Would you mind imagining this first line has a kitten in it, snuggling up to a pile of fuzzy yellow chicks? Or maybe a dog climbing on an elephant? Or a small boy in a Darth Vader mask, trying to start his dad’s Volkswagen using the Force? It’s hard to inject real emotional scenarios into a piece about emotion in advertising, so watch a clip and then read on.

In advertising, emotion has always been the sharpest tool we have: grab people by the heart, shortcut their cynicism, show them the things they care about, and then tell them how you can help. Because, even our rational decisions - what to click on, what to pay attention to, what to buy - are invariably emotional ones at some level. Viral video charts and neuroscience bear it out: ads with the best emotional response generate more sales.

More rational aspects of advertising, as game-changing as they are, have hogged the spotlight in recent times. Intelligent media that allows us to target, re-target, geo-target, analyse, tweak and go again, has transformed the delivery of marketing messages.

But no media is so clever, no targeting so timely, that it doesn’t also need the right creative to get itself heard, and those who have only mastered the tech part sometimes forget it. Matching ad technology with emotionally-charged, human creative - not just sadvertising or dogvertising, but creative that makes you feel something - is the true art of digital advertising. Ad tech and great creative are wasted without each other.

As when Android sweetens its brand with animal friendships, or when VW made a mini Darth Vader the subject of its Superbowl ad, the emotional insight of tech21’s first ever marketing campaign concerned the relationship we have with our phone. Like it or not, it’s hard not to feel strongly about your mobile: the information on it, the connections it enables, the pristine surfaces, the sheer value of the thing.

The brand, a leading seller of impact protection for phones in the UK and US, used Tug to create a highly-targeted campaigns, with digital display, out of home (OOH) on billboards and malls across the UK and US, plus video pre-rolls on YouTube, paid-for social and search. There used geo-targeting, cross-device, to inform and optimise media buying - the laser-sharp ad tech side was all accounted for.

But the central creative insight Tug ran through the multi-platform campaign was an emotional one, focusing on the split-second rollercoaster experience of dropping a phone: the flash of panic as it slips from a hand, the desperation as you try to catch it, the awful acceptance that you can’t do anything about it, the visceral reaction as it lands - disbelief, anger, frustration. The experience resonates across lands and cultures.

Tech21’s ‘Life Happens’ campaign ran through a nuanced range of disasters, designed to target a variety of segments - millennials, families and others - but all capturing the modern tragedy of the phone accident. Their first campaign together showed no phones at all, only faces, in the throes of device-dropping horror

The emotional hook was extended across new creative work. The recent ‘Trust’ campaign, anchored to the iPhone 7 launch in September, noted that the bond with our phones is so strong, we don’t comfortably trust our partners with them, and by rights we probably shouldn’t trust ourselves.

The marriage of creative and tech, of course, has to be right. Tug focused on proximity targeting of digital media, citing its OOH near stores, which increased engagement. Those who saw the OOH in malls and on billboards and got a digital ad while near to targeted mobile stores responded better to the ad. When the tech does its job right, the creative works harder.

But the emotional insight, in all cases, is more powerful than the rational one. If you want to sell a phone case, don’t show people phone cases, however stylish; show them the problem they solve, the drama they prevent. And make it emotional.


By Dan Thwaites, chief strategy officer at tug Agency 

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/

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