Friday, May 13, 2022

Picture Misleading Consumers

We might deceive consumers while striving not to. Towson University researchers present as an example of this the risk from including a visual image in an ad. The problem arises because the image diverts attention from the text.
     In one of their experiments, people were presented with a print advertorial arguing for replacing sugar with stevia in the reader’s diet. The text described in detail both the benefits and the risks of using stevia. For some of the participants, the ad also included a large photo of a slim woman, while for the other participants, the large photo was of the same woman overweight. The objective of the experiment was to compare the influence of the text with the influence of the image on the participant’s attitude toward using stevia.
     The data showed the image exerted substantially greater influence, overwhelming the balanced argument in the advertorial’s text. Study participants viewing the photo of the slim woman were more likely to favor using stevia than were those viewing the photo of the overweight woman.
     Another analysis from the set of studies verified how the presence of an image diverts attention from the text in an informative ad: Compared to people presented the ad without the image, those presented the ad with the image were more likely to comment on the image (“The model looks great”) and less likely to comment about the intent of the ad (“I’d use stevia”).
     The researchers’ point is that a picture used in an ad could impede the ad’s viewers from appreciating the facts in the text. Pictures are easier to understand than complex text, and a consumer’s mind prefers simplicity. The ads in the experiments were designed to have complex text. Complexity is a likely characteristic in ads for items like pharmaceuticals, where the consumer needs to weigh benefits against side effects. The researchers would caution marketers to be careful that images in these ads are not deceiving consumers.
     Other research finds that the mere presence of a photo increases trust in whatever’s in accompanying text. When neurological conclusions were presented to brain scientists, those also shown brain scan photos attributed more credibility to the neurological conclusions. Yet the photos were not at all objectively related to what was said to the brain scientists about the neurological conclusions.
     Photos increase the appeal of text-heavy advertorials. But use photos which support the message.  

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