What are examples of visual metaphors

N / A? Roger that? Using visual metaphors

One can beautifully show in a picture that cigarettes should give the feeling of freedom or that refreshment from a beer corresponds to a sip of spring water. But do potential customers always understand that? The following tips can help to present a message in pictures and yet clearly.

In the past century, images have become more important than words in advertising. Advertising motifs often rely on visual metaphors - for example a comparison between soft handkerchiefs and flowers. Through this comparison, one of the elements is understood and evaluated in a new way. As a result, certain aspects of a product can gain in importance and attention. But not every viewer can relate to it and they may miss the advertising message because they do not understand it. That is why it makes sense to examine the effectiveness of this stylistic device.

Just a matter of the head

The authors Praggyan Mohanty and Srinivasan Ratneshwar examined the intelligibility of visual metaphors in advertising in three experiments. They found that visual metaphors with a large difference in meaning between each element are difficult to understand. However, people who like to deal with demanding things have fewer problems with it.

For particularly difficult metaphors, it seems to help to look at their elements together and not independently of one another. For example, if an ad relates a car and a lion, the elements are very different. However, if you concentrate on the possible similarities, the aspects of strength, courage and status become apparent. These would be less easy to identify without the lion.


The further apart the meanings of the elements used in a visual metaphor, the more difficult it is to understand. But if you are dealing with an intellectual target group, visual metaphors are particularly suitable.

Although this result relates to advertising images, it is certainly also valid for visual PR measures.

  • Visual metaphors shouldn't be too complicated!
  • Complicated metaphors only in demanding environments!
  • 3 studies carried out with different groups of people
  • Between 219 and 473 test subjects
  • The test subjects looked at fictitious advertising images
  • They should assess how well they understood the images
  • Before the experiment, it was ensured that the images really had the desired properties
  • In the second experiment, students as test subjects; Results difficult to generalize

📖 Read more: P. Mohanty & S. Ratneshwar. (2015). Did you get it? Factors Influencing Subjective Comprehension of Visual Metaphors in Advertising. Journal of Advertising, 44 (3), 232-242.