LONDON: Favourable opinions of brands are not built through information-heavy TV ads that seek to persuade the viewer but rather by ads that build empathy and appeal to the emotions, according to a leading industry figure.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, the focus of which is TV strategy, academic Robert Heath states that "successful brand-building TV advertising is 99% subconscious seduction, 1% conscious persuasion".

In support of this thesis, he cited previous research he had carried out on 43 brand-building ads airing on TV in the US and UK.

He had found no correlation between the perceived information in any of the ads and an increase in brand favourability. But when it came to the perceived level of emotive content, there was a significant 56% correlation with an increase in favourability.

"In other words, it was the emotive content – the seduction – that built favourability towards brands, not the message."

Heath highlighted two examples of brands that had famously pursued this strategy with, he argued, conclusive results.

Neither the Gorilla ad from confectionery maker Cadbury nor the launch of rebranded mobile network O2 featured anything in the way of persuading.

But not only had Cadbury seen a 9% lift in sales of its Cadbury Dairy Milk bar, it had also registered a 20% increase in favourability and seen sales increase across its whole product range.

Similarly, the TV ad promoting O2 said nothing about network coverage or prices and consisted mostly of air bubbling through blue water and the line 'See what you can do'. Yet the brand moved from last in the market to first.

The creators maintained this was because the ad had made the brand feel "calm and serene, the antithesis to clutter and chaos, a contrast to the often frenetic world around mobile phones". That was a perfect example of subconscious seduction, said Heath.

He added that while brands could now test their ads for "emotive power", they should also work with their agencies to understand exactly how the creative approach is going to build empathy with your target audience.

"If you just leave it all up to them, don't be surprised if the ad agency incorporates your proposition into some bizarre award-winning creation that your customers absolutely loathe," he cautioned.

Data sourced from Admap