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Visual advertising is all around us – from roadside billboards to mobile pop-up ads. Visual advertising techniques are undeniably the best approach for a brand to reach its customers.
Visual advertising doesn’t always sell a product directly. Sometimes it sells an idea, a vision or even a fantasy relating to what a brand has to offer.
Designers and advertising creatives rely on a number of tactics to optimize the reach and success of their visual advertising. Some of these approaches seem mostly technical, but there’s still a lot of psychology involved.
For example, psychology matters in the way color sets a mood, how the body language of characters supports a message and how symbols are used to represent things or ideas.
These advertising techniques are not exact rules on how to create visual advertising, rather a wealth of information at the disposal of designers and marketing professionals. They exist to help creatives come up with better ideas for advertisements and visual graphics.
Below are 20+ techniques, some common and some less common, that we see in all types of advertising. When using these advertising techniques, it’s not about using only one but more about using the right combination of a few.
Some will be part of the design every single time, like the technique of using color. Others are seen depending on the ad content. For example, three-quarter view is only used when there is a person in the image.
The most important thing to remember when applying these advertisement techniques is to always have the target market in mind and consider what they will respond to best.
The conscious use of color is the first example. This technique is used every single time, in every kind of visual marketing.
The color psychology advertising technique is easy to misunderstand or get wrong. A slightly different tonality of any color could end up portraying the wrong emotion, not the one the design was aiming for.
Color is present in the background, photography, fonts, visual accents and branding elements. That’s why it’s important to think about the color palette every single time.
Consider the importance of each color and if it’s doing its job. Creative advertising relies on interesting color schemes to transmit a message without words. Simple choices like using a bold color for a call-to-action button can greatly increase the click-through rate.
Sometimes one color in a brand is so important that it becomes its own entity, like Coca-Cola Red or Tiffany Blue.
The advertisement below uses the Tiffany Blue brand color and a black and white photograph to complement. Note that the model is also giving the viewer a “direct gaze.” We'll talk more about that later.
Just like the use of color psychology, a balanced composition is extremely important in every type of visual. Composition is how all the elements are placed in a visual space.
A composition can have many different purposes, from pulling the viewer’s eye to one specific point or creating a visual flow from top to bottom.
There are many ways to set up a balanced composition. The basic rules for a great composition are called Gestalt principles. These include visual rules like simplicity, synchrony and association.
In the advertisement below, the composition places the mother on the left side while the sun shines on her from the right. The text is set beneath to give it a sense of importance.
This advertisement uses composition techniques like the rule of thirds, focal point and visual path to send their message.
The ready-made templates in the Visme library all come with perfectly balanced composition. All you need to do is input your content.
Apart from the Gestalt principles, there are two other techniques used by designers to create balanced visual advertisements. These are the rule of thirds and the golden mean.
The rule of thirds and the golden mean are visual tools that help the designers place elements on a space in a way that is visually appealing.
The rule of thirds separates the canvas into six equal rectangles – two rows and three columns. By placing important elements at the crosspoints of the rectangles, they’re given visual importance while maintaining a visual balance.
The golden mean is a visual tool which follows the ratio of the Fibonacci sequence.
Similar to the rule of thirds, the golden mean tool is used to direct the placement of the elements in a harmonious way.
Which tool is chosen depends on the photographer, videographer or designer.
Pinpointing a focal point is just as important as the choice of colors and typography. The viewer needs to have a clear place to look at as they absorb the advertisement’s message.
Achieving a focal point can be done in a number of different ways. The rule of thirds and golden mean are actually two useful tools to help create a successful focal point.
Other techniques to settle on a focal point are:
When there are two focal points, you can apply Gestalt principles to achieve a good balance. The simple ads below have strong focal points where the letters are rubbed out.
Like the focal point, a visual path is a technique that takes the viewer’s gaze to a specific element. In this case, it takes the viewer on a journey through the content.
When someone looks at any kind of visual graphic, be it an ad, a page in a magazine, a website or a landing page, they will follow a visual path.
When we talk about visual paths, there are two notable shapes. The first is a Z shape, in which the gaze starts at the top left, moves towards the right, then returns left and down diagonally before moving across to the right again.
The second visual shape is an F. The F is similar to the Z, but instead of returning to the left on a diagonal down, it follows a line resembling how you would read a block of text.
