Strong insights generally lead to ads that are more emotional than functional in nature, according to a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

John Parker, Scott Koslow and Lawrence Ang, all from Macquarie University, wrote this study, which you can find here, with Alexander Tevi, from Nottingham Trent University.

“Consumer insight influences creative work by shifting the orientation of creative execution toward emotional appeals, rather than functional appeals,” they reported.

One prospective reason for this outcome is that strong insights are typically based on human motivation, whereas functional appeals are “usually product-related.”

While strong insights “shift creative work” towards emotion, however, they do not limit the thinking of creatives. Instead, they were found to “liberate” creatives, who use a strong insight as a jumping off point for their work.

These conclusions were presented in a paper entitled, “How does consumer insight support the leap to a creative idea: Inside the creative process - Shifting the advertising appeal from functional to emotional.” 

And they resulted from a study conducted with 60 creative professionals from 15 ad agencies. These creatives were split into three equally-sized groups, each of which was asked to create a TV and print ad for a fictional auto brand.

One of these groups was given a strong insight, while the second worked from a “weak” insight, and the third received “no primed insight” to serve as a control.

The insights provided were pre-tested among several account planners to rank their strength. And the creative work produced during the exercise was “evaluated and coded” by a senior art director and a copy-based creative director.

Overall, the authors discovered, if “insight is lacking or weak in quality, attempting to develop highly emotive advertising may not work. Diagnosing the strength of an insight thus well may be the basis of a quality brief.”

A caveat noted in the paper was that the link between a strong insight and more emotional creative produced could be interpreted in another way.

It is possible, the authors argued, that these insights were “inherently emotional in nature, and therefore it is not surprising that the resulting creative executions were also emotional”, an area further research could address.

Broader investigation is also needed to assess whether consumers believe insight leads to more emotive advertising, and how insight impacts their attitudes towards advertising, brand attitudes and purchase intent.

The experimental conditions for the research also required work to be produced at a much higher speed, and in a different way, than usual. Exploring more powerful functional insights might deliver valuable knowledge, too.

“Overall, there is much more to learn about how creative professionals make their celebrated magic, but this study still provides a road map to finding emotional advertising, something that starts with consumer insight,” the authors stated.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff