The question of content and printed communication is always interesting. The basic struggle in any agency setup is the conflict between the copywriter and the graphic designer or art director. The copywriter is verbal, and wants enough space to develop a message. The graphic designer is visual and wants less copy and more pictures. Neither of these are ideal.
The problem is that use of written words is generally poor as advertising space is cluttered and it has to compete against the articles which are the main reason for purchasing print media. (As an aside here, if anyone dismisses copy because ‘people don’t read’, point out that they don’t buy printed media for the pictures.)
The graphic element also poses problems as it cannot explain the fine details and facts. Sometimes a picture is not just worth a thousand words. It also needs a thousand words to explain it.
Daniel Kahneman has an answer that solves the problem of whether more text or more pictures are more effective.
Daniel Kahneman is an interesting character. He did a large amount of research on decision making, particularly in the realm of behavioural economics. His work was so illuminating that it earned him a Nobel Prize for Economics and had a major influence on financial marketing. If you want to understand how the financial crisis materialised it might be worth reading ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. It will also explain why investors throw markets into complete turbulence at the most minor of events.
Daniel Kahneman proposed two types of thought.
The first type of thought he called ‘System One’. System One thought is driven by emotion. It needs very little reason. Decisions made on the basis of System One thought are made rapidly, can be based on stereotypes and prejudices, is subjective, and can have disastrous effects and be disappointing.
The second type of thought he called ‘System Two’. This type of thinking is reasoned, slow and effortful. This type of thought establishes and makes sense of facts, as much as they are present, and tries to arrive at an objective truth. Both these types of thought are obvious and given. The interesting thing is the manner in which they interact. System One thought is short on facts so the decision may be imperfect. System Two though is ponderous and dry, so the emotional content of the decision may be lacking and dissatisfying. In order for the decision to be emotional and reasoned, both types of thoughts have to interact and support one another.
A clue to the use of this comes in the form of a study on car advertising which found that car advertising was best used after the purchase. The actual purchase was made on the basis of emotion, but the advertisement was read after the purchase to justify the purchase on the basis of facts.
What this means is that the best sale will have a subjective and an objective component, that the subjective component will be justified by the presence of the objective component and that print communication will wok best if it follows this model. In other words, the copy has to stay in the print communication.
The question becomes how should the commercial press release be handled?
The same model can apply, without the need for much in the way of visuals. The press release targets an audience that reads. Typically press releases are designed to provide facts. On the other hand, if the press release can be tailored to provide some form of emotional content, it will be strengthened. Attention should be given to the accompanying shot, as well as the caption and headline.
The obvious exception to this is a knowledge-based piece of communication, although the implicit knowledge can have the emotional benefit of creating a sense of security.
The fact of the matter is that both types of thought are need to arrive at a satisfying and relatively objective decision that also satisfies emotional needs, so communication must establish both.