How to build creatives for ads that stir emotions of your audience

At a basic level, a brand hoping to resonate with its target audience has a couple of potential paths through their defences, which is why ad creative tends to fall into one of two categories: left- or right-brain-focused. The first of these uses logic and information to motivate an audience into action; the second plays to a customer’s feelings, in the hope of creating a bond with the brand.

Rational argument or emotion - which works best? You may already have a hunch. Well, extensive research proves that when it comes to a wide variety of engagement types, people are more susceptible to ads that pack an emotional punch. In fact, ads with purely emotional content perform twice as well as those with a rational, left-brained creative.

Such ads also increase the chances of an audience sharing your content, because feelings and memory are intrinsically linked. Brand recognition, likewise, also benefits from an emotionally-focused creative. If you felt it, you’ll remember it.

read the attention guide

Playing the heart strings pays dividends

Emotional ads empower us to decide with our heart, rather than our head, so advertisements that play to our emotions and trigger feelings (of every flavour) are often more successful than left-brain ad creative. This example from Dove does a good job of aligning confidence and self-worth with their product and brand ethos.


Emotional advertising is also great because it lands a strong first impression. Presented with two ads - one built from facts and figures, the other designed to make you laugh or cry - which is likely to ace the attention metrics? Unless you have a heart of stone, or you’re Mr Spock from the fully rational planet Vulcan, it is likely to be the latter.

Emotional ad creative is not to be used cynically, but it has many legitimate applications. Advertisements that make us feel sad - for example, an ad promoting a humanitarian crisis appeal - will engender feelings of empathy that increase the chance of a donation. Ads that are designed to frighten or scare will influence an audience to consider your brand as a solution to the problems depicted.

So, let’s take a look at the six steps you need to take if you’re going to inject feeling into your campaigns. Hankies at the ready, now.

Six steps to producing emotional ad content

1. Knowing me, knowing you – get to know your audience

Step one, as the headline indicates, is to make sure you know your audience. They’re a big group, so you can’t know what makes every one of them howl with laughter and what makes their lip tremble, but you can try to understand their pain points, their desires and any relevant touchpoints. From there, begin to consider what ad treatments might engender the most valuable responses.

2. Neuromarketing: brain-scan your way to research success

Don’t just guess at it, either. Take your audience knowledge to the next level through neuromarketing - using brain-scanning technology to understand consumers’ emotions, motivations, preferences and decision making. These studies let you understand how your brand is perceived and give you greater insight into the emotional relationship with your audience.

3. Colours, colours (and more colours)

Colours are a fantastic way to evoke a quick emotional reaction. The power of colour psychology is well established, and brands have used it for many decades to influence their audiences. Coca-Cola’s red is synonymous with passion and warmth, while yellow draws the eye very quickly, and is considered an optimistic colour. These insights are employed by a wide range of brands, from Champagne house Veuve Clicquot to heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar. Choosing the right colour for your ad sets the tone for your audience.

4. Inject a little levity

Empathy and fear have their place, when sensitively provoked, but humour is great for eliciting an emotional response, as ably demonstrated by IKEA:


Laughter encourages a natural connection with a brand, and triggers parts of the brain responsible for memory, boosting brand recognition. Happy adverts are also more likely to be shared with friends and family, especially on social media.

Now, eliciting anger from an audience will also encourage sharing, but you don’t need us to tell you why rage-provoking ads aren’t always a winner. So focusing on awe-inspiring, aspirational content is a good way of encouraging shares and repeat viewing, especially when a brand has earned the right to do so. Red Bull is a good example of a business that subscribes to this approach:


5. Tell your tale

Storytelling is a great way of impacting an audience's emotions, especially with the use of humancentric content displayed via video on platforms such as YouTube and CTV, which traditionally boast longer ad dwell times. This Volvo ad is a perfect example of emotionally-charged creative that’s aspirational and human-centric while also subtly promoting the product’s safety features. That’s what they’re selling, after all.

6. Try out video and/or high impact

Video has huge power in delivering emotionally engaging ad creative, and we watch a lot of it: over one billion hours a day on YouTube alone. Considering the placement and platform on which to deploy your ad campaign is critical, and high impact placements are among the best solutions on the market. Rich media, digital ad formats are designed to make the most of stunning creative, including video, to emotionally engage with your target audience. And the power of high impact is undeniable, providing brands with a 10x uplift in both CTR and attention in comparison to traditional display ads (read more about that here).


So, there you have it. The riches are there for the taking if you’re willing to inject emotion into your digital marketing campaigns. Your ads will resonate harder with your audience and build a closer bond between you and your customers. Don’t forget to let us know if you need a hand getting started - some good gags, a tear-jerking story or two. It’s all part of the service.