Which works better: "Image" or direct response advertising?
As you turn the pages of your favorite magazine, you'll find that most ads fall into one of two categories: They are either "image" ads or direct response ads.
Here are some rough-and-ready definitions that should make the distinction between them clear.
An image ad attempts to influence the reader's perception of a company, product, or service. The ad isn't trying to communicate a lot of facts, or convince a prospect to call an 800 number. Instead, its goal is to create a positive mental picture or "image" in the mind of the prospect. This image attempts to link the advertiser's product, service, or company to a specific lifestyle or set of values. Think perfume, high fashion, and automobile company advertising.
Direct response ads attempt to generate immediate action. They try to get the prospect to "act now" and order the product immediately or request more product information. In order to inspire immediate action, direct response copywriters have to be terrific motivators. They must explain key benefits, overcome inertia and skepticism, and ask for the sale. Think Franklin Mint, Sharper Image, and all inflight-magazine advertising.
So … which type of advertising do I think is more effective?
My answer, of course, is that "it all depends." Even though I'm a direct response copywriter, I certainly understand and appreciate the enormous value of image advertising.
After all, if you're Louis Vuitton, all you have to do is show a gorgeous model with a handbag and include your famous name at the bottom of the ad. The whole point is to create a sense of sophistication and chic. Including any aggressive sales copy instantly destroys the fragile mystique that is at the heart of the brand's identity.
Of course, YOUR company is not named Louis Vuitton. Or DeBeers. Or Porsche.
Most likely, you've got a modest marketing budget and are in a hurry to generate hot, qualified leads that you can turn into sales. That's why I urge you to stay away from image advertising and put the proven techniques of direct marketing copywriting to work for your business. In advertising. In direct mail. In highly targeted opt-in email.