Compelling and relevant

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Pictures in advertisements need to be more than pretty. They need to underscore a selling message.

It's easy to stop readers when they are scanning the pages of a magazine with a visually magnetic image, but the real challenge of a b-to-b ad is to create an image that pulls them into the story. Think of all the borrowed-interest images that merely catch the eye but fail to engage the brain.

An image that's both compelling and relevant is a potent mixture in the quest to arrest attention—a critical first step in the sales process.

The best example of this concept that we found in our recent sweep through business publications comes from Xerox Corp., which serves up an ad that stops readers via the strength of the primary colors dominating it. There's nothing gratuitous about the blocks of red, blue, yellow and black—which look like they belong in a child's playroom—because they are the product, which Xerox calls its ColorCube.

The copy is as useful as the image is colorful: “The new Xerox ColorCube multifunction printer uses unique cartridge-free Solid Ink technology, which is nontoxic, mess-free and reduces waste by 90%. Better yet, you can save up to 62% on color prints. The ultimate win-win.”

The copy does an outstanding job of helping readers quantify the product's reward by citing such specifics. We also like the ad's simplicity. From the look of things, even the technically challenged can now change the ink when the well runs dry on a color printer.

In an ad for Southwest Airlines' corporate travel unit, the wild, blue yonder commands the reader's attention. Although it lacks the riot of colors in the Xerox ad, the view from 30,000 feet is guaranteed to capture the target audience of travel managers and business travelers—and perhaps even the masters of the universe who once enjoyed more private accommodations in the air. The image is certainly relevant and serves as a strong backdrop to the headline: “It's not a window seat. It's an office with a view.”

The copy follows through on the theme established in the headline: “Comfy leather seats in our 737 fleet, so you can relax as you get a good look at the business world you're about to conquer.”

Sprint appeals to the reader's inner child with the image of a toylike ambulance and action-figure paramedics who have been sidetracked by a flat tire on a mountain road where a bear is lurking behind a tree. We would have liked to see a headline on the ad to help pull things together, but the image is both inviting and apropos of Sprint's Nextel Direct with GPS tracking.

The copy plays well off the image by stating: “But with GPS tracking you can quickly locate your stranded people, send help to where it's needed and reroute other operating vehicles in real time—which prevents a flat tire from inflating into a bigger emergency.”

A final eye-catching image comes from the UPS Store in the form of a futuristic, brown-hued cityscape that upon closer inspection is composed largely of a copier machine and packaging items.

It's an image that's both magnetic and germane to the service. The headline smartly underscores the UPS Store's stock in trade: “We know document services like the back of a full-color double-sided 32-page business proposal printed on 28-lb. uncoated paper stock with a laminated cover and coil binding.”

In addition to featuring an image that's both inviting and relevant, the ad does a superb job of branding by playing off UPS' familiar shade of brown.

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