The landing page below shows how the Z visual path works. Our eyes move from the heading to the face of the man (take note of the body language here), back to the button and then onto the mobile phone mockup.
The image below shows how eyes move across the content in an infographic.
Another important visual technique is the use of typography. Almost every visual advertisement will have some typographic element to it.
The balance between the visuals and the type is very important. Typography, most commonly known as fonts, has a double purpose – to portray the message in words while also having a visual appeal.
The combination of the fonts used is called font pairing and it can make or break a design. The color of the words and letters need to be in balance with the background so that everything complements each other.
Some typographic techniques include manipulating the letters to resemble shapes or placing a texture inside the letters.
In some cases, like Facebook ads, the amount of type and words used is really important. The Facebook algorithm accepts a certain text-to-image ratio in the ads that get submitted.
Creators need to be mindful of how much text they include, making sure their visual sends the message without containing too much text for Facebook to run.
In traditional advertising, though, typography can be used as the main element. Take this Cadbury ad for example. The product they’re selling is tiny in comparison.
Check out this video below from our Make Information Beautiful Series on finding the right font pairing for any type of graphic.
The technique of repetition is an advertising technique that has to do with marketing strategy. Repetition applies to a few different aspects of visual advertising.
Here are the ways in which you can use it:
The repetition technique works best for new products or new campaigns to raise brand awareness. It’s good to use repetition to get the word out at first, then it can be diminished to avoid boring your customer. Too much repetition can have a negative effect.
The ad for Renault below shows four graphics repeating the same concept but with a different shape to take advantage of this advertising technique.
A large quantity of visual advertising assets include people in them. In both video and static graphics, the body language of the person – or people – is very important.
Confidence, knowledgeability, success and various other sentiments can be visualized through a person’s body language.
Body language is a nonverbal language that a person transmits by how they stand, sit, smile and move. Whether the person in the graphic is a model, an actor, a famous professional, a regular person or even an animated character – the way they move or stand is important.
The steps to reach correct body language in an advertisement starts before it’s even designed. Creative directors work with the client to determine the correct messaging.
The next step is to put out a casting call to find the person who best transmits the body language they’re looking for. During the shoot, the actor or model is given directions until the desired effect is reached.
The McDonald’s ad below uses only body language to get the message across about their 24-hour service, creating a compelling ad that will definitely make you yawn.
Continuing from body language, another advertising technique we see a lot has to do with the eyes. Direct gaze is when someone looks you straight in the eye without looking away.
This technique is borrowed from hypnosis practices. Its official name is “gaze induction technique,” and it’s meant to make people feel things just by being looked at intensely. It’s a highly effective advertising technique!
It’s common to see the direct gaze technique used in magazine ads for wristwatches and perfumes. The characters in these are usually celebrities, particularly ones that consumers consider very handsome, beautiful or worth swooning over.
For example, take a look at this guy in a Gucci perfume advertisement.
Another character related technique is the three-quarter gaze. The gaze can be used in any direction, inwards or outwards. The direction depends on what the message needs to be.
The first example can give a sense of “looking into” a situation the viewer isn’t really a part of. This technique is very common in video. The forward facing three-quarter gaze is better suited for a static image that wants to transmit a sense of wonder.
The Dolce and Gabbana ad below uses a mirror to achieve the three quarter gaze.
The Toy Story 3 billboard of Buzz Lightyear is another example.
This advertising technique is a way of showing an action as if the viewer were doing or experiencing it. This is a technique mostly used in video advertising.
There are different levels to the point of view technique. A camera can be harnessed to a SteadyCam apparatus at eye level – or very close to it – which makes the recorded video feel natural and like the viewer is in the scene.
GoPro cameras attached to helmets in adventure sports are another common way of using this technique. The footage is then used for social media advertising or longer inspirational videos. RedBull and GoPro are experts at this technique.
Even though their videos might not look exactly like an advertisement for either RedBull or GoPro, they sell the lifestyle.
A good way to reach customers is to show them how the inside of a company works. Through social media, a brand can show their users and followers creative behind-the-scenes images and videos.
These can be photos of team members working in the office or a video tour where everyone is creating the products that customers love. Behind-the-scenes as a visual advertising technique can be very helpful to make users feel connected to the brand.
Another great behind-the-scenes idea is to let an influential employee do a “takeover” of a social media channel. This is a great in-house influencer marketing technique.
