In fact, a human presence in b-to-b ads may be even more critical than in consumer advertising because of the more clinical nature of the product or service being promoted. Networking equipment, servers and software certainly lack the visual sizzle of fashion, travel or automobiles.
So let's take a look at b-to-b advertisers that add a splash of humanity to their handiwork to take advantage of the natural curiosity of their target audience.
Novell gets right in the face of IT professionals with the image of a stern-looking young man who's hell-bent on increased productivity. There's a variety of elements to the ad, including a headline, copy block, diagram and sea of white space, but the eye naturally gravitates to the man with arms crossed.
The headline works well with the man's image. "In my Open Enterprise, productivity is up because workgroup solutions actually work the way groups want them to." Copy continues on in the same friendly vein, which is critical when an advertiser wants to appear as human as Novell does in this ad. There would be a fatal disconnect in the ad if the visual were human and the copy, tech and spec.
Faces don't necessarily need to be front and center to stop readers in their scanning of pages. An ad for virus-buster McAfee comes at readers with a bald-headed man turned sideways to serve as the backdrop to the headline that underscores the paradox of multiple layers of security. While the extra layers help keep threats at bay, they also complicate the lives of chief security officers.
McAfee offers a sort of one-stop shop of security protection with its McAfee Total Protection for Enterprise. The image of the man whose face is half gray and half flesh-toned is intriguing and inviting, although we've never been fond of headlines stripped across a photo. The practice tends to drain the headline of its impact because the reader's focus is on the visual, especially one as unexpected as this.
The human face doesn't have to dominate the ad to attract an audience. In an ad for Microsoft, a collection of people in a sleek office setting gaze into the camera. We suspect that readers will study many, if not all, of the faces in this ad, in which Microsoft describes how its software can make a company's human assets more productive. The image is most apropos for the company's "people-ready business" campaign.
If you're serious about playing to an audience of easily distracted business decision-makers, trot out a kid-the more adorable, the better. The image of a little boy whirling away on a merry-go-round is about as engaging as it gets. Even better, the photo is more than a ploy for attention; it speaks to the advertiser's unique selling proposition.
Citrix, a maker of enterprise software with a focus on access to any application, uses a case history to describe how the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program was able to better assist abused and neglected children. Citrix software allowed staff, attorneys and volunteers of the organization easy and secure access to its case management system. The story is well-told; the language sounds as if it's one friend telling another about a good thing. An inset photo of a smiling trio of people from Florida Guardian further enhances the human presence in this ad.