Start a Project
Call Us  0161 505 1048

Design & UX, Paid advertising

Captivating Senses: Authentic Visuals in Advertising

13 March 2017
Authentic Visuals in Advertising | Neon

The conception that humans are visual creatures is no myth; after all, 90% of transmitted information in the human brain is visual. Senses go beyond touch and taste, with the notion of sensory imagery becoming more prominent in the world of art and design. Whether being digested through television or print, advertisements need to appeal to the consumer in such a way that they provoke a desire to find out more and invest in that product, often in a split few seconds.

Inspired by Getty Images’ 2017 visual trend predictions, this article investigates the current appetite for supersensory imagery in advertising and the public’s craving for raw, relatable content that resonates with reality.

The quintessence of gender

Advertising itself is often skewed by external stimuli in order to remain pertinent, potent and present. The attempts to eradicate distinctive gender roles in advertising have been an ongoing and widely publicised affair, however, 2017 has seen the debates around gender politics intensify greatly. Sexism surrounding advertising has received worldwide coverage and even boasts its own segment on The Huffington Post. More so than ever, advertisers are under pressure to extend the “genderblend” trend and depict adverts without gender stereotyping or unrealistic body standards; a media trend which some have argued has created sociocultural standards of beauty which are unattainable. There has been a plethora of research to indicate that the public is negatively affected by constant exposure to unrealistic media ideals, and the prevalence of this in society can be summarised here.

With the misrepresentation of the female gender being at the centre of controversy, Getty Images has reported that the search term for “edgy women” is up 54% on iStock; a term that will feed in results of women sporting tattoos, piercings and other modifications or fashions that are not fed into the mainstream advertising world. These “gritty” images are a far-cry away from the rose-tinted advertisements that delineate an “ideal” illusion of a woman, thus resonating more with reality and “real” senses and emotions of the audience.

Bodyform Advertisement | Captivating Senses: Authentic Visuals in Advertising | Neon

Taking a pragmatic approach to advertising is a bold move for many brands, and like any advertising campaign, the prospect of public backlash is a possibility. An industry seemingly unmoved by this potential is femcare. Similarly to Bodyform in the United Kingdom, sanitary brand Easy in Canada has taken a very frank approach to marketing its products to women, launching the “No Shame” campaign in 2016 to seek out and abolish the taboo stigma that surrounds menstruation. CEO of Easy, Alyssa Bertram acknowledged that the ads may make some people feel uncomfortable, however, she wouldn’t shy away from the reaction.

Sometimes we need to question the things we’re uncomfortable with and why. If we can get that conversation started, I’d be very happy to be a part of that.

Challenging the norm when it comes to advertising does not necessarily require tackling taboo topics, as American retailer Organic Balance proved with its “Real Morning Report” advertisement. After surveying 1,000 women to find out what their morning routine was really like, Organic Balance produced a tongue-in-cheek video ad that mocks the starry-eyed perception most retailers take on breakfast habits.

The advertisement success can be owed to the sardonic humour throughout the 90 second insight into the lives of many American women, with many trials and tribulations of the morning identified in the video relatable for the majority of the public.

Unfiltered, untouched and unabashed

The advertising industry is substantially oversaturated with countless “picture perfect” prints of carefully posed and photoshopped subjects in unnatural and sterile environments. More so than ever, the public is hyper-aware of the importance of truth and transparency. Similarly to the above point on gender, misconceptions need to be dissolved to ensure that visually, the public digests a realistic and relatable image, rather than something that is diluted and distant from reality.

The aesthetic of bold, documentary-style imagery in advertising and publications ring true to photojournalism and the motion of telling a story through a visual. This approach is increasingly popular with younger audiences, as the spontaneity of unfiltered imagery entices potential consumers to think more about the context surrounding the scene.

Vice Magazine Covers | Captivating Senses: Authentic Visuals in Advertising | Neon

Getty Images reports that searches for “unfiltered” images are up by 219%, a search term that is closely linked to terms such as “provocative” and “disruptive.” Raw images free from extensive editing carry the notion of being more honest and fearless, provoking more thought from the consumer and a sense of authenticity from the brand.

Straying away from glossy advertisement spreads in fashion magazines, Marc Jacobs is a brand which has become easily recognisable for distinctive and often risqué imagery that is reminiscent of retro polaroid photos that of course, could not be retouched. This “laid bare” approach to representing products and pieces provides a sense of authenticity to consumers and an honest representation of the product at hand.

Marc Jacobs Print Ad Example | Captivating Senses: Authentic Visuals in Advertising | Neon

Since 1963, the Pirelli Calendar has been distributed in incredibly limited quantities to a restricted number of high-profile clients and celebrities. With such a prestigious and rich history, the 44th edition of this legendary creation went against the grain as the images featured were free from extensive editing and touch-ups. Titled as “Emotional”, it was emphasised that the aim of the calendar was “not to shoot about perfect bodies but to capture sensitivity and emotion, laying bare the souls of women in the images.”

With more high-profile businesses seeking to serve raw and honest imagery, a standard has been set for advertisers to offer a certain degree of transparency and integrity in their visual creations.

Vivienne Westwood promo photo | Captivating Senses: Authentic Visuals in Advertising | Neon


Advertising has a duty to remain contemporary and in-tune with social and political developments globally, methodically analysing and adapting to current trends and fashions. With the sole aim of enticing the public, advertisements that seem “out of touch” with reality and the consumer run the risk of being disregarded as being something fictional and thereby unappealing and unobtainable to the public.

The two key visual trends touched on in this article hold the same value: advertisements need to provide an authentic, visually bold and fearlessly real stand point for the public to relate and feel empathy towards. The industry of advertising and marketing orbits around connecting with consumers on a personal and emotional level, and producing advertisements that appeal to the senses of the reader or viewer betters the chance of connecting through those thoughts and feelings.

What are your thoughts on the adverts highlighted in this article? Do you see “raw” imagery as something that can spark appeal or controversy? Tweet us @createdbyneon.

Related Items

Brand Logo Quiz

Five Reasons Why Your Facebook Ads Are Getting Disapproved

Top 5 UX errors and how they impact your online success

We are here to help

Want to be at the top of the search ranks? How about a website that’ll give your audience a great experience? Or maybe you’re looking for a campaign that’ll drive more leads? Get in touch to find out how we can help.

Start a project
The design and dev team making notes | Start a project with Neon | Neon
Employee on telephone
Group work
Designer laughing
Computer typed on
Sausage dog
Writing on white board
Designer planning sitemap
Employee posting notes on board
Developer working
Group photo of CEO and Brand Ambassador
Employee in meeting
Employee in Meeting

Stay up to date

Privacy Policy

© Neon Digital Agency Ltd 2021. Part of

Inc & Co Logo