NEW YORK: An increasing number of brand owners in the US are replacing campaigns based around functional messages with more emotional appeals.

AT&T, the telecoms giant, recently rolled out its "Rethink possible" platform, which includes a range of TV spots with a light-hearted tone.

One ad shows a child drawing a picture which then comes to life, while another commercial features a variety of landmarks across the US being covered with sheets of orange fabric.

Such a strategy marks a substantial diversion from AT&T's previous campaign, which emphasised the technical strengths of its network and pitched it in direct competition with Verizon.

However, Esther Lee, svp, brand marketing and advertising at AT&T, suggested its change in priorities actually constituted a natural evolution.

"Comparative work in general has a certain life cycle," she said. "It's important to ensure that people aren't misled. Once that's done, it's important to elevate the conversation."

According to Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester, AT&T's decision to "move away from the smackdown approach" was probably a wise one.

"I don't believe those campaigns did much more than sharpen the divide between those loyal to each provider," he said.

Golvin also warned that the latest effort will need to demonstrate that it genuinely boasts unique benefits.

"The success of the campaign will depend on whether AT&T can successfully convince customers and prospects that what it offers truly does expand the range of possibilities for them," he said.

Kraft, the food group, has similarly modified the communications for its Macaroni & Cheese brand, deploying more stimulating creative content instead of spots centred on price.

Its new ads contain taglines like "You know you love it" and "The most fun you can have with your clothes on", in a bid to tap in to the emerging optimism observable among consumers.

"Last year ... thinking about how to smartly spend one's money was very top of mind," Eileen Sharkey Rosenfeld, senior brand manager at Kraft, said.

In contrast, she added, research now proves there is "a great opportunity to bring adult consumers back to our brand."

David Lubars, chief creative officer of BBDO North America, argued that using emotion carries specific advantages, such as ensuring that shoppers were aware of the ideals behind a product.

"Part of what brand messages do [is] make sure we're communicating on the same page," he said.
"It's always good to transparently show your values and your beliefs because that's what they're buying."

As previously reported, a survey by the Association of National Advertisers, found that 38% of marketers were adopting this kind of approach, while over 60% were using functional appeals.

Data sourced from AdWeek; additional content by Warc staff