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Friday, Nov. 30, 2007 at 10:26 am

How Men and Women View Images Differently

By Holly Buchanan
November 30th, 2007

womanogamyEver look at an ad and it just didn’t sit right with you? That happened to me recently when I was reading a post on Copyranter, critiquing a Hearts On Fire diamond ad that uses “monogamy” as a slogan.

Now, I’m all for monogamy. I think it’s a wonderful thing. And I am not a girl to turn down a diamond. It seems like the perfect message. So why was the image bothering me? Here’s what I came up with:

- The man is a non-entity. His face is in shadow and partially cropped off the page. The entire focus of the ad is the woman.

- The word “monogamy” is written across her chest. The word is visually attached only to her.

The message the ad appears to be sending is, “Guys, want to keep your woman monogamous? Give her a diamond!”

Now, I’m assuming this is an ad aimed at men, so I give it high marks. (I also don’t know the publications in which the ad appears.) But if “Hearts On Fire” wants to take this message to women, I have two suggestions:

  1. Make the ads focus on both the man and the woman, and let us see both of their faces and emotions.
  2. Make sure the word “monogamy” touches both people, like a thread holding the two of them together.

Pay very close attention to the images in ads and on your website. Men and women may not view them the same.

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Comments (24)

  1. Great tweaks Holly.

    I’m guessing that the ad people don’t really care about actually selling diamonds, but cared about the design and any wards they could nominate themselves for.

  2. This is a very interesting post. It’s not something that I often think about, i must admit. The principle applies to everything ‘visual’ that’s produced i guess. It kinda depends on your specific gender audience, the kind of style you’re concentrating on. It becomes very tricky if your creative work is not targeting a gender-specific audience. Good post.

  3. Seen enough ads like this? Monotony would be a better headline.

  4. These assumptions are in fact basefless. They sound reasonable but without actual testing you never know whether they actually are or not. In actual fact, these tweaks could have the opposite affect, reducing performance of the ad. The market is female, so why bring a man into the light…they want a reader to be able to imagine herself in the place of the woman in the pic – in the arms of a dark, mysterious man – or perhaps in her imagination put the face of her own lover on the dark figure in the ad. This is a man who values her so much that she is the only one in his life. Put a face on the man, and you take away the power of the reader’s imagination. The logo has perspective and action – it is almosdt phallic, and brilliant in its subtlety, stretching up from below as it does. Stretching it across both people could weaken that.

    Do I believe everything I just wrote. Absolutely not – it is just all in my own imagination – and just as plausible as your comments. Testiing both concepts is the only way to know with certainty of any of these ideas have even a smidgen of validity.

    - RawFoodGuy

  5. Actually the target market is male (engagement rings). As such, the design of the ad, in its present form, is more effective than the proposed revised ad.

  6. As a woman, I did not react to this ad with much negativity and with different thoughts, such as, “Monogamy does not necessarily lead to boredom.” :-) This is a good message, IMO, for men to receive in ads.

  7. I’m glad I’m not te only one who disliked this ad. I think the world today can do better than offering a diamond in exchange for a monogamous relationship. Also, have they stopped to consider that over 70% of married couples will face an affair in their marriage? I think it just takes these couples who have been affected and throws it in their face. “If you’d have bought me a diamond, I would have been monogamous.”

    No thanks-I’d fire that ad company.

  8. Call me conservative if you will but somehow, this ad did not appeal to me. However, I won’t be buying any engagement rings, so who cares:)

  9. Looks like porn to me.

  10. An example of a great jewelry ad is a direct response ad that has been appearing regularly in the Wall Street Journal with the captivating headline, “How to Make Her Gasp on Christmas morning without shopping.” The ad offers a diamond (or other precious gemstone) bracelet with vivid copy …

    “She’ll be awestruck. A hefty 14kt. gold-oval, wrought, polished and encrusted with 6 carats of diamonds ….etc”

    That does it all doesn’t it? Offers great benefits — no shopping and a gasp :-) What man could resist? And then it offers a fantastic discount ($11,399 marked down with a slash through to only $3,595), an incentive to act quickly (first 150 order get Free Diamond Earrings), a toll-free order number, and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and my favorite, a guaranteed gasp or your money refunded.

    These people (Karats & Facets, 14. N.E. 1st Ave. Suite 406, Miami, FL 33132 800-260-4987 ext 38)know what they’re doing.

    I’m impressed. Gasp.

  11. Thank you. When I saw that ad I said “oh brother!” Granted, I noticed it, but I thought they were trying too hard to be sexy.

  12. Great stuff – keep the comments coming!

    One quick clarification – I have not seen this ad in context, but I am assuming it is targeted at men. And I think it does a great job of that. Our discussion is focusing on what changes, if any, you would make to target women with the ad.

    RawFoodGuy had some really interesting comments. I always love hearing what guys think women want. (I mean this sincerely) I hadn’t thought about putting your own guy’s face in place of the shadowed male face in the ad. By shadowing him out and cutting him off, for me, it made him a non-entity in the ad.

    If that’s the case, and you want the woman to put herself in the place of the woman in the ad, then shouldn’t you shadow her face? Or not show it altogether? (unfortunately, most of us don’t look like her :) I know a lot of jewelry ads in women’s magazine do not show her face – I wonder if this is why.