The employee taking over can post photos, videos or graphics created with the company’s Visme team account and brand kit. Advertising agencies sometimes offer this service and train a few employees on how to do it properly.
Consumers appreciate the honesty of a behind-the-scenes campaign. That’s because they can relate to what the team does every day just like they do in their own jobs. Personalized marketing can go a long way, for both B2B and B2C markets.
This image of a McDonald’s burger was part of a bigger campaign where McDonald’s released a video of the behind-the-scenes footage of their TV commercials.
Some advertising techniques rely mostly on psychology. Such is the case with the association technique, also called “association marketing.”
The premise is that the visuals in the graphic will create associations for the viewer. These associations can be feelings, ideas, places, or nostalgia.
For association marketing to be successful, a good bit of research must be done beforehand so that there is a deep knowledge of who the consumer is before deciding on what the association will be.
For example, antibacterial hand soap might use scenes of kids playing outside in the mud and getting dirty, but having tons of fun. This creates an association that it’s okay for kids to get dirty – as long as they can wash their hands with soap afterward.
Another common use of the association technique is with luxury products. Consumers are led to believe that with a fancy wristwatch, their life will be glamorous and full of luxury, traveling on private jets and drinking champagne.
When done well, these associative advertisements are very successful.
This advertisement about Carnaval without drugs and alcohol is a great example not only of association but also color psychology, typography and even fantasy.
Young adults associate the image to video games, and therefore the image of a girl throwing up in her costume is no longer disgusting.
A technique similar to association deals with symbolism. Visual marketing techniques that use symbolism in their message call on the use of metaphors and similes. These are literary tools used to make comparisons and allusions.
For example, a marketing strategy for a hand cream can use a visual metaphor to compare the scent of their cream to that of spring flowers.
The use of symbolism can be vague and subtle or overly far-fetched. The latter only works with brands that already have a large following of consumers with high brand loyalty. Nobody wants to cause confusion.
This print advertisement uses a perfume bottle instead of a heart. Essentially the perfume bottle symbolizes the heart or something a person might love as a gift on Valentine’s Day.
McDonald's using their french fries to advertise free WiFi is another great example of symbolism. Everyone knows what the WiFi symbol looks like, and this ad capitalizes on that.
Talking M&M’s and peanuts with walking sticks are a result of the anthropomorphism advertising technique. This tactic is all about turning an inanimate object into a creature that can move, talk, walk or even sing.
When an advertisement using this style is successful, brands will often make merchandising with the character to sell or give away. If the character is accepted by the consumer, it can ultimately become a household name.
The advertising industry has used anthropomorphism for a long time. Simple tactics like adding arms and legs to a peanut or standing a tiger on two legs are well-known.
This technique is not a dying art, and has actually seen new reincarnations in recent years. The Geico gecko is a prime example.
The Moscow Zoo has also had a little fun with anthropomorphism.
Emotional appeal is one of the most effective marketing techniques. The target audience is pretty much anyone with feelings. Television advertisements use this tactic quite often.
The super emotional “Hallmark Commercial” is a perfect example. Successful campaigns that use emotional appeal also rely on symbolism, association and elaborate storytelling techniques to influence a deep emotion in the viewer.
For this advertising technique to work, the brand needs to really know their consumer. The marketing team needs to understand the hopes and dreams as well as the fears and needs of their target audience.
By using storytelling techniques, they can make any of their customers or potential customers feel like they can relate to the story.
In recent years, Thai TV commercials have also made a mark around the world for their emotional appeal. Some examples of these tell an emotional story, only showcasing the product at the very end.
This Thai Life Insurance TV commercial is an international favorite.
Another human-centered advertising technique is bandwagon pressuring. With persuasive writing and the right wording, a brand will try to convince the consumer that everyone already has the product and that they are missing out.
This technique relies heavily on the psychological tactic called FOMO, or fear of missing out. The art of persuasion is a common creative technique for bandwagon pressuring. Craftily carved slogans are very successful tactics for this technique.
MLM companies and pyramid schemes use this technique on a regular basis. Every associate will try and convince a new client that they are missing out on the product, that their life will be better, that their neighbor is already using it.
If overdone, bandwagon pressuring can also have a negative effect similar to repetition.
The ad below uses explicit language to incite FOMO in the viewer.
As we have seen, there are lots of advertising methods used by brands to get their products in front of people. But none can be compared to the power of storytelling.
