Emotion in advertising: 5 powerful techniques 

Emotion is amongst the strongest creative techniques in advertising. Here we take a look at 5 key areas to implement in your marketing.
Emotion in advertising

Creativity is at the heart of marketing and is the primary factor in advertising effectiveness. 

The IPA Marketing Effectiveness study 2022, highlights the most used creative technique from the award winners is; emotion. 

And for good reason, emotional campaigns are 2x more likely to achieve high profit compared to rational campaigns and 2x as efficient at driving market share growth.

Source: Les Binet and Peter Field

However, emotion in itself can be a rather vague and ambiguous term. So I have broken down 5 areas of emotion that have the strongest effects that you can use in your advertising. 

1. The Power of One 

Using a technique known as the ‘Power of One’, is incredibly powerful. This is where you focus on a specific character that relates to your audience and embodies the issue or message you are communicating. 

People relate to people and by drawing an audience into a person’s specific journey and pain-points, they are more likely to connect to the issue at hand. 

The Spanish Lottery Advert

A great example of this is the Spanish Lottery advert by Leo Burnett. The Daily Mail declared that “it might the best Christmas advert yet”. It achieved more than 1 million views within 24 hours of appearing on YouTube. It also won the most coveted prize, the Grand Prix in the Cyber category at the Canne Lions festival. 

It’s tell the story of the solo night guard, #Justino, of a mannequin factory who plays comedic pranks on his daytime colleagues.

It follows his journey night after night, taking you through a series of emotions, using devices such as the lonely protagonist, piano music and feel-good ending. It just feels so sincere and authentic that you cannot but help to be moved. 

By using this technique, the advert leaves you wondering what happened to the character, Justino. The sign of a great advert is when it leaves you with more questions than answers. It intrigues you, it draws you in and you want the next instalment. 

As an aside, characters are amazing memory structure builders, which is why so many brands use them.

2. Make it personal 

The second technique to use is to make the communication personal. This was executed to a tee by P&G, during their ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign. 

Aimed at highlighting an unsung hero, the one person who is always there and who has the toughest job in the world.

It hit a chord quite like no other. They understood both the daily struggles, sacrifices and emotional rock that moms are in the family. 

P&G Thank you Mom – Olympics Campaign

It appealed to the sentiments on so many levels. Firstly, everyone in the family could relate to the power of the message and made them think about their own mothers sacrifice for their family. Secondly, it highlighted that behind every success, is someone supporting in the background, your biggest cheerleader. 

It also drew attention to a significant issue that often goes unnoticed; how Women and mothers play and incredibly value role in society, a role often under-played. 

This creative is one of my favourite campaigns, released during the Olympics where often the athletes are centre stage. But this time P&G highlighted the strong role of a mother in helping their child get to where they are. It’s both inspiring and emotional. 

3. Fight for a cause

We all want to feel part of a bigger movement. That we are making a positive contribution to society in our own way. A communication that is able to both highlight a significant issue, that is close to home and that helps identify how we can help is powerful, emotive and can evoke a sense of action. 

Iceland’s Rang-tan ‘banned’ Christmas advert

Originally banned from TV, this communication from Iceland became one of the most watched ads on YouTube ever. It features a rang-tan, whose natural habitat has been destroyed and therefore to encroach in a child’s bedroom for shelter. 

It’s recounts the story of why this happened, how we as consumers are contributing to the issue and then how we can help solve it. 

Owing to the message, it was extremely shareable which is what enabled it to go viral.

Take a look at this article on how to make your content viral:

4. Tell a story

In a similar way a number of years ago, Chipotle released an incredible advert called ‘Back to the Start’, showcasing the injustices of the farming industry. It actually was aired to an estimated 40 million viewers during the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. 

Chipotle – Back to the Start Advert

It was an animated tale of the journey farming has been through and backed by the Coldplay song “Back to the Start” sang by Willie Nelson. 

The power was in its ability to so succinctly tell the story, which captivated the audience.

It was also completely aligned to Chipotle’s wider brand purpose of responsible and sustainable farming, so the advert further positioned the brand as a ‘hero’. 

5. Be liberating

A final technique to use, is to relatable and provide a sense of escapism to the audience. This comes with a fine balance of making the audience feel nostalgic. 

For a brief moment in time take the audience away to another place, perhaps one where they can go back to a time in their lives when they feel happy and free. 

Help them draw the connections and associations in their own mind with your advert. You can do so by creating inspirational scenes, a sense of place and time, a relaxed moment, iconic music that they will relate to. 

Virgin Media – ‘Why walk when you can ride’ advert

A good example of this is a recent advert from Virgin Media, called ‘Why walk when you can ride’. It uses the iconic song ‘She’s like the wind’ from Dirty Dancing (you can see their target audience) and showcases a highland cow (according to System 1, animals are one of the most effective devices at building memory structures) on a motorbike in the Scottish Highlands. 

It’s a pure memory building brand advert aimed at giving you a sense of freedom and liberation, presumably similar to what you would get with their broadband. Connecting the functional utility of broadband to the emotion you feel when it works seamlessly is smart and effective. 


So there you have it, five emotional techniques you can use to supercharge your advertising. 

As a final point, in any of the communications highlighted one major common theme is the music. From recognisable and iconic re-makes of songs through to new originals made to suit the story.

In every event, music plays an incredibly powerful role in evoking emotion and is a technique that raises the bar in every successful emotional campaign. So choose wisely! 

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