It’s understood that emotions are important in advertising but which ones? Research in China for Timberland suggests that the lack of negative emotions matters more than the presence of positive ones.

An ESOMAR paper, Timberland: Unspeakable Truths – neuro-science and AI enable better identification of the emotions conveyed by advertising, details how a Kantar team used facial coding to measure viewers’ expressiveness, valence and attention and an AI application to associate the properties of an image – its colours, sharpness, curves, angles, etc – with one or more of six need states in an assessment of the emotion being conveyed by an ad.

The researchers, while acknowledging the limitations of their approach, report that the amount of net positive emotions generated by an ad (valence) has a strong relationship with its likely on-air impact.

“Consistent with other markets, ads that make people feel good generally do well in-market,” they note.

But going a stage further, and breaking down the net emotion into its constituent positive expression (smile) and negative expressions (frown, disgust, smirk, etc.), “what seems to come across is that the mere presence of positive emotion itself is not highly associated with probability of success”.

“It is absence of the negative emotions that seems to matter more,” the researchers state.

“A frown, for instance, indicates a sense of confusion or disbelief. To the extent that ads elicit these negative expressions (e.g. because of an unclear claim or a muddled storyline), it places a greater burden on viewers, hence raising the likelihood of tune-out and reducing cut-through.”

But they add that an ability to tell a story lucidly and credibly may matter more in some product categories than others.

Thus, in categories where advertising tends to be more rational and problem-solution driven, like Personal Care or Dairy, “the linkage between net positive emotions (valence) and advertising cut-through (awareness index) is driven by the absence of frown”.

In categories that are so well-understood as to not need much explanation (e.g. soft drinks), or which are so complex that an adequate explanation of a benefit cannot fit within the time limit of a normal ad (e.g. automotive), “emotion can do the heavy lifting and seems to play a greater role in advertising cut-through”.

The researchers further note that ads which emotionally align with their brand – such as Timberland’s 2018 campaign in China – cut through better and would therefore be expected to have better in-market performance.

Sourced from ESOMAR