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In Your Eyes

Take it from American Express: The right visual cues draw readers into your ad.

This story appears in the February 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

One of the most venerable of American advertisers, "supported" by a few generations of professional pickpockets, is American Express Travelers Cheques. The famed credit card company continues to get its message out in captivating ways, and its advertising offers lessons you may be able to use in your own campaign.

A great example is the ad shown below. It's a bird's-eye view of how you can unknowingly be relieved of your wallet by a passerby, who then toddles off with your vacation cash. The ad gets an A+ for ad composition, plopping the two-part headline, "You" and then (drop your eyes) "Your Wallet," where you least expect them. Each part is set in a small, black balloon that points to where you should look in the picture. This unexpected assemblage of elements is a fresh way to draw the reader's eye, because most ads have their headlines nailed to the top of the page. Together with the visual of the beach and the juxtaposition of the vacationers and the thief, you just can't get much better at conveying an advertising message in a veritable eye-blink.

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