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Hishamuddin Siri 1, Hakimi Halim 2, Mohamad Zamhari Abol Hassan 3, Mohamad Faizuan Mat 4, and Abdul
Walid Ali 5
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak


In advertising field, the uses of visual metaphors are commonly applied to express meaning more creatively
while in the same time without losing the entire connection of the genuine message passed on. This study had
been conducted to evaluate the effects of visual metaphors in tourism advertisement. The study also highlights
the persuasive effect of visual metaphors in advertising. By using several methods such as interpretive of post-
modernist literature and interpretive of positivist literature, it had found that the metaphorical images play the
important role in visual tourism advertisement in order to persuade the tourism consumers. It is confirm that
visual metaphor could be used as one of advertisement strategy for tourism advertisement. This kind of approach
was overwhelmingly changed the ordinary tourism visual advertisement. However the usage of visual
metaphorical alone can still is debated, as an advertising style and fashion are always dynamic according to the
required period.

Keywords: Advertising; Visual Metaphors; Tourism; Persuasive

In advertising the uses of visual metaphors are commonly applied to express meaning more
creatively while in the same time, not losing the context in order to convey visual message. As
stated by Sopory and Dillard (2002) Metaphor involved the relation of rhetorical style that
linking two unrelated objects, and because of the comparing activity, the characteristic
between two objects is transferred to one another. For example, they are multiple commonly
used visual metaphors some of them are heart symbol means love, train whistle protruding on
head means the food is hot and bulb lighting up means an idea or inspiration. Sometimes,
visual metaphors are applied indistinctly such as a couple sitting on a branch facing the sun
indicating love is in the air, jeans encased in cement indicating sturdy material and twinkling
lights of the city neon upon arriving dusk indicating exciting night life. The effects which
mentioned earlier can be achieved by well-planned camera techniques and some photo

At the moment, influence on visual images produce more superficial with the introduction of
editing in digital photography. Visual images are the most important medium in promoting
tourist destinations. After the two year of invention of photography by Louis Daguerre in
1839, Thomas Cook sanctioned a train to run a short recreation excursion, an occasion that by
and large can be seen as denoting the start of mass tourism (Garlick, 2002). The utilization of
photography in tourism marketing is turning out to be more basic now, that innovation of
photography turn out to be more advance contrasted with the prior years. Suitable use of
visual images in tourism marketing will increase the chance of influencing prospective
tourists on choosing the tourism site. According to Kadry (2016) the explosions and
extravagance of the images era nowadays leads peoples to see and obsess to look and interact

with the images most of the time rather than read words. The images involved creativity that
bombarded society every single day and from that, it attract visual consumer to leave the usual
object and focus to the soul of the images as effective channel of communication.

1.1. Terminologies
1.1.1 Metaphor

Metaphor is a term talk that refers to a saying or a linguistic tools in which a word or
expression that actually indicates one thing is utilized metaphorically to something else as
method for recommending similarity or relationship between the two. The word is derived
from two Greek roots – meta with and phero bear – which in combination denote „transfer‟ of
meaning (Renton, 1990). There are also a few definitions can be applied for metaphor which

a) Metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two
unlike things that actually have something in common (Walter & Woodford, 2005).
b) Metaphor is an expository style of looking at two unique items, and on account of
correlations, the normal for one article is exchanged to the next level (Sopory and
Dillard, 2002).
c) Metaphor has been depicted as "an expression which portrays a man or entity in such a
literarily (Walter & Woodford, 2005).

1.1.2 Visual Metaphors

Visual metaphors are similar to verbal metaphors yet visual metaphors can also be
characterized as visual argumentation in that it employs the syntactic structure of visual
persuasion (Messaris, 1997). There are two elements identified in visual metaphors which are
metaphorical style of rhetoric and visual argumentation. Both of the elements are
characterized as implicit argumentation. This characteristic is likely to increase audiences‟
cognitive elaboration when they process the message, which may lead to greater persuasion
(Se-Hoon Jeong, 2008). The uses of visual metaphors are reflective on common visual
advertising. Metaphorical style of rhetoric and visual argumentation, both of which can be
characterized as implicit argumentation, are likely to increase audiences‟ cognitive elaboration
when they process the message, which may lead to greater persuasion (Ibid, 2008).


