When to use Photos or Drawings in Advertising

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. But all pictures are not created equal. Depending on what you are trying to communicate, and where, graphic materials vary enormously in effectiveness:

Pictures do not belong in letters

Most advertisers who lard letter copy with photos or illustrations learn that the technique does not work. Graphic material is costly and distracts the reader’s attention from the letter’s all-important message. Like marginal doodles, it is simply out of place. It stands out like a sore thumb. It contributes nothing.

Pictures do belong in folders

On the other hand, a folder—especially one on glossy paper stock— makes a splendid medium for the reproduction of graphics. The folder message must—without repeating letter copy word for word, which is guaranteed to make the reader’s eye glaze over—be consistent with the content of the letter.


In captions, never miss an opportunity to hammer home as specifically detailed a description as you can make of what your folder graphic shows. Do not assume that your reader will interpret your pictorial content correctly. Use captions to make sure that your reader understands and is interested in what you are saying.

To capture appearance, use photography

Use before-and-after photographs to show product effectiveness…or close-up glamour shots to show a woman’s complexion or a new automobile’s finish.

Use drawings to dramatize process

Ask any kid who has ever tried to take apart a watch or a toy steam engine: most people are insatiably curious about how things work. You can help satisfy that curiosity— and make the product you are offering trustworthy and “real” in the minds of your sales prospects—-by using detailed drawings.

See also:

Graphics and Typography Homepage

Advertising Copy Home Page

Marketing Tactics Home Page

Marketing Home Page

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