    I am only speaking for myself here, but I want to see the guy’s face – I want to see the interaction and emotion between them. That’s why I love the TV ad I blogged about where the guy gets up in the middle of the night and lays the pendant around the woman’s neck. The camera focuses in on his face. He is pretending to be asleep, but you see this great grin sneak up on his face. I just love that. I love that guy. I can tell how much he loves her by that wonderful grin he can’t suppress. Even if my guy doesn’t look like him, I can picture my guy having that grin and that emotion. I suspect, just like guys want to see the woman’s reaction, women want to see the guy’s reaction.

    You have a completely valid point about testing. I wish we could test this. I’d LOVE to test this. I am constantly looking for research on how men and women look at the same ad, and what they take away from it. From my own experience, I think there are real differences.

    If anyone knows of any research out there on this subject matter, please let me know! In the meantime, I still love hearing your personal opinions.

  13. I’m male and this ad does nothing to make me think of monogamy. My first impression was that this was for a miniseries on Lifetime or something like that that. I assumed it was an ad aimed at women…

  14. Holly … I liked the ad (married guy, 20 years, still likes to think he is smoking hot in the sack :) but not for the reasons mentioned … its the word MONOGAMY. They take a weird word and make you see it differently. They get you to associate sweaty hot sex (she’s perspiring folks) with MONOGAMY … That’s clever. Or maybe I’m just a word nerd.

    And as far as soft core porn is concerned just tune into CBS tonight and watch the Victoria Secret show … those folks know porn.


  15. just to clarify … a parenthesis didn’t make it into the abover paragraph … The “not for reasons mentioned” refers to the ad … not my romantic talents or lack thereof

  16. I’ve been married 10 years. The ad reminded me of what I feel is important in a longterm relationship, but is often the first thing sacrificed as lives become overwhelmed with kids, careers and mortgage payments. Passion. Hard to find, important to cherish. I liked the ad because she looked like she was really enjoying the moment.

  17. Janet, that gasp IS what men are buying.

    A man doesn’t buy the four “c”s. He buys the gasp, and the look on his woman’s face when she opens the package.

    She shows the ring for the look on her friends faces when they gasp, and ask “Is that REAL?”

  18. Holly I reviewed the same ad campaign on my blog but for different reasons. This ad is not aimed at men as much as it is at brides to be since they will be influencing the purchase. It is appearing in publications like Elegant Bride and Martha Stewart Weddings along side the standard Tiffany’s and Cartier ads.
    If you look at this ad in context it seems to be saying that with a better diamond I will get a better chance at monogamy. Interesting but strange.

  19. It looks like they purchased a bad stock photo and tried to make it work instead of hiring a commercial photographer.

  20. I think maybe the age/lifestyle of the target market is important, too — not just the gender.

    As a divorced, 40+ woman, the ad doesn’t appeal to me because it seems very one-dimensional. Marriage isn’t just about sex. And I agree with the person that said it looks porn-ish. These days the line between porn and promo is rather blurred.

    On the other hand, if I was a 20-something woman who was newly engaged or expecting to be engaged, I might feel very different about all that. I might identify with the woman and have no problem with the style of the photo.

    But no matter how I look at it, the word monogamy just seems weird. Seems like one of those ads where you just had to be there at the creative brainstorming meeting to get it.

  21. I’d like to point out how much our assumptions affect what we see. Several people have said this ad is for engagement rings. It’s an ad to sell diamonds, and the only diamond shown is in the woman’s ear.

    We can assume, since “monogamy” is the text, that already-engaged or married couples are the market. Gotta keep on selling them diamonds somehow…

    My reflex was to assume the ad targets women. I think the advertiser’s goal is to tell women that if you give all your sexual favors to one man, you should get diamond jewelry as a reward; valuable jewelry as the traditional high-end payment for sex. The advertising plan is: woman sees ad, feels either anxious or unappreciated, and uses the sales pitch the ad has given her to get her husband to buy the item. Advertiser gets unpaid salesperson, diamond sells, advertiser wins. Meanwhile, man and woman get instructed to see their relationship as very fancy prostitution indeed…in fact, the more expensive her diamonds (and the more money the advertiser makes), the less she resembles, you know, a street whore. If you believe the ad’s message. Seems to me it’s far from romantic to tell people sex is prostitution unless somebody gives cash to DeBeers.

    It might matter that this viewer is a gay man. But it also might matter that 80-90% of ALL U.S. advertising is targeted at women (they make the majority of purchasing decisions). And that most current ad schemes are based on a formula: reference sex, increase the viewer’s anxiety level, and present the product as how you get pleasure or reassurance. In good economic times, pleasure is the usual payoff and adventure is the theme. In bad times, reassurance is the promise, and “traditional values” are the theme. So this ad seems pretty typical to me.

  22. nice points to react your title “How Men and Women View Images Differently”

  23. I would agree with the gerneral sentiments here, the add is cery unappealing. There are several issues that point to the advert missing the target audience such as the level of makeup on the females face, a tad overdone! The context is wrong, if they are in the shower, why does she have makeup on in the first place, it makes the image un natural. The background light is bad as well, you look through to a golden blur! All in all, not the most professional of designs!

  24. oh,you are right,
    I think most men like to watch women’s picture Oh, especially the sexy and aggressive, the women most like to see fashion, dress, dress area! Is not it?

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Holly Buchanan is a marketing to women consultant specializing in marketing to women online. You can read her blog at She is the co-author, along with Michele Miller of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer - Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

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