2.1 Previous Studies on Visual Metaphors
The role of photograph in tourism is very common. Due to significant rise of technology in
photography, the world is starting to rely on photographs as one of the means of
communication whereby photographs are regarded as one of the best way to convey messages
(Hunter, 2008). There are multiple studies done on visual metaphors in tourism advertising
such as research done by Pawlowski, Badzinski & Mitchell (1998) on the effect of metaphors
in print advertisement on children‟s comprehension and their perception; McQuarrie &
Phillips (2005) on how indirect persuasion works by applying pictures and words metaphors
in advertising; Hynes & Janson (2007) on the difference of cultural congruity in various
cultures in regards of the underlying meanings of ad elements; Lagerwerf & Meijers (2008)
on the aspect of openness in metaphorical and straightforward advertisement; Se-Hoon Jeong
(2008) on persuasive effects of visual metaphors in advertising, whether it is mainly

attributable to visual argumentation of the advertisement or mainly metaphorical rhetoric in
nature; and Djafarova & Andersen (2010) on linguistic perspectives of visual metaphors.

Photographs obvious possess the pulling power of visual images on tourist Jenkins (2003). As
revealed by Lagerwerf & Meijers (2008), their research findings revealed that consumer take
pleasures in unraveling complex implications in promoting, therefore increasing the
probability of the advertisement‟s persuasive capability. Besides that, by manipulating the
availability of photography technology, it will enable the advertisers to send the messages
effectively and also it will enable them to effectively convey its messages to the audience.
There are numerous researches done outside of the country in regards of the usage of visual
metaphors in advertisement. Visual metaphors have become a commonly used approach to
deliver advertising and marketing communication messages (Boozer et al., 1991) but not
much discussion and research done on the aspect of visual metaphors been conducted in


This study is a multidisciplinary research whereby it will acquire literature from various
disciplines such as arts, social sciences and tourism studies. The only problem with
multidisciplinary study is there is no common theoretical base on the wide differing subject
matter (Jenkins, 2003). As proposed by Jenkins (2003) there are two major perspectives can
be applied in this type of study which is from post-modernist literature and positivist
literature. Post-modernist studies on arts and tourism have been more to understanding images
of popular icons to explain the behaviour and social construct of the community (Hunter,
2008; Jenkins, 2003). For modernist studies however, the study is more towards a deductive
approach on understanding psychology and marketing (Jenkins, 2003). However, this research
will embrace both qualitative and quantitative approach which will reflect both paradigms
from both perspectives with the intention that the findings in this study will be more
comprehensive at explaining the subject matter.

This both approaches that had been used are undeniably important because it allows the
researcher to further understand the detail of subject matter that cannot be actively discussed
by using just a single approach. For example, their observation towards the advertisements
and the convincingness of the promotions, since it focuses just on deciphering on the message
by the content and pictures.

That is why this approach is also aiming on understanding the aspect of persuasiveness in the
elements of visual metaphors which hold intrinsic messages and also dynamic properties that
have power to persuade the customers.

Should also be noted that image is not empirical object (Gartner, 1993; Jenkins, 2003) but
metaphors is however, empirical. For example, the image in the picture itself may be
duplicated but that single picture may suggest differing interpretation among different
individuals by adding up linguistic text next to it. That is why this kind of research should
employ both qualitative and quantitative approaches in which will enable the researcher to
understand visual images of metaphors in a discursive and interpretative analysis. First,
samples of brochures and images will be taken from local Tourist Information Centre,
Sarawak Ministry of Tourism Board and Sarawak online tourism advertisement sites. List of
images depiction based on the brochures and websites images will be listed down and
analyzed using content analysis. This is done to explore the representation of tourism
metaphorical images. Having established the list, researcher will create his own sets of
metaphorical images for advertising Sarawak which will mainly reflect Sarawak from every
aspect - its icons, landscape, activities held, people, and native cultures. Respondents will be
invited to take a simple questionnaire survey. They will be request to view the images while
filling out the questionnaires. In the questionnaires, some open-ended questions will also be
asked. This will help the researcher answering some interpretive queries later. The population
frame will be prospective tourist in Malaysia. Our sample will comprise 90 respondents
selected using convenience sampling. Convenience sampling is selected because it is
impossible to determine the real number of tourists visiting at one time. It is also impossible to
track them down to determine the possible prospective respondents since they are not residing
permanently or registering formally as tourists.

