Page 1




Visual Communication: The Straight Line from the Brand to the Consumer’s Heart and Mind



his study hopes to establish and confirm the evolving manner wherein advertising and marketing communications messages are being delivered and absorbed effectively towards an increasingly elusive market out to survive in a more demanding and challenging environment where time is in diminishing short supply. This study also hopes to discuss why we humans seem not to reject visuals when used to drive home selling messages as opposed to copy or text messages. Corollary to this will be a discussion that we


indeed are in the visual age as attested by masters in advertising and communications and global industry organizations. And lastly, an analysis of the evolution of the target audience outpacing traditional advertising and communications methodologies and strategies in execution.

The realization and acceptance of the increasing influence of visuals in effective advertising and marketing communication and an open mind towards non-traditional ways to reach the consumer is the objective of this analysis.



Framework Comprehension and retention of marketing communication messages is one good measure of a campaign’s strategy and media mix effectiveness. That has always been a growing, and recently with the impact of the global financial crisis, a paramount and immediate concern among advertisers. But in our prevailing environment where the battle to win consumer attention is fierce, drawn out and fought on all fronts, not only is the consumer on a flight response, the manner at which he selectively processes advertising and marketing communication messages is also continually evolving. What seemed to have always been a sure-fire creative and media strategy is now proving to be ineffective. Hitting with accuracy a distant moving target of a consumer on the run is changing the face of contemporary creative and communication strategies.


Mobile internet, mobile email, electronic high speed data transfers, file compression software, miniature high capacity storage devices, lightweight high performance laptops, cell phones that take photos and videos and transmit these across the globe drowns the modern consumer with an unprecedented volume of information as a tsunami would inundate a small island in the Pacific. As a result, the modern consumer is inclined to reject advertising or marketing messages that require profound cognitive skills and an extended thought process. George A. Miller, Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at Princeton University and author of “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information�, (1956) has provided two theoretical ideas that are fundamental to cognitive psychology and the infor-

The TOTE (Test-Operate-Test-Exit) proposed by Miller, Galanter & Pribram (1960).

mation processing framework. In his Information Processing Theory Professor George A. Miler states that:

The first concept is “chunking” and the capacity of short-term memory. Miller (1956) presented the idea that short-term memory could only hold 5-9 chunks of information (seven plus or minus two) where a chunk is any meaningful unit. A chunk could refer to digits, words, chess positions, or people’s faces. The concept of chunking and the limited capacity of short-term memory became a basic element of all subsequent theories of memory.

The second concept is TOTE (Test-Operate-Test-Exit) proposed by Miller, Galanter

& Pribram (1960). Miller et al. suggested that TOTE should replace t he stimulus-response as the basic unit of behavior. In a TOTE unit, a goal is tested to see if it has been achieved and if not an operation is performed to achieve the goal; this cycle of test-operate is repeated until the goal is eventually achieved or abandoned. The TOTE concept provided the basis of many subsequent theories of problem solving (e.g., GPS) and production systems. This theory provides the impetus towards a case of the paradigm shift of an increasing number of memorable, effective and award winning advertising and integrated marketing communication efforts today.




PREDATORS Science states that mammals fall into two categories in the fight for survival and stature in the food chain – predator and prey. With this comes the understanding that predators need to focus on their quarry to carry out the attack to arrive at a kill.

Contrary to how most prey have been observed to have its eyes set at the sides of its skull to achieve a 270 degree vision with a partial view of its rear ‘as their safety relies on their ability to put distance between themselves and something they perceive as dangerous ’, a predatory mammal has its eyes set in front of

its skull. This is true for peregrine, owls, hawks, tigers, lions, cheetahs and the like. Having the eyes set in front of the skull would allow the optic lenses to intersect its field of view achieving focus at a single target. The predator then obtains at a good judgment of the prey’s size, location and distance. Humans learned to hunt effectively in the Paleolithic period because he was able to depend on his eyesight to kill prey and become top of the food chain. Next to the hands perhaps, we have since become dependent on our eyes for survival.




