Netflix Shows the Power of a Picture

Netflix has a problem: How does it convey what a show or movie is about with only one small image?

Netflix’s Global Manager of Creative Services, Nick Nelson, recently wrote about this problem over on their blog and shared their techniques for capturing people’s attention with one quick image. The highlights:

“Emotions are an efficient way of conveying complex nuances

It’s well known that humans are hardwired to respond to faces — we have seen this to be consistent across all mediums. But it is important to note that faces with complex emotions outperform stoic or benign expressions — seeing a range of emotions actually compels people to watch a story more. This is likely due to the fact that complex emotions convey a wealth of information to members regarding the tone or feel of the content, but it is interesting to see how much members actually respond this way in testing. An example of this is seen in the recent winning image (“winning” means it drove the most engagement) for the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt below:

Nice Guys Often Finish Last

Throughout our research, we have seen that using visible, recognizable characters (and especially polarizing ones) results in more engagement. Our members respond to villainous characters surprisingly well in both kids and action genres in particular. For Dragons: Race to the Edge, the two images of villainous characters seen below significantly outperformed all others:”

The interesting thing is Netflix’s desire to draw people in with one strong image isn’t unique. Live entertainment organizations also need to catch audiences’ attention with a simple poster, flyer or ad. As Jim has said in his post Even Virtual Stuff Needs a “Cover”:

“The ‘cover’ image matters an awful lot. In a setting like Goldstar (or any website) that lists lots of different events, the ‘cover art’ for an event is the single most powerful initial attraction point. I’m not saying it’s enough to sell your event, but I would go so far as to say that a poor or dull ‘cover’ will make sure your event doesn’t get sold.”

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