In early 2017, a report circulated that Facebook was targeting users based on their emotional state. The report claimed that advertisers could identify users who were feeling stressed or anxious and use that moment to make their pitch.
Facebook denied the report, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Microsoft has applied for a patent for a technology for an advertising engine that would discern consumers’ emotional states from their searches, emails, facial expressions, movements and speech patterns.
It’s only a matter of time until a great deal of advertising is emotionally targeted. My company, GlassView, a major player in the video distribution industry, is betting its future on this prediction. In 2017, GlassView began working with Realeyes to track consumers’ emotional responses to ads, on an opt-in basis. Here’s why experts believe that emotional targeting is the future:
- Emotion is what fuels virality. Think back to that last piece of viral content you shared. Why did you share it? Chances are, it made you curious, astonished, amazed, interested or uncertain, according to research. This so-called psychological arousal makes advertising more effective. Research has shown that campaigns with purely emotional content perform about twice as well as campaigns with rational content. Most of what we think of as good advertising is advertising that moves our emotions. Emotionally charged creatives win 80% of advertising awards, according to one study.
- Emotion is what prompts people to buy. Emotional ads prompt consumers to like and share ads, but they also can cause them to follow through and actually buy the product. A 2016 Nielsen study supports this notion. The report found that ads that prompted a strong emotional reaction resulted in an average 23% bump in sales. Again, personal experience also supports this idea. If an ad moves me, I’m much more likely to buy the advertised product.
- Testing ads for emotionality is a better indicator of performance than traditional metrics. These days, you can drop an ad and tell within just a few hours how much engagement it’s generating. Emotion-based A/B testing is a great method for gathering both qualitative & quantitative data surrounding creative performance. By reading a consumer’s emotional engagement in real time, you can tell whether that ad is worth further investment. For instance, an ad that is evoking strong positive emotions is worth a larger investment than one that is getting a mediocre response. By analyzing a large number of ads, we can predict with 75% certainty which ones will drive sales.
- Targeting based on current emotional state will likely be effective. Our moods determine our receptivity to ad messages. Feeling anxious? Then an ad promising a solution to your problem will be effective. Feeling happy and content? Then you will probably be more apt to give to a charity. While a good salesman knows how to make these determinations, such facility hasn’t been available on digital media. But the recent explorations by Facebook and Microsoft show this is an area of interest. An experiment with M&C Saatchi in London included a billboard that read the emotions of passers-by. As facial recognition and AI begin to read data for clues about consumers’ emotions, this type of targeting is likely to increase.
Digital marketing has mostly ignored emotions until now. Such advertising has been based on data. But people aren’t robots. Now that we can start to read human emotions more accurately, we can add them into our calculations. That’s why emotionally targeted advertising is going to be huge, no matter how you feel about it.