We First Saw Mommy’s Face 10 Inches Away


e were able to react, interact and communicate with our eyes long before we can talk.

“The eyes begin developing two weeks after [babies’] conception. Over the next four weeks all of the major eye structures form. ” “Babies are able to see when they are born. ” “A newborn baby is able to see things best when they are up close, so it is no surprise that they are able to see things best when they are eight to ten inches away. This is the approximate distance from the breast to the mother’s face. Researchers also believe that one of the first complex mental operation babies perform is to visualize and create memory pictures. For example, a

child of 6-8 weeks has a clear memory picture of her mother and can distinguish this person from other woman (sic), even those women who look very similar.” “Newborns at first don’t pay much attention to the visual world but normally will blink when light shines in their eye. By 6 to 8 weeks of age, infants will fix their gaze on an object and follow its movement. A baby’s eyes should be well aligned (working as a team) by 4 months of age. As the eyes become aligned, three-dimensional vision develops.” Mastery of the use of our eyes therefore is achieved before we utter our first words.



he first time man attempted to keep a record to tell or communicate to others about himself, his exploits, his triumphs he used visuals. “An early example is evident in the cave paintings at Lascaux and numerous other sites around the world. Some of these are over 20,000 years old and are the earliest evidence of human beings recording their presence, their actions, and their environment. 12 | SIGHTKICK

This seems to indicate that humans were capable, even then, of retrospective thought and contemplation and were aware that they could represent symbolic information by using drawn and written symbols and that others understood the nature of the message.” Even when man saw the need to communicate more complex ideas and thoughts, he devised a system and chose to base it on pictures.

“The first known system of writing is Sumerian cuneiform, which dates back to c.3300 BCE. It began as a system of simple pictographs (italics mine) (images that represented a single word). For instance, the early pictograph for a duck might be a small image of a “Even when man saw the need to communicate more complex ideas and thoughts, he devised a system and chose to base it on pictures.”

duck, and the early pictograph for a warrior might be a stick-figure warrior.” “Our Chinese neighbors followed with their own version of pictographs in c. 1400-1200 B.C. with the Oracle Bone Script (Exhibit 2) during the Shang or Yin Dynasty.” Early man understood that pictures and visuals are universally understood.We can see this understanding today everywhere as road signs: railroad crossing, men working, loose gravel, slippery when wet, danger of falling rocks. Computer icons are also a modern form of ideography we take comfort in as we navigate the web.

Evolution of Chinese Characters, William Wu, Hong Yi Cheng / 20 February 2002 / Chinese 1B Section 4 SIGHTKICK | 13



What The Masters Say I had the privilege of working as an art-based Creative Director in the advertising industry for many years, and though I would not exactly call myself a master, in many of my ad campaigns and package designs, I have observed and proven on many occasions that ‘people see pictures first and copy (or text) second’. In package design alone, colors and package silhouettes establish and unmistakably communicate product variants and product categories. To be accepted to belong to a specific category, a new product entrant must take on these manifestations in color and silhouettes. Take low-priced sardines variant cues, green stands for tomato sauce base, red for chili or spicy and white or gold for Spanish oil. And of course there’s the ubiquitous small can silhouette. Why?

“There is a biological basis for visual communication. The auditory nerve transmits sound to the brain and is composed of about 30,000 fibers. Contrast that with the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain through 1 million fibers. Basically, you’ve got a dial-up connection from the ear to the brain and broadband from the eye to the brain.” We humans probably started our romance with visuals in 1946 with the invention of the television – one of the greatest technological marvels of the 20th century. Magazines followed suit with LIFE magazine’s large pictures on their unconventionally large pages. Then came the photo magazine “RotoGravure, and in the 80s the increasingly popular visually oriented newspapers USA Today, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Washington Times. The age of images ushered in more than just still and moving photographs. It brought with