An ad campaign needs to evoke not only a feeling of need for the product, but also tell a story that consumers can relate to. In technical terms, storytelling relies on many of the other advertising techniques mentioned in this article.
Storytelling has been used in traditional media for generations and is one you've likely seen time and time again. It's a tried and tested technique.
A brand can tell a story in many different ways. It can use their own origin history or take inspiration from real customer interactions. A brand can also tell a story without any words, only with music and the right images.
This TV commercial for Lacoste has a great storytelling arc in which the main characters interact through the ages, while always wearing Lacoste.
Using social proof as a technique is mostly for advertising online, although it can also be used on print to some degree.
Influencer marketing and endorsement is a perfect way to market with social proof. They pretty much do the marketing for the brand, and in their own words, while recommending the product to their own followers.
Another type of social proof is client case studies. These are articles published on the brand’s blog where they showcase how a real-life person is using their product with success.
Social badges are also a great visual way to add social proof to a display ad, email newsletter, poster or flyer.
Customer testimonials are also considered social proof. These can be included in a website in the testimonials section or can be recreated into a full scale video advertisement.
This social media post by Nature Made uses a badge for their social proof strategy.
Similar to the association technique, the use of fantasy is a powerful psychological resource when creating visual advertising.
A favorite fantasy with many consumers around the world is that unicorns poop rainbows. Other examples are television advertising spots or print adverts inspired by films like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.
Fantasy inspired advertising is directed at consumers who are into fantasy films and books. By choosing this technique, the brand leaves a lasting impression. This tactic works just as well for advertisements targeted at children or adults.
The use of animation and motion graphics is quickly taking over the advertising space, from digital advertising to outdoor advertising.
Animation pertains to visuals that are animated instead of filmed with human characters. It’s the moving version of an illustration. A motion graphic is a bit different as it’s not a storytelling technique, but more of an explanation or visual accent.
Both are used in short advertisements seen at the beginning of YouTube videos or inside apps with in-app purchases. This technique catches the attention of the viewer very fast and can be very successful.
These animated TV commercials for Oreo cookies are memorable, fun and quite successful.
Try creating animated presentations as digital advertising inside your blog posts or website. With Visme, you can create animated slideshows to showcase your brand story.
Interactive advertising is becoming quite popular with the rise of artificial reality (AR). Many television shows have developed AR apps to allow their viewers to get a first hand experience of the show’s setting.
This type of advertising is also called “covert advertising” as it’s not selling anything directly. Instead, it’s selling the idea behind the brand and generating awareness.
One thing to remember with artificial reality advertising techniques is that they always needs an app to work.
Brands have been known to get quite creative with their AR marketing. Timberland, for example, installed life size screens as their window dressings. The AR app was meant to show people how they would look with the Timberland clothes on.
By taking a photo of the user at the window, the app then dressed them in different Timberland clothes. It was an AR changing room with minimal effort from the consumer.
Other AR tactics even include direct shopping from within the app or being able to visualize products inside a space before buying. For example, the IKEA app showcased in the advertisement below:
The last visual advertising technique in the list is the use of social media influencers where the influencers create the content to be shared.
In some instances, the brand can send the influencer some guidelines or visual style to follow while other brands let the influencers do as they wish. Influencer marketing is all about honesty and human touch.
Influencers can advertise a brand’s product targeting people who are just like them. They can create video content comparing a product to a competitor, or do a sales promotion on their social media channels.
In return, a brand can give influencers an affiliate or pay per click account, or work together on a price point for each sponsored post.
It’s also not uncommon for a big brand to contact a real person with a small following to be their influencer. These are called micro-influencers and can sometimes receive even more engagement and success than accounts with millions of followers.
The world of visual advertising is growing exponentially with digital expansion. But advertising techniques like color psychology and direct gaze will always be important tactics to remember.
The visual advertising techniques you choose will depend greatly on the message you want to convey. When creating your own graphics, keep it simple and always think of your consumer.
If you are looking to create a bigger impact with television advertising or specially designed AR apps, contact a professional designer who will know about all these techniques.
If you’re looking for a tool to create your advertising graphics, Visme can help you out. You can create any type of visual graphic using our collection of templates, free fonts, graphics and more.
Sign up today for free and get started with creating visual graphics of your own and put your knowledge of advertising techniques to practice!
Did you find this article helpful? Which visual advertising technique is your favorite? Let us know your feedback, suggestions and questions in the comment section below.
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