Exaggerated Images in Advertising
Why do advertisers so often use exaggerations of real images to convey messages and sell their product? Advertisers are in competition with each other; the winner is the one who sells their product to you. They can increase the odds of making a sale by grabbing your attention and making you remember them. An easy but effective way to get an advertisement to grab your attention and spread (go viral) is to make an exaggeration on a familiar or highly coveted topic. In today’s global market, it becomes necessary to use more and more aggressive types of advertising to get the consumer’s attention. Images that portray extreme and exaggerated situations are more likely to catch the attention of a consumer than those that do not. These images say many things about the advertisers, the audience that receives them, and society as a whole.
A typical thirty-second TV commercial can be divided into three parts. The first five seconds of the commercial uses eye-catching images, loud sounds, and bright colors to grab your attention. The next twenty seconds typically has nothing to do with the product itself. This portion of the commercial is filler space and may often include comedic antics, a story, or even some wild claims. The last five seconds of the commercial is actually about the product itself. For a viewer, it is likely the only useful part of the advertisement.
What purpose do the kinds of images that take up to 90% of every commercial serve in a particular advertisement? These images have a tendency to be both memorable and eye-catching. Things that catch the eye of a consumer are more likely to sell than products that do not advertise with exaggerated images. Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of advertising is not to spread the word about their product, it is to sell their product, and sell as much of it as possible to anyone. They are in it for the money and not for anything else.
Advertisers will try anything to sell you their product. Often times they will falsely advertise their product or promote it as something it really isn't. This includes the use of imagery that has nothing to do with the product they are attempting to sell. Yes, exaggerated imagery is an advertising gimmick. A great example of this type of advertising is a commercial that I once saw on TV that portrayed a woman happily cleaning her home with a new cleaning product showing just how "quick and easy" the chore can be. I think most people would agree that they wouldn't be too happy about cleaning up the disaster portrayed in that commercial.
Magazine advertisements do very much the same things that a TV commercial does, except instead of spanning images over a period of time, they have one moment to sell you the product. More than three-quarters of the time, a magazine advertisement will have a large, center image that will have nothing to do with the product itself. And often times the image that takes up the most space is an image that is overly exaggerated. For example, a magazine ad that is advertising new “Kibbles & Bits” showed a dancing dog in the center of the page. That is an obvious exaggeration. In another ad, a vacuum cleaner comes complete with a jet engine attached to it. If the jet powered vacuum were real, I may be interested in buying it. The actual product for sale may actually not even be shown in the advertisement.
Why Not Use Real Images
Why don’t the advertising companies use real images to sell a product instead of exaggerated and unrealistic images? In general, it is because real images are boring and un-memorable. It’s as simple as that. We live in a real world, so everything we perceive is real to us. Because reality is everywhere around us, an advertisement depicting real things won’t grab the attention of the consumer like an exaggerated advertisement would. Only exaggerated, out of the ordinary images can accomplish this.
Exaggerated Imagery Tends to Target a Younger Audience
And what of the audience that receives these advertisements? Exaggerated advertisements are typically geared towards a younger demographic audience. Generally speaking, advertisements with an exaggerated or “extreme” types of imagery tend to be geared to teenagers and young adults. These advertisements show what is “popular” in today’s culture. They usually will sell products that teenagers and young adults would buy and use. Advertisers also like to make the capabilities of a product the focus exaggeration (remember the jet powered vacuum cleaner I mentioned earlier). This alone may get you “hooked” long enough to think about making a purchase. Impulse buying is something that an advertiser can be proud of. If they can cause you to actually want or even need a product, then they have done their job.
Advertisers want to sell you a product. They will try anything that they can think of to create a means of selling it. An easy but effective way for an advertiser to get an advertisement to appeal to a given demographic and to sell to that demographic is to make an exaggeration of something. Exaggerated images more easily and more effectively get the attention of consumers and are more likely to get their message across in the short amount of time that the image is seen. For advertisers, exaggerating images is an everyday part of making a successful ad and through these images we can see what society says about us.