Pictures: now telling close to 2000 words

After analysing the visual searches and choices of more than 1.5 million creative professionals around the world and reviewing thousands of tearsheets, commercials and other websites to discover trends, the global creative research team at Getty Images has produced some rather revealing white papers that show how the kinds of imagery used in marketing material in the technology and telecommunications, pharmaceutical and financial sectors has evolved in recent years. 

All three reports make for very interesting reading and many of the campaigns included as examples of these changing trends show the ways marketers are using imagery to connect with today’s consumers (you can download the full Telecoms and IT paper here, the pharmaceuticals paper here and the financial paper here).

‘The New Digital Hero’ report focused on the changing visual language used to market and promote new technologies and examined the image conventions that IT and telecoms are now using to talk to their customers.

“All of us are spending more and more time with new media: blogging, logging, playing, networking and picturing ourselves differently, whether it’s through a writing voice on a blog or the avatar used on a Nintendo Wii. ‘Me’ is the hero of many of these campaigns,” the report says.”. . . The big change in technology and telecommunications imagery in the last 10 years is how it no longer occupies a special place in our lives, it is no longer looked on as an object or something that only techies truly understand. Technology and telecoms are now at the centre of our lives, they enable everything else to function.”

The report concludes that existing image trends in this sector “have overlapped with wider economic, social and individual concerns” and it predicts that the most popular images focusing on exploring the self, authenticity and ‘the journey’ will continue to connect with consumer.

The ‘Use Only As Directed’ report analysed the way pharmaceutical marketing is “connecting in a new medical landscape”. And the imagery now being used is overwhelmingly about personal fulfilment and emotion (83 percent of the imagery was about enjoying life, living life to the fullest and nurturing relationships, while just 17 percent was focused on health care, medicine or science and technology).

The report found that the most effective campaigns used images that clearly had a relationship with each other, whether that was tone, style or type of model. Typically, they came from a similar palette or suite of photography, which helped to inspire the ideas of trust, reliability and reassurance, which were among the top 10 concepts displayed across all pharmaceutical advertising.

“There has been a fascinating shift since our last major research into the pharmaceutical industry in 2003. Analysis of the advertising tear sheets reveals there is still a large number of portraits and lifestyles (although styles have changed and there is more diversity in model choices now). There are, however, far less business images and sports imagery, with more emphasis on personal enjoyment, balance and the cultivation of the self.”

After taking a reputational caning in the last few years, the financial sector has been doing its best to try and rebuild trust. And, as a result, its use of imagery had to change to reference the difficult environment (apparently, the most searched-for word in the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary in 2008 was ‘bailout’).

When Getty launched its financial services paper in early 2008, there were “already signs that businesses in the financial sector were shifting their messages and visual language to reflect an emerging downturn”. As a result, concepts such as “fun” and “escape” were being replaced by themes such as “dedication” and “expertise,” an indication that communications in this sector were starting to become more serious and sober.

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