Although ads don't require visuals, research has shown that 70% of viewers will look only at the visual in the ad, where only 30% will read the headline.
Of course, the quality of the visual will also determine who stops to read the ad. Photographs tend to have a higher impact than illustrations. This might be because viewers can relate more to the realism of photography than the conceptual nature of an illustration.
Whether you choose photography or illustration, make sure that your visuals are captivating and arresting. They will make all the difference in getting your ad the attention it deserves.
Lets take a look at two similar ads that promote giving the gift of higher education. The first is quite text-heavy and relies on a rather pedestrian graphic. Which one is more likely to get your attention?
The second, by Red Square Agency, is nearly all graphic, but conveys the message much more clearly.