it a heightened awareness of the language of visuals, a form of speech that goes beyond the nuances of words to the insinuations of images.” There is indeed a connection between seeing and remembering. People treasure memories and recollect past experiences with albums of photographs. Have you ever seen a coffee table album of letters? “Why do people remember what they see so much more readily than what they hear? The evidently limitless capacity of long-term memory to store 16 | SIGHTKICK

concepts and then points to studies that seem to indicate that ‘Pictures have a direct route to long-term memory, each image storing its own information as a coherent ‘chunk’ or concept.’ If this is so, then it follows that the more visual content in a presentation, the more memorable the information will be over the long term.” The late Butch Uy, multi-awarded colleague and friend once said, “Nowadays, people have no time to read ads. They only have time to skim through it.

“Today’s generations grew up with off and skip buttons. We must understand the entire shift – as both an art and a science.” - Lee Clow

This being the consumer’s reading habits (or more accurately, their not-reading-just-looking habits), advertising simply follows suit. The same thing happens in television. People watch TV, but they don’t necessarily listen. Again pictorial elements are given the greater task of communicating than the audio. The picture alone must tell the story.” There is a solid case for communicating visually to be more effective nowadays. The 2006 Gunn Report

Book in its Guest Essays section featured Lee Clow of TBWA Worldwide and he wrote, “I also believe that we can’t treat people as consumers anymore. They have already become audiences. They expect to be surprised and entertained. They mesh, mash, tune in or ignore what they want. So brands first need to capture people’s attention – today’s generations grew up with off and skip buttons. We must understand the entire shift – as both an art and a science.” Now even the masters agree.


What they say at Cannes Lions and the Clio...



et’s take a look at the profile of a growing number of runaway winners at two of ad industry’s most prestigious global awards, the Cannes Lions and CLIO. These institutions award the world’s best creative work in advertising, design, interactive and integrated marketing communications. The very popular 2006 Cannes Lions Grand Prix for Television for Guinness Draft entitled “NOITULOVE” did not have copy in it at all except at the end where the mud fish muttered, “Set!”. In turn, the 2006 Cannes Lions Grand Prix for Print for LEGO was strongly visually driven being a bleed print ad with just a large flat area of blue colored Lego blocks with a single white inverted L-shaped block protruding up that appeared to be a periscope. The headline was a single word, “Imagine…”. And the only other thing in the ad was the LEGO logo.

The 2007 Cannes Lions Gold for Print for Clima Bicycle Locks drove home the message with just a visual and the brand logo. In several executions, it had the bicycle magically fused with the railing on to which it was meant to be secured with by the lock.


the website at HBOVoyeur.” The site’s slogan was “See what people do when they think no one is Watching.”

In 2007, HBO through ad agency BBDO New York created waves with its unique visual for its outdoor ad that took advantage of our fascination and attraction for visual imagery. “An HBO outdoor ad in which a short film allowing passers-by to watch goings-on inside eight apartments was projected on to a building last night won a grand prix award at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. The campaign, by ad

agency BBDO New York, featured a four-minute film projected on to the side of a building that allowed viewers to become voyeurs watching eight different apartments encompassing life, death and everything in between. HBO picked up the grand prix award for outdoor advertising in Cannes for the projection installation, titled “Voyeur”.

ical world, pictures can become surrogate objects of desire or other emotions that ads subsequently associate with products. By exploiting viewers’ assumptions of a direct, automatic connection between photography and reality, images can serve as proof of advertising claims. Because of the

implicit nature of visual argumentation and the relative lack of social accountability that images enjoy in comparison with words, pictures can be used to make advertising claims that would be unacceptable if they were spelled out verbally.”


