Pastel Payroll – When NOT to Use A Picture In Advertising

Pastel in Zimbabwe published an advert a few months ago to get you to attend their Payroll & HR Free Seminar. Now Pastel is a great product no doubt, but there was a huge problem with the advert… one we see all to commonly in Zimbabwe advertising…the wrong picture.

Pretty as she is, the picture of the girl makes no sense, whatsoever. Then when you read the caption “So easy, even the boss can use it” the picture makes even less sense… but more importantly it adds no value to the message they want to communicate which presumably is the seminar.

Why does this happen?

  1. Companies are often afraid to place text only adverts because they may look too boring and not grab anyone’s attention. Not always true. some of the best print marketing includes no pictures at all.
  2. Adverts are typically designed by graphic artists who don’t feel they’ve got an advert, until the advert has got
    graphics. Completely understandable… artists think art. Unfortunately there is a difference between art and advertising.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb to remember when it comes to pictures in advertising:

ONLY ever use a picture when it would better communicate your message than words in the same amount of space would do.


  • Because you’re paying for space, make sure every picture you use is earning its space – or else replace it with captivating words.
  • Because the wrong picture can confuse your reader or dilute the impact you would have had without it.
  • Because pictures are often more of a distraction to an important announcement than actually aiding it. This very often true for those who attempt to use sex to sell.

I’ll say it again

ONLY ever use a picture when it would better communicate your message than words in the same amount of space would do.

This is especially true when you’re paying for space.

6 Replies to “Pastel Payroll – When NOT to Use A Picture In Advertising”

  1. Hi nice article and you make some good points, but you have to consider a few things also;
    In Zimbabwe we are obsessed with graphics like you rightly pointed out but its because our market is attracted to pictorials rather than adverts with words. There is an advert by Nandos Zimbabwe where they have used the same words repeatedly. Its promises something to come and it captures the eye because of its colour scheme.
    You cannot however advertise something like a H.R. Seminar the same way. You want to remain professional but also attract your audience. Beautiful women have always fulfilled this end and i can see why they used it. When you want to get a message across where you are limited in terms of how creative you can get, the old tried and tested formula works everytime.

    1. Hi there Abbey, thanks for kicking off the comments. Respectfully though, i’d have to disagree with you on Zimbabwean market preferring pictorials to word. Actually, this is a commonly held misconception about marketing, not just in Zimbabwe, but the world over. People are attracted to ‘news’ – information that they believe is relevant and beneficial to them. This is why research often demonstrates that a newspaper or magazine reader is as much as 5 times more likely to read and recall news articles as he is the average advert. People have no problem reading, they just want to read something worth reading and that’s the challenge to advertisers and marketers.

  2. Hmmm Max this is the second article I have read and am picking up a slight undertone against designers, you must have had some bad experiences with designers!
    Believe 3/4 of the time especially in the Zim context designers have had to grudgingly throw all sense out the door at the insistence of egoistic clients who have to have their way cos they are paying for it.
    Unfortunately appreciation of typography is at a very low in Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans are very visual, Not very many type-based logos, they always want to see a graphic device.

    Women’s rights orgs should be going to won with this statement and the connotations it has with the lady in the picture “So easy, even the boss can use it”.

    1. Baynham, thanks for the comment! Actually i hadn’t noticed the connotations with the lady pic, almost funny. About a bad experience with designers, no i haven’t. Actually i was a graphic designer myself and involved in the industry for a long time and i still have a lot of friends there. I think you’re right that sometimes, designers are forced to do stupid things because of stubborn clients and i should have mentioned that here. However the opposite is also true, I’ve found which clients being led into approving stupid things because of ignorant designers. Thanks for the comment!

  3. My feeling is advertising must communicate in the most effective and appealing way. The messages must be breif and to the point (relevant). The graphics must therefore relate to the message so that even if i am browsing, the message comes across. Max is right in saying that dont just put a pcture for th purpose of having a graphic. Even fonts can be enticing….and less text aswell. Its important to consider your key message on an advert and home in on that. An advert entices your customer and creates interest so they listen further….then when they are interested, you can give them details. Advertising agencies, advise your clients wisely and explain to them the need for relevant, short and enticing communication!!

    1. Hi Ruvimbo. I’m with you mate. It’s vital to relate graphics to the core message to get the best result. Seems so obvious, yet hardly practiced.

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