an association that's focused on human resources. The society is making the point that it can help businesses keep their employees coming to work each morning: “Developing solutions to the toughest business and social problems is what human resource professionals do every day.” But we were underwhelmed by the look and feel of the ad.
A scantily clad superhero exerts his influence in a clean room on behalf of Digital Realty Trust, which describes itself as “the largest owner and operator of data centers in the industry.” While the comic book-style illustration is a bit amateurish, it undoubtedly strikes at the heart of its IT audience of data center managers and specialists. It's a crowd that undoubtedly knows its way around multiplayer online games.
The approach is fine with the Chasers because we've always preached the importance of devising images that appeal to the self-interest of an audience. And the ad wisely promises to deliver “facilities ranging from move-in ready to build-to-suit with the power to meet your current and future requirements.”
Juniper, which helps companies secure their networks, uses a series of “Far Side”-style cartoons in its ad campaign. In one ad, a character in what appears to be a control room or the bridge of a space ship states: “Sir, we're in serious trouble, our nemesis Juniper is severely cutting into our profits by securing all the world's unstable networks.”
The problem with the cartoon is that it's not nearly as wry as the late, great “Far Side,” which underscores the risk of using a cartoon-style approach in an ad. The copy plays it more straightforward: “Only Juniper Networks gives you unprecedented protection from attacks while providing visibility across the network.”
In summary, illustrations are sure to draw the eye of the audience, but they should have high production values and quickly relate to the product or service being advertised. M