“The same film is set to music on

The same types of visually driven communications are garnering awards in CLIO too. Just recently, the Gold CLIO for Print for Matchbox Toy Cars from Mattel featured only the Matchbox log and a series of photos of young buys driving large, full size cars – a visual metaphor. Why the evolving prevalent major role of visuals in communications? Paul Messaris in his book Visual Persuasion The Role of Images in Advertising (Sage Publications, Inc; Dec 05, 1996) wrote, “The pictures in TV commercials, magazine ads, and other forms of advertising often convey meanings that cannot be expressed as well, or at all, through words or music. By virtue of their ability to simulate the appearance of the phys-

“Visuals, as a driving force in effective communications, are recognized to be working for many.”


I am a graduate of Fine Arts Major in Advertising from what many say to be a best school for the course: the College of Architecture and Fine Arts of the University of Santo Tomas. I refuse to reveal the year but we weren’t in the computer age then. We did everything by hand. One has to know how to draw. That was the only way we can put together facsimiles of advertising material recommendations. The process was excruciating and long. And as a result, once the artworks were completed, request for revisions were met with at the expense of cordiality and civility. Fortunately today, that is a remote past. Strangely, with my many years in the advertising industry, I have forgotten my mastery of drawing. Who needs to be a good at it nowadays? Enter the electronic age. Visuals have never been more accessible to everyone. We have copyright free online libraries of images that offer reasonably adequate resolutions for creating facsimiles of advertising material recommendations. We also have these days’ countless offerings of affordable easy to operate Point & Shoot cameras with up to 12 megapixel ratings enough to rival professional versions. As my friend Francis Rivera, a renowned professional advertising photographer, once told me this is hitting their industry with a lot of clients opting for the cheaper services of these self-professed expert photographers. Anyone with a Point & Shoot camera can generate a visual image. And lastly, as we all know, the darkroom, the secluded and dark void, with the stench of acetic acid has evaporated. It has now become digital. Anyone with a fast enough computer can have access to any digital darkroom software to alter or enhance digitally acquired photographs. There is Adobe Photoshop CS4, Aperture 2 by Apple and Adobe Lightroom 2. What all these is telling us is that people, who once equated visuals with the need to be a masters at drawing, are becoming increasingly comfortable and familiar with visuals and the ways it can be generated and shared. SIGHTKICK | 21



The Price of




e are saddled with overlapping wants, responsibilities, tasks, obligations, and expectations to measure up to. No buts. No ifs. No choice. We have to deliver. In today’s world, to survive, we take to multi-tasking. In the Los Angeles Times archive for Monday, July 19, 2004, Melissa Healy wrote in her article “We’re all multi-tasking, but what’s the cost?” “multi-tasking, which many have embraced as the key to success, is instead a formula for shoddy work, mismanaged time, rote solutions, stress and forgetfulness. And a prolonged jag of extreme multi-tasking, warns University of Michigan psychologist David E. Meyer, may lead to a shorter attention span, poorer judgment and impaired memory (bold italics mine).” And because we cannot elude multi-tasking, it is my opinion that people now slips into a seeming daily automation as a form of escape. “It is no secret that as adults, the world around us slips into auto pilot. Get up in

the morning, the same coffee machine, the same train or car, the same cubicles at work, there is certain indistinctiveness to life. Landscapes blur, local sights and sounds become a background, the native customs, the wisdom, just acts and words. Our glance on everyday life becomes sterile. It’s not that they cease to matter. One still can’t do without the familiarity – the sense of comfort. One likes the life to be largely that – to have survival sanity.”

“Today, we know that consumers’ attention is an ever more precious and hard to achieve goal in a world that seems to make more and more demands on every minute of our day. And when it comes to those demands, the law of supply and demand is way out of kilter, because the demands for attention far outweigh our supply of time.” Communicators and advertisers pay the ultimate price – the consumer is growing distant, elusive and a hard to reach target every minute.





n the desperate attempt to reach the ever growing distant consumer, mass communications turned to flooding the consumers environment with messages under the guise of innovation – interactive, ambient, adver gaming, tele-marketing and the like. The result? The consumer saddled with multi-tasking who escaped into autopilot is now engulfed in a wet blanket of advertising messages in the same way that a carpet covers a floor.

