The Power of Advertising

During this new year, we will share with you a series of blog posts showcasing the power of advertising ….

These posts will tackle ad, marketing and PR campaigns that were so effective that they changed our behavior, or even got integrated in our culture.

Below we will link to each of these posts, to allow easy and fast access.


Enjoy, and remember to never underestimate the power of advertising!

Advertising : The Rational & Emotional Appeal

You think you figured out advertising?

You think they show you a pretty girl (see: sex sells article), then enumerate the features of a product or a service and that’s it…
You’re wrong!

A quick look at Superbowl ads or TV and Printed ads reveal a hidden element, you realize that the above formula is not as simple as it seams, and that in most cases the ads include elements that are not related to the product/service. And if you dig a bit deeper, you notice a sort of psychological manipulation taking place (that’s the real advertising at work ).

In advertising, businesses goal when they create advertisements for magazines, newspapers, television, radio, or online,  is to convince consumers to purchase a specific product or service. To do so, they rely mainly on 2 common marketing approaches,  the Rational Appeal and the Emotional Appeal.
(Reputation appeal will be discussed another time).

Advertising : The Rational & Emotional Appeal

In every descent advertising spot or campaign, there’s either a rational appeal or an emotional appeal, and most often both.
The Form might vary, they might present the idea in a sexual way, in a humorous way, in a serious way or any other approach / Form (by authority, popularity, price, novelty etc … ), but to persuade you they need to access your emotional or rational brain or both by either Emotionally Appealing to you or Rationally doing it:

The Emotional Appeal:

By emotional appeal, we do not mean the recent emotional video advertising trend (which are basically emotionally supercharged videos with one objective: make you cry, and share, often the subject is very weakly related to the product or service, see examples here).

Emotional Appeal, is a method of persuasion that’s designed to create an emotional response. They are considered fallacies, or errors in reasoning, because they manipulate emotions in an audience, by convincing the audience that the statements that were presented are true; solely by inducing emotional stimulation such as fear, pity and joy.
Emotional Appeal encompasses several logical fallacies, including appeal to consequences, appeal to fear, appeal to flattery, appeal to pity, appeal to ridicule, appeal to spite, and wishful thinking.

The top ten emotions inspired by the most viral content are:

  1. Amusement
  2. Interest
  3. Surprise
  4. Happiness
  5. Delight
  6. Pleasure
  7. Joy
  8. Hope
  9. Affection
  10. Excitement

Analysis of data from the IPA (the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising), which contains 1400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns submitted for the IPA Effectiveness Award competition over the last three decades,  indicated that emotional appeals tend to be 2x more effective than rational, even more effective than the combined elements of both rational and emotional appeals.


Examples of Emotional Appeal:

wwf emotional appeal

Other examples of emotional appeal, could be:
– showing you slim girls to sell diet product,
– showing you a burglary to sell you an alarm system,
– show you successful person to convince you to join a specific university,
– showing competing products failing to do the job,
– baby dolphins are dying because of plastic bags you throw away,


The Rational Appeal:

This method of persuasion, appeal to your logic to choose a product or service, rationally based on the product’s quality and usefulness. This is usually achieved by stating the product’s benefits, performing a product demonstration or citing facts or statistics.
It is is much easier to present, as it requires much less creativity than the emotional appeal.

Examples of Rational Appeal:

+ showing you a the calories and nutritive value of a diet product,
+ showing you specifications about an alarm system,
+ Giving you the stats about average salary of people graduating from a specific university,
+ showing you a product, that is 120% larger than competitor and for half the price,
+ Giving you stats about the damage caused by plastic bags,


What to choose?  Rational or Emotional Appeal ? Comparison,

It depends, on many factors,
1- Audience: see below.
2- Message: short/long term …
3- Team behind the Ad /budget: Emotional appeal is more complex, and can backfire, thus require professional teams and thus higher budgets.
But, that doesn’t mean Emotional appeal is beyond the scope of small businesses, here’s an example of the subtle difference in advertising, using both techniques:
An Ad using rational Appeal for cleaning product : show the product in use, then explains how it cleans better than competing brands and costs less.
An Ad using emotional Appeal for the same product : emphasizes the ease of cleaning, the hassle-free experience and the environmental benefits it offers.