Respondents will be divided into three groups containing 30 respondents each. Each group
will be presented with different test image. This is the most minimum number can be set up
for each group since a group of more than 30 respondents each will make the number of
sample increasing to more than 90 respondents. The grouping for analysis is as follows:
Table 1.
Image Elements
Image A Non-metaphorical image + verbal
Image B Metaphorical image + verbal argumentation
Image C Metaphorical image only

Group Distribution
Analysis will be done by analyzing closed-ended questions and open-ended
questions provided in the questionnaires. The questionnaire is divided into three
sections. The first section is Personal Details section whereby this section
contains demographic questions for the respondents. The second section is on
Persuasiveness whereby this section contains six set of questions that calculate
the instrument of persuasiveness.

This persuasive instrument will be measured based on items used in Jeong
(2008). The response options for this section were on 5-point Likert scale with
response option from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree". Persuasiveness
between each images were measured by comparing mean scores between each
images. The last section is respondent‟s perception whereby this section contains
five sets of simple open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are purposely
used in this questionnaire in order capture in-depth understanding of
respondent‟s perception and understanding on the images provided. This section
can help respondents to provide explanations on question which cannot be
answered in statistical analysis.

Figure 1. Sample of subject and Textual information of Melanau Long House, Kampung Sok,


With sample size of 90 respondents, respondents will be randomly divided to 3 groups of 30
respondents each. Each group will get different test image. The group distribution is as
Table 2. Frequency Distribution for Images
Image Frequency Elements
Image A 30 Non-metaphorical image + verbal argumentation
Image B 30 Metaphorical image + verbal argumentation
Image C 30 Metaphorical image only
Total 90

Analysis is based on comparing Likert scale mean scores on persuasiveness between each of
images provided. The response options were on 5-point Likert scale with response option
from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree". The comparative mean scores are as follow:

Table 5.2. Mean Score on Persuasiveness between Images
Image Frequency Mean
Image A 30 1.9481
Image B 30 1.8852
Image C 30 2.3407

Figure 5.6. Means Plot for Persuasive Score between Images

The means plots for Image A and Image B are situated closer with each other compared to
Image C. From the plot we can see the difference on persuasiveness mean score. Image C is
seen as having the largest mean score of 2.3407 while Image A and Image B get 1.9481 and
1.8852 respectively. This indicates Image C (image presenting metaphorical aspect only) have
lower persuasive value compared to Image A and Image B.

Based on the result, Image A (non-metaphorical image + verbal argumentation) and Image B
(metaphorical image + verbal argumentation) are very persuasive compared to Image C
(metaphorical image only). Evidently, based on this it can be summated that verbal
argumentation plays an important role in advertisement persuasiveness. This can be seen by
the lower mean score obtained by Image A and Image B which both have verbal
argumentation in its images. It implies that customers will most likely be persuaded by the
play of words accompanied with the image. Based on the result, metaphorical style image also
play an important role in persuasiveness. This can be observed from the lowest mean score
obtained by Image B. As indicated earlier, Image B contains both elements of visual
metaphors which are metaphorical image and verbal argumentation. Therefore, it indicates
most of the customers are likely to be persuaded by advertisement which contains both
metaphorical images and verbal argumentation. However, should also be noted that the use of
metaphorical images are not quite effective as compared to images which combined with
verbal argumentation when it is presented by its own. This can be proved by the highest mean
score obtained by Image C.

It can be concluded that from the data collection from both content analysis and
questionnaires this research has reached its objectives. Tourism advertisement is a very
important section in tourism sector. This is because tourism advertisement is the first
impression of the whole trip or holiday. The right usage of persuasive elements may change
and persuade recipients into going to the holiday. Based on the literature review, it is
confirmed that visual metaphor could be used as one of advertisement approaches including
for tourism advertisement. It may be uncomplicated to produce product advertisement by
using visual metaphor since it is easier relating products to metaphor and rhetoric. However it
is very different for service related sector such as tourism. Nevertheless if the right method
used, it is confirmed that visual metaphor may give desired effects to the target group.

Acknowledgement: UNIMAS, Faculty of Applied & creative Arts, Small Grant Scheme
(SGS) F03/SGS/1482/2016/10

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