“Billboards smother our roadways and buildings. In some cities, advertising is even stuck to the sides of police vehicles. (Imagine a patrol car advertising a “run for the border.”) Cable and satellite TV offer dozens of channels of meaningless drivel. The checkout line at the supermarket proffers a host of magazines “educating” the reader on such wide-ranging issues as “10 Ways to the Big O” and new photos of a biblical ark discovered on Mars. We accept all this input with a tired, sometimes even curious, smile.” Our once willing and passive watcher, listener, and occasional reader have become cynical, critical and jaded. He has just signed off.

THE NEW ROAD TO VISUAL LITERACY Our tired and elusive consumer has signed off. But he has not closed his eyes. He no longer feels he’s on top of the food chain. He is not in control. Threatened he now feels he is prey. Distressed he now relies on his eyesight in a fight or flight response. Tunnel vision takes over. He concentrates on the use of the first single organ he mastered – his eyes. He now analyses and makes judgments based on what he sees. He develops what is called ‘visual literacy’. “Visual literacy can be defined as the “ability to construct meaning from visual images” (Giorgis, Johnson, Bonomo, Colbert, & al, 1999:146). To make meaning from images, the ‘reader’ uses the critical skills of exploration,

critique and reflection.Visual literacy is about interpreting images of the present and past and producing images that effectively communicate the message to an audience.

son, get familiar with the operation of any new electronic gadget be it a new cell phone, digital camera or electronic game device without having to read the owner manual. These new technological offerings are by design of its operating interface visually intuitive.

“Furthermore, Ausburn (1978:287) argues that we live in an era of visual culture, which influences our attitudes, beliefs, values and lifestyle. Images inundate our environment, be it in the private or public domain, in a variety of different forms and through several

Visual literacy includes the group of skills that enable an individual “ to understand and use visuals for intentionally communicating with others” (Ausburn & Ausburn, 1978:291). Visual literacy is what is seen with the eye and what is ‘seen’ with the mind. Visual literacy also involves making judgments of the accuracy, validity and worth of images. A visually literate person is able to discriminate and make sense of visual objects and images; create visuals; comprehend

and appreciate the visuals created by others and visualize objects in their mind’s eye.” There is now an observed domination of visually driven communication messages across national boundaries and continents as a result. The masters know and understand this and have spoken about it. And the global award giving bodies acknowledge this. “Brains, as it seems, were built to process visual images with great speed and to respond to them with alacrity. They did not evolve to process written verbal symbols in the same way. “Brains were not built to read,” “Reading is a recent invention of human culture.” I have observed a great many instances of the young population, including my

channels of communication.” The new road to communicating effectively is through visual images guided by the increasing visual literacy of the modern consumer. SIGHTKICK | 25


have come to the conclusion that the shortest distance between the brand message and the modern consumer is via the way of visual imagery. His lifestyle dictates it. Our time demands it. Our technology allows for it.

mind. And the battle will be fierce as new media based on the new found power of effectively communicating through visuals are discovered, tested, owned and exploited to the utmost.

Visual images rekindle man’s primordial desire to communicate across barriers of time, culture and race. It draws strength from the assuring feeling he experienced seeing his mother’s face for the first time 10 inches close.

The immediate future paints an exciting palette of visually driven communications for the consumer coupled the gradual disenchantment towards slow-acting text driven messages. What we call above the line media mix may now include mobile and internet.

The environment our present day consumer moves around in has trained him to be very visually literate. This is where the new battle will be fought to win his heart and

This new consciousness should place the science of understanding the effectiveness of visually driven messages at the forefront of advertising and marketing communications research.


The shortest distance be“tween the brand message and the modern consumer is via the way of visual imagery.�





For my ADPRINT final project