As the old saying goes, “a picture paints a thousand words”, but so too does a few carefully chosen words of copy.

One of the old rules on how to create a successful advert is ‘straight line, bent image’. This basically means use a simple plain headline with an image that is humorous or ‘left of field’, so that when they work together they create a new and stronger message than they would if the two matched in context.

The rule of course works the other way around ‘straight image, bent line’. And a great example of this is an advert for Mt Barker Free Range Chicken. The advert simply has a picture of a chicken crossing the road and the headline ‘Because it could’, absolutely superb!

And as I have been harping on in previous blogs, it is so simple. The headline is cut down to the minimum words needed. It doesn’t need to ask the “Why did the chicken cross the road?” line of the joke, because we automatically do it ourselves.

The layout is just the photo of the chicken crossing the road and a whole lot of white space below with the logo. The image of course paints the picture of all the feel good selling points of space, sky and natural green grass that we as consumers of free range chicken want in the life of our bird. (Interestingly we are however, happy to ignore the slaughter of the bird though, and no I am not a vegetarian).

Now back to what this blog is actually about – simple tricks of the trade to applying different meanings within advertising.

The art is to change a simple word to another word and still say the same thing, but in a new context. For example if we were to advertise denim jeans that haven’t changed style for thirty odd years we wouldn’t use the word ‘old’. No one would buy jeans that are ‘old’ fashioned but change the word old to ‘classic’ and suddenly the perception is completely different. We could use a myriad of words to still say old but in a more positive light, such as classic; traditional; timeless; stand the test of time etc.

Now of course the aim of advertising is not to lie, but as in the example above, to create reactions such as humour, or to focus on the strengths of the product being advertised. It is about the simple use of words to create a perception.

As James Thurber said “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”