DOSE OF REALITY
"Real" people, not models, enliven
ad campaigns and lead to real sales
If your print advertising is lame, you may want to administer some reality
therapy. One jeweler, Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry, swears by it. The company,
based in Baton Rouge, La., has been using real-life customers in its ads
for 19 years.
Real people offer several advantages over professional models, says Al
McDuff, creative director and co-owner of Diane Allen & Associates.
His agency came up with the real-people idea and has been handling Lee Michaels'
advertising ever since. It runs in newspapers, on billboards and in local
arts and humanities publications.
For starters, he says, customers relate to real folks better than to
models. "People look at the ad and say 'That's an attractive person,
but not fake. That could be me.'" And because the models are nearly
always prominent in society or business - the taste- and trend-setters of
their towns - people want to imitate them and shop where they shop. (For
security reasons, the ads almost never give the subjects' names. Their faces,
known to hundreds, if not thousands of people, are enough to get the message
across.) Lastly, McDuff points out, they don't charge a fee.
Real people are great to work with, McDuff says. Tell them, "Hold
the box up," he says, and they ask, "How high?" His stable
of participants has included some unlikely prospects. One particularly modest
man agreed to have his photo blown up as big as a bus and plastered on billboards.
The man's face, shown from the side, has a smear of lipstick on it. The
tagline reads, "All I said was 'It's from Lee Michaels.'" The
man had just gotten engaged after being widowed for many years and wanted
to kick up his heels a little, McDuff explains.
There are a few rules to remember when you're photographing real people:
1. Your photographer must have a studio where the subjects can go to
2. If your ads will run in black and white, your hair and makeup person
must know how to apply makeup for that type of photography it's different
than for color photos.
3. You need a good retouch person to spruce up the picture after it's
taken. This person will often put in some long hours. McDuff recalls the
story of one businesswoman who appeared in an ad and was approached at work
a few days later by a subordinate in her 20s. "I saw a picture of a
woman in the paper the other day," the 20-something told her boss.
"She looked just as you might have looked when you were younger."
4. Be sure the model signs a release and understands how the photo will
be used. McDuff once failed to do so. Unfortunately, the subject was married
to a lawyer.
5. Have someone with good taste and a strong visual sense attend the
photo shoot. A second pair of eyes can be invaluable, McDuff says. But avoid
having too many people there or the subject will feel self-conscious.Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.