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Ways to Create a Great Ad #6: Visual Similies

In '100 Ways to Create a Great Ad' Tim Collins offers an overview of a hundred tried-and-tested approaches used by advertising creatives. These approaches allow for great ad campaigns and serve as examples of fantastic print advertising ideas. Tim has selected 10 of these to be featured by D&AD, which means there's 90 more in his book. Read on for inspiring advertising print examples.

Visual Similies

A visual similie, or visual echo, presents an object to look like something else. It's a popular way of creating print executions that often impress awars juries.

Sometimes visual similes can be created by clever photography or cropping. The ‘Don’t forget it’s a diesel’ poster for Volkswagen shot a petrol pump to look like an elephant. A recycling ad for Greenpeace cropped a torn piece of paper so that the holes looked like trees.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Trees / Greenpeace / JWT Phillipines / In Book / Graphic Design / 2006 / The holes in a torn piece of paper resemble trees in this ad for Greenpeace. Sometimes unusual cropping helps create visual similes.

A poster for John West tuna with the line ‘Straight from the sea’ cropped an opened tin lid to make it resemble a wave. Good creatives develop an eye for the visual echoes they encounter in everyday life. Some, like the faces that can be imagined on the fronts of cars, are obvious and have been overused. But it takes a highly tuned visual sense to spot the similarity between a petrol pump and an elephant or a ripped piece of paper and a row of trees.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Fishing / John West / Leo Burnett / Yellow Pencil / Posters / 2001 The rims of a tin can resemble water ripples in this John West poster.

Visual similes are often used for standalone ads, but it’s also possible to create a campaign out of them. A campaign for the Tate Gallery with the line ‘Minds open from 10am’ showed a series of objects that looked like other things, including a conker that looked like an eye, beansprouts that looked like swans and a vine that resembled a human figure.

D&AD Great Ad Campaigns
Conker / Tate Gallery / TBWA / Yellow Pencil / Art Direction / 1999 / ‘A conker noticed after a visit to the Tate’. This art gallery campaign used a series of visual similes.

For those looking for advertising art direction courses, there can be none better than Alexandra Taylor’s. 

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