A Picture Says A Thousand Words

It’s the piece of knowledge that every marketer and designer wants to know. Of all the advertising images we are bombarded with during the day, which ones have the most effective impact on us, encourage us to change our behaviour and why? Luckily, Netflix has also been pondering this question and, after recent testing, have found some interesting insights into consumer behaviour.

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How long do you spend considering which television show to watch? On average, Netflix consumers will spend 1.8 seconds considering each title. 1.8 seconds! That’s not long to convey the entire list of reasons why a potential audience member should watch your show. In fact, that’s barely enough time to read the show’s title.

But remember . . . A picture tells a thousand words and it can do it in those 1.8 seconds.

This study was approached from both the data analytics angle and also a creative approach to try and discover the elements which resonated with users, proved memorable enough to encourage return and provided an enticing value proposition inspiring a click. And the picture proved the most powerful asset every entertainment option had at its disposal. But what kinds of pictures inspired action and encouraged its viewers to watch one show over another?

No more than three, please

Viewers’ interest dropped off for images that had more than three people. This is a rather surprising insight, especially for shows which are packed with a seemingly endless array of stars and celebrities (a Netflix-favourite product design). But think about the environment in which viewers are seeing the choices. We respond to faces, and if an image tile with seven people is displayed in the long list of menu options then it is probably near impossible to distinguish between them. It may work for a big billboard or the carousel at the top of the page, but if the actors get too small so will the viewership.

Orange is the New Black

Don’t make it too easy

Netflix isn’t endorsing convoluted or complex tiles, but images where people’s facial expressions are not run-of-the-mill captured longer attention spans from the audience as they tried to uncover the thousand words behind the photo. Stoic or benign expressions are easy to interpret, but a scenario that seems to tell a bit of a story will allow the audience to hypothesise for a few seconds longer.

Kimmy Schmidt

We don’t like the good guys

Image tiles with an easily recognisable villainous character proved more effective than those which represented the hero across the kids and action genres. Now this was a strange one . . . Maybe we want to know that the journey for good to prevail will be a difficult one? Maybe villains never wear stoic expressions because they are always angry? Whatever the reason, they made audiences pause, consider and click.


The image tile only has two purposes. Firstly, to represent the experience that audiences will have watching your show. And secondly, to get them to click on your entertainment option over all the others. But this doesn’t just apply to shows on Netflix. It applies to street posters. Google Display Network Ads. Print advertising. YouTube adverts. A Theatre Poster. And many more. All these mediums are about encouraging customer behaviour so make sure you consider them when you design something to try and attract them!

Now excuse me while I get back to developing my new Netflix original series about three villains that always walk around with confused looks on their faces.