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When you see a TV infomercial, they always use the jarring contrast of a big yellow font on a blue background, with a small viewport of video displaying the product. Does anyone know if there is a method to this madness? Does yellow on blue convert especially well?

Modern graphic design has moved so far beyond these terrible commercials. I feel as if there must be a reason for this atrocity of a color scheme.

Follow-up question:

Would this same style be effective on the Internet? Can jarring colors be used to draw the user's attention without losing conversions due to the bad color scheme?

Screenshot.

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  • My opinion: It's called subliminal advertising; using an image or colors to shape your thoughts or perceptions. Most recently, blue and yellow specifically, are all over TV advertising; more often than ever before. Coincidentally, those are the national colors of Ukraine. Knowing the relationship that exists with the media the current administration, are the ads being used to subconsciously shape viewers' alliance with Ukraine regarding the Russian and Ukrainian war for political purposes?
    – user162256
    Oct 2, 2022 at 17:53
  • Blue and yellow are almost complementary on the colour chart. It's why Ikea design works. But the ad's typography is godawful. Feb 17, 2023 at 14:19

4 Answers 4

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Yellow on blue isn't all that jarring of a color combo, actually. That said, why are informercials cheap looking and ugly? I think it's because:

  • they are made cheap (the goal is to maximize profit)
  • they seem to work (why fix what isn't broke?)
  • maybe they're designed to jar you awake after passing out on the sofa with the TV on or to have loud advertising imagery and sound implanted in your unconscious sleeping mind at 3 in the morning.
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It's simple! They do it to draw your eye to two things:

  1. Price.
  2. Phone number.

As per your example, the largest and brightest font your eye is drawn to is the price: $14.95. The second-largest font your eye is then drawn to is the phone number: 1-800-232-0400.

Even if you know nothing else, they want to make sure you know this:

For your life to be complete, you must buy this product for the low price of $14.95 by calling 1-800-232-0400!

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  • To take this answer a step further, the primary point of sale for these products is their phone number, web site, or other info on the screen here. While ads for cereal don't need to give you any information about the cereal or where to buy it, these commercials need to give you a ton of info, so they use these high-contrast, easy to read screens. I think it's less that the layout is jarring and more that the application of this use to TV, which is not designed for reading a lot of text, is jarring.
    – Daniel
    Jan 24, 2014 at 18:59
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I personally think only cheap products do this. Never saw a big name brand following this style.

The purpose of the ad is to grab attention, and this serves that purpose.There are other better ways to do this but the newer, or should I rather say cheaper, brands don't bother to pay an ad company to make a good looking ad and wind up with this crappy, thoughtless and hence less costly advert.

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The bright blue color acts as a visual palette cleanser and increases the perceived duration of the commercial. Additionally, by using a recognizable format, the sender is able to efficiently communicate that there is a buying opportunity being presented with the potential for immediate action. Not wasting time communicating that there's an offer being made allows the advertiser to spend more of the time elaborating on the benefits of the offer to the consumer, heightening the perceived risk of not acting, and setting the reference pricing to something favorable.

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