The Power of the Picture Story

Tim Hayhurst, Senior Account Executive, Clarion Communications

 “I see drawings and pictures in the poorest of huts and the dirtiest of corners” – Vincent Van Gough

 Whether we’re talking inflatable pigs over Battersea Power Station or celebrities on top of Christmas trees – like our very own Lakeside stunt with Chantelle Houghton last Christmas (above) - like it or not there’s nothing that makes an impact quite like a brilliant picture story.

They can be of anything, anywhere and as long as you get a few fundamental bits and pieces right, they can be a raging success.

And the reason why picture stories are so great?  You can tell an entire story in one photo.  The Media love picture stories because they often engage people in a way that a traditional news story may not.  And they break the words up a bit.

There have been some wonderful examples of picture stories in recent memory, and once you’ve convinced a client that it’s the way to go, it’s then all about creating an engaging and exciting image.

Take environmental TV channel Eden for example; when they were attempting to raise awareness of their launch, they could have opted to place a few posters up on London Underground, run a survey on climate change and put out the results via traditional media routes – which would have been fine. Eden did not.

Eden, however, decided to commission a 16 foot high sculpture of a polar bear and her cub, on a fragment of ice.  And floated it down the Thames.

Needless to say, the media went wild (pardon the pun) and this activity hit practically every major national newspaper and online news site imaginable.  Yes, it took 15 artists, two months and I imagine a considerable wad of cash to create, but evidently it was worthwhile.

Another brilliant thing about a good picture story is that it can generate real word of mouth in a way a news story may not.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to get loads of branding in one place that everyone will see.  People will stop and pay attention and therefore remember you.

Back in 2008, a section of north London ground to a halt after a petrol station dressed to look like a military outpost began giving away £20,000 of free petrol.  The reason?  A computer game was being released named Mercenaries 2.  This activity generated all sorts of opinions from all sorts of people, from MPs to pensioners.  What was the point? It made for a good picture, and people would be talking about it years later.

Yes, they can be a risk, are often very stressful and cost.  But at the end of the day, the cliché is right: a picture can paint a thousand words.

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