Emotion in advertising

Claude Hopkins in 1923 discarded humor, one possible emotional appeal, by writing "People do not buy from clowns." Also, David Ogilvy discouraged the use of emotional advertising at his agency. However, in the last decade, television advertising has used increasingly emotional appeals (Stout and Rust 1993); humorous appeals are present in 24% of all television advertising (Weinberger and Gulas 1992); and to counteract the increasing clutter in media, advertisers frequently use dramatic emotional ads (Moore and Harris 1996). Thus, emotion has to be researched by the advertising theorists and practitioners.

To understand the uses of emotion in advertising we need to establish first what are the great practitioners' opinions on the subject.

Classical Practitioners

The classical ad persons of the advertising industry like Hopkins, Ogilvy, Caples, Ayer and Bernbach had a definite stance on the topic of emotion. Hopkins never changed his opinion about advertisement. However, Ogilvy in his book "Ogilvy on Advertising" (1983) accepted his change of belief. Now, he believes that advertisement with a strong content of nostalgia, charm and sentimentality can be "enormously effective" and that humor can be effective as well (Ogilvy 1983 p. 109).

John Caples, the famous VP of BBDO, sustained the story copy as one possible way to move to tears a reader with the final objective of provoking the reader's action. However, he warned that humor has to be avoided (Caples 1983). Another of the great founders of modern advertising Bill Bernbach, famed for his agency (DDB) which created the recognized campaigns for Volkswagen, Levy's, and Avis in the 60's and 70's, stated that empathy and insight are needed abilities for a copywriter. He said that "if they touch you at your instinct of survival, or your desire to be admired, or your love for your children, they touch at the core of your being" (Moriarty 1991 p. 46).

An agency that champions an advertising philosophy grounded on emotional appeals is N.W. Ayer. This agency is permanently inspired by the phrase "human contact." This phrase means the use of emotion mixed with warmth and soft humor. One of the best example is the long running "Reach out and touch someone" campaign for AT&T (Moriarty 1991).

These giants of advertising and some successful agencies had confidence on emotional appeals, but in this age we need to know how does an appeal like emotion work. In the last fifteen years, emotion has been one of the most researched topics as the practitioners use increasingly this kind of appeal.

The study of emotion may be classified in four basic approaches: the emotions as part of the mental processing of the ad and its final effect on attitudes or behavior, the classification of emotions, the manipulation of emotions' dimensions and the effects of using emotional appeals.

Nevertheless, first a methodological question has to be answered. How does a personal phenomenon like emotion is measured to increase the knowledge of a field?.

Home | Definition of emotion | In search of emotion: A brief historical review | Emotion in advertising | Measurement of emotion | Advertising processing | Analysis of emotional effects | Emotional Appeals | Acknowledgement and references