If there’s anything that drives me crazy, it’s the latest trend or fad to have that first or only vehicle photo be the 3/4 PASSENGER side shot, versus the 3/4 DRIVER side. It is my crusade to figure out why this absurd practice is being pushed so heavily.
You can tell I have an opinion on the matter. I have decades of ad experience under my belt, much of that photographing and video-ing products, including cars – so I speak with some confidence.
Lately, vendors and other advisors are telling me to show the passenger side of the vehicle. When I ask why, I am given the following reasons: that’s the trend, the car flows to the copy / price, it’s the right way of doing it, and the brilliant “someone told us you should do it that way.” That last one came from an automotive website provider. They believe it so much, they actually flip the stock photos on one of our competitor’s websites – so the manufacturer logo is now backwards. Love it.
I’m not completely close-minded and if someone can point to a stunning difference in ROI for passenger side pics, I’ll follow the trend. However, I counter with this:
1) Not every piece, ad or website where the photo is used “flows” that way. Photos are multi-purpose, and it seems to me that you can’t go wrong with the standard 3/4 driver side photo – it should work with nearly everything.
2) The driver’s side is the side the buyer will see 99% of the time when they get into their vehicle, and where they can imagine themselves getting into the vehicle. A customer must imagine themselves in the vehicle, not as a passenger.
3) When you think of a car, it does itself have a flow – from hood to trunk. When you place a vehicle passenger-side out, the viewers brain will hiccup over the “wrong” placement of the vehicle, going from trunk to hood – similar to seeing themselves in the passenger side vs in control as the driver. The eye does glide over the hood to the trunk, as it should with driver-side out.
4) I’ve done testing. When you present a choice of photos of the same vehicle, all things being the same aside from the passenger-side vs the driver-side as a choice, in my testing, the response has been the driver side photo is “better.” The folks I asked didn’t know why really, but outside of an ad, it’s overwhelming driver-side wins. I went out of my way to be fair with the photos, since I’m biased.
What makes this especially frustrating is the manufacturer I work with is only delivering passenger-side stock / line art now. Until this year, it’s was all driver-side.
I understand there’s been testing and eyeballs measured to see where viewers look and click, and these tests may be the reason for the change. But anything that goes against the natural grain of the customer’s brain should be reconsidered. I do my best to present all our photos driver-side out, and replace stock photos with originals from our lot. It’s just the first photo presented of many I take for each vehicle.
I don’t think I’m totally wrong. I also don’t believe that the other way is totally right. Someone had an opinion, and if that’s all it is, I’ll keep my driver-side photos, thank you. If I’m completely off base, I’d love to see some articles about it and I’ll make the change – especially if it means I get paid more every month.
Thanks for listening to my rant. I appreciate any feedback. I’ve seen your presentations a few times and it’s always entertaining and educational. If you have a post or video about this – I will gladly eat it up.
Great question! I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability.
1st off, yes, I believe a driver’s side 3/4 shot should be suitable, but can also understand how a passenger side 3/4 shot could be slightly better. Let me explain.
It was about 2002 when I first heard Cars.com start beating the drums to take the first hero image as passenger side 3/4. They did release some data back then about click-thru rates. Their theory was that the great majority of all vehicles listed on their marketplace was a driver’s side 3/4 shot and the passenger side 3/4 shot was a real differentiator to the vehicle. (Yes, as you mentioned, I recall them saying it was a psychological arrow pointing toward the vehicle info and CTAs).
If you believe, as I sort of do, that a vehicle’s headlights are it’s eyes (bear with me here), then there is ad science proving that the direction of the primary subject’s eyes in an ad direct the viewer to what they should be looking at. A study in heat mapping confirmed this theory. In these two pics below, where the baby’s attention is draws the eyes of the reader.
Now, I’ve seen many dealers experiment with enhancing their primary image and receiving better results, such as adding filters, overlaying large text, and more. (Heck, we even have a dealer client playing around with taking pictures of the undercarriage on all used cars for sale.) At last year’s DrivingSales Executive Summit, the Digital Marketing Manager of Weins Canada, Josh Pogue, presented a case study with resounding data showing that having your first picture be the cockpit and dashboard was most beneficial.
(A shot from the second row into the first row showing dashboard, steering wheel, center console, etc). He generated significantly more leads, clicks, VDP views, etc. I think it is likely because it differentiates itself from all other pics on the automotive marketplaces. However, CarStory released great merchandising studies for used car shoppers stating that particular image is most valuable to them, actually.
I’ve seen other dealers create a collage of vehicle photos as their primary image, again, seeing more leads/clicks because it looks different from others. Appears more dynamic. Sorry I don’t have the access to the data out there, but there is existing logic behind the driver’s side 3/4 shot not being the most ideal. We had conducted a merchandising study called The Science of Online Car Listings a few years ago downloadable on our main site, https://dealerknows.com, that includes more data regarding # of vehicle photos preferred, but not so much vehicle photo angle.
Nonetheless, you’ve supplied one of the longer and more thought out Ask the Experts questions we’ve ever received so I’m happy to take the time to share with you my opinions. Keep up the great work. When you care so much about something you do, you’ll always be more successful than those that don’t care of the product or outcome they support.