The Shifting Role of Emotion In Digital Advertising

Ever wonder why the footage of impoverished children or commercials featuring a bouncing pitcher full of punch make you want to take action and pick up the phone to donate money or go buy a joy-filled fruit juice mix?  That friends, is the ever-powerful pull of emotion in advertising.  Emotion, many scholars say, is the reason TV took-off in the 1950’s and the reason many people still spend hours upon hours in front of their sets:  it’s technology adopting a human element by conveying emotion.  People “relate” to the situations and subsequent emotions in the media and lose sight of the subtle economically-driven messages underneath.  In regular Mad Men style, advertisers make you want to buy or do X because it will make you feel _______ (fill in the blank depending on the product.)

Most advertisers fill the blank with a positive adjective (i.e.- happier, thinner, richer, better, satisfied, etc.) to appeal to your senses (and hopefully your wallet.)  It might seem like advertisers are doing this as a trick- that it’s a money making trap for consumers.  The truth is this “emotional appeal” gets more and more difficult for advertisers with each new portal to global product information that’s invented.  Smart phones (mobile marketing), infinite computer use, and the subsequent explosion of social media place the world at each consumer’s fingertips:  giving consumers the upper hand.  Case in point: parents are no longer as easily suckered into buying the sugary cereal their kids beg for (despite the allure of the cereal’s animated TV commercials), because they’ve just heard an NPR interview on the epidemic of childhood obesity, and they just got an alert on their cell phone for an equally colorful, organic cereal choice at the same store- for 10% off!

Advertisers, designers, public relations specialists, and writers are all taking notes.  The answer, most large media companies agree, is maximizing engagement in digital advertising.  Apple is one such corporation on the “engagement is the future” bandwagon.  Employing an army of programmers, Apple is developing “interactive commercials” that function similarly to their litany of beloved “apps.”   They entice consumers as a banner ad offering something (free wallpapers for your phone, an MP3 download, etc.)  Which, in the process of getting you your “free stuff”, repeatedly exposes you to the product or service for sale (pretty clever, huh?)

While the advertising and media worlds continue to evolve at light-speed, marketers and consumers alike should mark this shift in the annals of media history:  maybe now it’s not a question of “how can this product make me happy?”, but rather, “I know what I want to feel, and what I need, now what is the fastest most effective way to get this product at my fingertips?” The McCauley Marketing Services team continually researches these shifts to best serve our medical and construction marketing clients.  To keep up with McCauley Services’ latest research visit our website, follow us on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, or read our blog.