When we talk about the Psychology Of Advertising, perception is paramount. Your advertisements are all about perception so you must make the most of each and every advertisement. You need to know what works and what does not so you don’t waste your time and money on bad copy. A series of experiments were carried out to determine whether white or black type made the more attractive display advertisements. Over 500 people were used in the experiment. The background for the white type was gray in some cases, but in most cases it was black. The results show that the ordinary reader is more likely to notice display type which is black than a display type of the same sort which is white.
Another series of laboratory experiments was made on the same subject. Specially prepared pages were shown for one-seventh of a second. On part of the sheets black letters on white background and white letters on black background were shown. In other cases one half of the sheet had a black background, with words in white type, and the other half of the sheet had a white background with words in black type. Scores of cards were constructed in which all the possible combinations of white and black were made and shown to a number of persons for such a short space of time that no one could perceive all there was on any sheet. Under these circumstances the subjects saw what first attracted their attention and what was the easiest to perceive. The final results showed that the black letters on a white background were seen oftener than the white type on a black background. This proves true with other colors too. A dark font color on a light background is noticed more often than a light font color on a dark background. Use the right combination unless you are seeking a specific “feel” for your advertisement.
It seems quite certain that, other things being equal, those advertisements will be the most often read which are printed in type which is the most easily read. The difference in the appearance of the type in many cases may be so small that even persons experienced in the choosing of type may not be able to tell which one is the more legible, and yet the difference in their values may be great enough to make it a matter of importance to the advertiser as to which type he shall use.
If the matter of the proper use of type is of importance to the advertiser, it is even more important that he should make a wise use of graphics.
The graphic is frequently used merely as a means of attracting attention, and its function as a symbolic illustration is disregarded. In a few cases this may be wise and even necessary, but when we consider the value of an graphic as a symbol, we are surprised that graphics are not used more extensively as well as more judiciously. The first form of writing was picture writing, and the most simple and direct form of graphic representation is through the picture and not through the printed word. At a single glance we can usually read about four words; that is to, say, the width of perception for printed words is about four. At a single glance at an illustration we can see as much as could be told in a whole page of printed matter. The width of perception for illustrations is very much more extensive than it is for printed forms of expression.
The illustration may perform either one or both of two functions. It may be a mere picture used to attract attention or it may be an “illustration” and a real aid to perception by assisting the text to tell the story which is to be presented. In the first case it would be called an irrelevant illustration; in the second case it is relevant. There have been several investigations carried on to determine the relative attention value of relevant and irrelevant illustrations. Although the results thus far, reached are not so decisive as might be desired, yet it seems certain that the attention value of relevant illustrations is greater than had been supposed and that the irrelevant “picture” is frequently not so potent in attracting attention as a relevant illustration would be. Under these circumstances it seems that, in general, the illustration in an advertisement should have the double function of attracting attention and assisting perception. Which one of these functions is the more important might be a profitable question for discussion, but when these two functions can be united in the same illustration, its value is enhanced twofold. Irrelevant illustrations are produced merely because they are supposed to attract attention, when in reality they may attract the attention of no one except the person who designed them and of the unfortunate man who has to pay for them. Similarly there are many illustrations produced and inserted in advertisements because they are supposed to assist the perception. They are supposed to tell the story of the goods advertised and to be a form of argumentation. The designer of the illustration and one familiar with the goods knows what the picture stands for, and so for him it is a symbol of the goods and tells the story of the special advantages of the goods. To one unacquainted with the illustration and with the goods advertised, the illustration is no illustration at all. Not only that, but an illustration may distract the viewer from the actual message. Things animated graphics may actually draw the eyes away and the viewer will never get back to the actual message.
The advertiser is so familiar with what he has to offer that he cannot appreciate the difficulty the public has in getting a clear and complete perception by means of his advertisements of the goods advertised. It is almost impossible to err on the side of clearness. A sketchy illustration may appear artistic to the designer, but there is danger that it will be regarded as meaningless scrawls by the viewer, and so it will not receive a second thought from them. The text and the illustration should, first of all, be clear and should in every way possible assist the mind of the possible customer in forming a correct idea of the goods being exploited. This is what the Psychology of Advertising is all about; getting the viewer to remember your product and purchasing it.