What’s the Future of Emotion-Based Advertising?

Go back 50 years to when the television was the best thing to ever happen to advertising. With a talking billboard in every household, advertisers just had to tell a great story or drill a jingle in our head to sell. Their mission was to create a desire for their products.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen the capabilities of digital advertising which helps advertisers build a profile of preferences and attributes for every individual. In this way, the consumer comes to them. “Ryan clicked on a pair of Gucci loafers, therefore Ryan wants to buy Gucci loafers. Let’s put that ad on every site he visits for the next two months”. It’s brutal, but it works.

Understand preferences and you can predict behavior.

Every website we visit, influencer we follow, or product we search is cataloged under our interests. And advertisers think this tells a personal story about us. But, what it is severely lacking is the mood we’re feeling about those interests.

Yes, I’m a Bucks fan and own Bucks gear. But, we just lost the Conference Finals and the last thing I want to see right now is an advertisement for some Bucks swim trunks.

Advertising is severely lacking the moods people feel toward their interests at any given time.

The next 20 years of advertising will be defined by emotional intelligence and the ability of advertisers to understand the feelings and emotions that customers have toward their interests at any given time.

Understand mood and you can create a behavior.

The New York Times rolled out a tool earlier this year called Project Feels that lets advertisers target ads to content based on emotional responses the content is predicted to have.

Lucia Moses, Digiday

With the ability to understand the mood that someone will be in after they read an article, The New York Times can more accurately queue up subsequent articles to keep their attention.

ESPN has been pitching a tool to target sports fans on its digital properties based on their changing emotional state during a game. The tool is called LiveConnect and takes the sports preferences that its logged-in users provide and overlays that with data about how people feel based on how their team is doing and line that up with advertisers’ goals. That could mean showing ads for travel or other celebratory experiences to people whose team is on a winning streak — or not advertising to them at all if their team is losing.

Lucia Moses, Digiday

Tapping into our emotions sounds like advertiser’s are taking things one step too far. Ideally, it’s about delivering the right ad at the right time – eliminating all the other junk we get.

Of course, this is all in theory. And it’s actually the same rallying cry of digital advertising which was supposed to be superior to TV ads by being more of what we actually want.

When I think about emotion-based advertising, though, I wonder: if advertisers can tap into our emotional reactions to the content we consume… Can they flip it around and change the content we consume to create a desired emotional reaction?