What would you prefer - something that is flashy and graphically enchanting, or something that is plain? In Entourage talk, would you prefer Vincent or Eric? I think most of us would prefer the enchanting route since we'd like to enjoy doing something while we're actually doing it. Seth Godin talks about whether we move towards what is good for us or what we think is good for us. Over on VerticalResponse, the focus is on ensuring a text-based email is delivered along with the HTML version - the "E" version vs. the "Vinnie" version.
As marketers, I think we're always trying to find a happy medium between these seemingly opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum options - We want our message to be noticed, so we aim for the the flashy message. As customers, we don't always purchase what we need, but rather what we think we need, maybe buying into the flashy message.
So, where is this happy medium? For me, I think it's built into what our goals are: if we're looking for short-term winnings then maybe the flashy approach is best. I mean, we'll probably get more eyeballs moving towards an image and away from the actual message/text.
But, if we're in it for the long haul, with both ourselves and our customers, then perhaps dialing down on the images and whiz-bang approach is the right way to go. If a customer buys our services because they think it's what they need, only to realize they actually needed something different, it might cause more work for everyone in the big picture (and possibly some ill feelings).
Certainly, the message isn't always the defining point in an interaction, but it's likely the first step in setting up a relationship.