Blog Post Series 1

With or without words?

Have you ever seen an advertisement that made you go “oohh” in astonishment? Or one that made you say “now, I get it” after looking at it twice, or even thrice? If you haven’t, let me give you some examples.




What did you notice in the above advertisements? Aesthetically pleasing, yes, but what else? All of them contain metaphors. I’m sure we’re all familiar of metaphors, right? Metaphors, which we usually use in words or creative writing, compares to different objects. But without the connecting word like in simile, it seems like the characteristic of one object is transferred to the other. Let’s take for example a statement by Benjamin Franklin, “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.” Christmas is a time for cheers and good feeling. Having a good conscience then, as this statement says, gives us continuous cheers and good feeling.

But in the context of these advertisements, metaphors aren’t written in words but are drawn in pictures. How is that different? Well, turning metaphors into pictures makes us look twice in the photos and say “oohh” like we just discovered or learned something new when in fact we already know what’s in the photo. The thing is, when two concepts are merged into one, our brains tend to elaborate more on the meaning of the image. Let’s take for example that ad from Save The Children. We all know what a tree is, and that it has roots. We also know that from being a child, an individual becomes an adult. But when these two are merged in the photo, we see that as a person grows, his/her roots which are nourished and built during childhood takes a big role in his/her development as an adult; that’s why the child’s environment must be “healthy” so it can nourish better roots thus, nourishing better trees. Other than the image, what helped me formulate this idea is the text that comes with the image “nothing good grows from violence.” As we can see here, both the text and the image really take part in establishing the meaning of the advertisements. Or do they really?

In a study done by SeHoon Jeong (2008), he wanted to see the difference between having a non-metaphorical photo in an ad, a metaphorical photo with with words, and a metaphorical photo without words. He wanted to see if both the text and the image really take part in establishing the meaning of the advertisements. What do you think would be most effective?

It turns out that a metaphorical photo without words is the most effective when it comes to eliciting our brains to go “oohh” and “now, I get it.” One example would be Band Aid’s ad.


See how that made you go “oohh” and “now, I get it.” He found that making us say “now, I get it” actually turns into the advertisement’s greater persuasion. When we realize that we have overcame the obstacle that is understanding the ad, it makes us want to believe in it and in the brand in it as well. It makes us think, “The people behind this brand are so amazing.” And makes ourselves believe that since the ad is amazing and the people behind it are amazing then the brand is amazing as well.

So the next time you want to make an ad that creates more impact, create a metaphorical one without verbal cues.





2 thoughts on “With or without words?

  1. Pingback: Blog Post Series 1: Art and Visual Communication | Shookt

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