A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words – But Are They the Right Ones? | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words – But Are They the Right Ones?


It's long been said that an image is worth a thousand words. Expressions, lighting, context and scenery, movement, color, and gestures are some of the elements that photography uses to deliver complex and layered messages that can be "read" in an instant. It's for this reason that photography is one of the most potent tools that advertisers and marketers can use, when they have just a few milliseconds to claim the attention of their audiences.

Photos and images are now used throughout advertising and digital content. Internet speeds continue to improve, rendering images almost immediately as websites and banner ads keep up with audience expectations set by platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

This is now true for B2B ads, too. LinkedIn posts with images attract more engagement than those without – and a white paper is no longer just that, but usually an image-rich, beautifully laid out report. It therefore comes as no surprise that over the past three months, intent data from Bombora Company Surge shows a 112 percent increase in "image licensing." But has this mass adoption and constant use of photography reached a tipping point?

Photography for commercial use has always faced challenges, and today is added the difficulty of navigating the ever-evolving arena of AI-generated images and copyright. Marketers and advertisers today face a market in which photography is widely available. They must study trademarking, rights management, and creative ethics in their pursuit of photography's value.

But when an image is worth a thousand words, how many images do we really need? When so many B2B brands are using the same or similar images of suits shaking hands, people hanging post-it notes to express the idea of collaboration, or a hand with a matrixed web of blue lights and icons to support themes of digital transformation, how unique does the brand's proposition really appear?

As we push to add more, perhaps we should consider using better images - images that accurately capture the singular story being told or message being conveyed. Perhaps we, as marketers and advertisers, should avoid hedging our bets with multiple images, focusing instead on finding the right one – the one that uses all one thousand words to say exactly what we want it to say. Because isn't that the real value of an image?

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Hanna VanKuiken is VP of Strategy at Merkle.