Knowledge Library

How to Save Advertising from Its Three Worst Faults

Advertising and Promotion

This material is drawn from Dan's new book "About Face, the Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising," to be published in October 2010.

So what are the three most essential keys to doing better?

Casting is crucial.
A dozen years of research has led me to realize that the talent cast, especially in TV spots, but in print ads, direct mail and web sites too, can create a swing of as much as 30% in preference, even when all other variables tested are identical, i.e., tagline, product shot, layout, design, etc.

Fundamentally, we have more positive emotional responses to, and prefer to buy from, those who have  "stage presence," and project likeability and authenticity. Fake, or social smiles, are the bane of advertising.

Unfortunately, most talent is chosen through a casting process that by its very nature leads to the selection of actors given to putting on fake smiles, rather than true ones (in which the muscles around the eyes relax), which are signaled by a twinkle in the eye. Often actors "fake smile lingers too long, comes across the face too quickly, or departs too fast, in what I call the "guillotine smile."

Meanwhile, portrayals of negative emotions - sadness, fear or surprise (which should last a second or less) - are often more problematic.

Worse, executives who appear in their brand ads are more prone to inauthentic acting than professional talent. Since trust is the key emotion of business, good casting and authentic performances are crucial to creating engaging, persuasive advertising.

Our normative database indicates that both drama-based ads, and ads that rely on testimonials, struggle to drive purchase intent. The biggest culprit in execution being off-emotion acting that undermines the delivery of on-message claims.

Simplicity is sweet
Nevertheless, most clients suffer from message-itis, in the desperate hope that adding one more claim, benefit, or fact will somehow carry the day and lift market share. It won't.

Meanwhile, most agencies love special effects and add more camera angles and edits than the average viewer can follow. Cut! I've found that frustration is the hidden emotional cancer of advertising: typically, 20% to 40% of emotional responses consumers during initial exposure to an ad qualify as frustration. Why? People don't feel they "get" what's going on.

That's no way to grow market share. Neurobiology has shown that forcing people to over-think causes them to under-feel, to drop out, just when creating an emotional connection is essential, given that the emotional part of the brain processes 10 times as much data as the rational brain. Lose people emotionally and you lose the sale.

Provide a sense of change or other form of tension.
Half the brain is devoted to processing visuals. To leverage that brainpower, motion is vital. That could be anything from a change in people's expressions, to the movement of people or objects, a change of settings, or animated imagery. 

Stimuli in motion works because the mind is geared to notice changes in the status quo, which represent threats (survive) or opportunities (thrive). Either way, people will be motivated to heighten their awareness.

Moreover, in getting people to focus on change make sure the motion is placed in the middle of the screen, or layout, so that it commands both eyes. We instinctively focus on the middle field of vision, or on things moving into the middle field. What's visually peripheral is also mentally peripheral.

Finally, in regard to change there's the often-necessary option of depicting change not only by literal motion, but also from a change in plot line. Many an ad involves a problem/solution scenario, or other form of contrast. The problem is that often the cautious client won't agree to depict the problem in a heartfelt manner.

Unfortunately, when a problem isn't deeply felt, its' solution won't be seen as valuable. In other words, Milquetoast depictions of human discomfort or disappointment aren't compelling and don't drive purchase intent.

At the end of the day, or spot, if you want your ads to pull, make them sincerely address a heartfelt problem in a realistic manner via an authentic depiction. And, ask the CEO to stay in his office.

By Dan Hill - President - Sensory Logic

Contact: VISIBILITY PR: Len Stein
Tel: 914 527 3708:

Share The Knowledge
The Future Of Advertising

Advertising and Promotion

Net#work BBDO and Sinister Studio’s are applying technology to advertising in ways that have never been seen before.

Share The Knowledge
Breaking our attachment to traditional advertising

Advertising and Promotion

The idea that brands are underspending in digital is a common assumption that needs to be tested. Some brands are already spending a huge portion of their marketing budget in digital, and this is growing

Share The Knowledge
Why Ad Blocking Isn’t the End of the World

Advertising and Promotion

The industry as of late has been abuzz with the pending ad blocking apocalypse. Reactions have been mixed: some publishers are indifferent while others think the sky is falling. However, publishers shouldn’t panic just yet. This latest round of ad blocking doesn’t spell the end of the digital advertising world.

Share The Knowledge
Content, Content, Content

Advertising and Promotion

Do people pay attention to ads anymore? I seriously doubt it! We have seen the average click through rates on digital banners decreasing by more than 60% in the past ten years and ever more declining day-after recall rates for TV advertising.

Share The Knowledge
Effective marketing is as simple as EMM

Advertising and Promotion

Effective marketing is becoming more and more of a challenge these days, because the customer is well-informed, interacts through multiple channels, uses their peers as a primary information source and wants the best customer experience possible.

Share The Knowledge