Audience: Men VS Women:

Depending on your target audience, the Emotional Appeal can be more or less effective, according to the study mentioned above, rational appeal is less effective than the emotional one.

Understand the difference in targeting genders , based on biological differences:

  • Emotional Approach: Women typically have a larger limbic system than men, which makes them more in touch and expressive with their emotions.  Women are usually more empathic and comprehensive in thinking, while men focus on exact issues and disregard impertinent information.  Men have a difficult time understanding emotions not explicitly verbalized but can think more logically, while women have a more wholesome view of thinking & understanding but their emotions can sometimes influence decisions.
  • Rational Approach: A brain area called the “Inferior-Parietal Lobule (IPL)” is normally larger in men than women.  This area is thought to control mathematical processes, which explains why men typically can perform mathematical tasks better than women.

Thus, if the target audience is women, then they will be even more receptive to emotional appeal than average, and if the target audience is men, they might be more receptive to rational appeal than average.
This might be the reason why emotionally appealing ads are more effective, due to the simple reason that in shopping women have a much higher value, as they often spend up to 2x the time doing the shopping, and they often buy not only for themselves but for the entire family.



Sex Sells In Advertising : But Not Always

sex sells

Study: Sex Does not Sells

In a recent study entitled “Do Sex and Violence Sell? A Meta-Analytic Review of the Effects of Sexual and Violent Media and Ad Content on Memory, Attitudes, and Buying Intentions”, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University , Brad Bushman, said “It never helps to have violence and sex in commercials, …It either hurts, or has no effect at all.”
Analyzes of results from 53 previous experiments involving 8,489 participants, suggests that Violent and sexual television programming impairs viewers’ memory because it diverts attention from the advertising.

Distinguish the ads from their surrounding

An interesting observation i found in this study in the “Cognitive interference hypothesis”, which basically point out that ads would be assimilated to their surrounding programs…

The cognitive interference hypothesis suggests that placing violent advertisements in a violent program or sexual advertisements in a sexual program impairs memory and reduces attitudes and buying intentions (Furnham, Gunter, & Walsh, 1998). Proponents of this hypothesis argue that advertisements placed in congruent contexts are susceptible to “meltdown,” a process whereby memory traces of the advertised brand fuse with the surrounding program content and make it more difficult to remember the brand (Bryant & Zillmann, 1994). Therefore, advertisements placed in in-congruent contexts are preferable because they are more likely to stand out from the surrounding program content (Furnham, Gunter, & Richardson, 2002). Several studies have found evidence for the cog-nitive interference hypothesis (Cruz & Lull, 2014; Dickinson, Hanus, & Fox, 2013; Furnham & Goh, 2014; Furnham et al., 2002; Furnham & Price, 2006). Our review will test the cognitive interference hy-pothesis using all available studies.

It is important to point 2 things in this study:
1. We are dealing with brands, meaning that people are supposed to know these brands.
2. We are focusing on “sales”, not getting the viewer’s attention, do Sex Sells?

Advertising Reality: Sex Sells !

In reality, all experienced advertisers know that sex does sells, but by that we mean it in the “Sexy” sense, rather than the traditional sense,
and we also use the term sells in the sense of capturing the attention rather than in the sense of selling products.
But here’s the interesting part, more attention captured = more product sold, and the more female nudity the more you’ll capture the attention. So basically Sex do sells!
All you have to do is check some sexy superbowl ads and compare them to some none sexy superbowl ads , it’s 2x to 20x the number of views. Now i’m no math genius, but if you capture the attention of 1000 and get 2% sales, is way better than capturing the attention of 100 and getting 4% sales!
This is not limited to video, any publisher knows that an article have a higher probability of being clicked on if it features a woman, than if it was featuring a man, and the sexier the better.

Saturation of usage and desensitization

Sure there is a saturation in the market, when everybody starts featuring sexy women, you start being captured less by these ads … this leads to becoming desensitized, and in this sense the study mentioned above might kick in … let’s say you capture the attention of 160 and get a 2% sales, it’s not as good as 4% sales and only 100 person’s attention captured.
On internet: Main Causes of desensitization are the click-bait photos, and click-bait video thumbnail.

~ A.Alaili