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Why Emotion Has to Lead the Way in Marketing’s ‘New Normal’

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

By Equinox

Earlier this year, a huge billboard ad appeared on Cardiff’s Newport Road — one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

You might have even seen the ad yourself: a photo of a woman sitting in despair on the end of a bed, alongside the chilling strapline: “Abusers always work from home.”

The work of Wunderman Thompson on behalf of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, the UK-wide campaign put a chilling twist on the claustrophobia we all felt during lockdown.

Impactful, thought-provoking and potentially lifesaving, the campaign works because it deploys one of advertising’s most important components for success: emotion.

As the Godfathers of Effectiveness, Les Binet and Peter Field, have taught us – emotional advertising campaigns have a dramatic effect on results.

Whether it makes us laugh or cry; an emotional ad is one that makes us feel something. Or, as The Value of Emotional Advertising, states:

“… it is one people have an emotional response to. That should be the final arbiter of success or failure when judging creative work’s ability to deliver those elusive and much sought-after emotional reactions.”

All of which begs the question: why don’t we tap into emotion more often as an industry?

Because, when we speak to people as people – connecting with them through the simple use of everyday emotions – we also create work that works (our favourite examples of which can be found below).

1. Nostalgia

As an agency, we’ve witnessed first-hand the impact of emotive creative this year. Tapping into the passion of Welsh nostalgia, our heart-warming video for Cadw helped them own the palpable sense of patriotism surrounding St David’s Day as a brand.

Combining beautiful archive footage with an equally beautiful acoustic rendition of the national anthem from Kizzy Crawford, we answered the brief by creating a 60-second video showcasing the cultural importance of Cadw’s sites through the decades.

The result? A piece of content that quickly – and organically – went viral, eventually amassing over 150,000 views and 3,324 shares / retweets.

2. Happiness (Using Comedy)

Definitely one of the harder ones to get right, using comedy to create happiness is a brilliant way of producing attention-grabbing, memorable and effective work.

As something that naturally brings us closer together, humour helps brands create meaningful and positive emotive connections with their audience, by harnessing the power of the most uplifting human tool of them all: laughter.

3. Sadness

Contrary to tears of joy, tears of sadness can be just as powerful in creating a lasting impression. Case in point? This 2015 Christmas ad from German supermarket, EDEKA.

4. Shock

Pioneered by the likes of Italian photographer and former Benetton Group Art Director, Oliviero Toscani, shockvertising has long been the tactic of choice for charities and organisations that need to make big, bold and brave sociopolitical statements.

Why? Because, according to a study from the Journal of Advertising Research, “shocking content in an advertisement significantly increases attention, benefits memory, and positively influences behavior.”

5. Empowerment

Perhaps one of the great campaigns of our time, Always’ #LikeAGirl is a masterclass in the power of empowering not only your target audience — but wider society, too.


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