What is the route to advertising effectiveness? Research and Marketing functions have long believed that the delivery of a well-branded and persuasive message with ‘impact’ is the answer.

What many people don’t realise, however, is that this ‘persuasion’ or ‘information-processing’ theory of how advertising works actually has its origins in early face-to-face selling manuals, which were translated into a framework for print advertising well before the advent of TV, and when the internet was but a far-off dream.

But we now know a great deal more about how the brain works, how it responds to stimuli and makes decisions, and still we stick doggedly to the same advertising models that we have used for fifty years or more.

BrainJuicer’s work, drawing on IPA effectiveness data, shows that emotion has an absolutely central role in the effectiveness of advertising. We have shown that advertising that generates a strong emotional response, even in the absence of a discernible product message, is more efficient than message-based advertising, and is more likely to lead to reductions in price sensitivity, share and profit gain than ads that perform well on traditional evaluative research measures such as persuasion.

In fact, it seems that these traditional evaluative research measures actively discriminate against highly emotional and potentially effective advertising. They simply aren’t fit for purpose when it comes to the likes of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Gorilla or Heineken’s Walk-In Fridge, with their runaway viral success. And yet we continue to rely on them, even though we now know that an emotional communication strategy can be completely transformational for a brand – one need look no further than Compare the Market’s Meerkats to see that.

This isn’t to say that good message-based advertising doesn’t work at all, because it does and can still work even now. It’s just that we are learning that there are more efficient approaches that can work harder for you, that are better suited to a  modern digital age where what people do with advertising really is as important as what it does to them.

I believe we’re arriving at a tipping point where advertisers are beginning to feel confident about using emotion rather than product message as the lynchpin for their integrated communications. There are enough examples around to see that it works. And so when it comes to advertising research and pre-testing, emotion needs in turn to become a central measure in assessing efficiency and effectiveness; it shouldn’t be relegated to a peripheral bolt-on question that’s uncomfortably force-fitted into an existing model.

So why don’t we think about putting brand feeling rather than product or brand message at the heart of our communication briefs, and consider models of advertising and research that give emotion its rightful importance as a measure of effectiveness?