AI uncovers that digital ads which evoke emotions are four times more likely to drive brand equity

Kantar and Affectiva’s study suggests that “attention is necessary but insufficient for advertising effectiveness” and use of humour in digital ads presents a significant opportunity for marketers to leapfrog their competition and facilitate long-term consumer engagement.

Emotion is an under-leveraged aspect of digital advertising, particularly the use of humour, according to AI-led research from Kantar and Affectiva.

Smart Eye company Affectiva partnered with Kantar to conduct a study to identify how marketers can optimise creative assets to power impactful digital campaigns.

Using Kantar’s ad testing database and Affectiva’s AI facial coding, the research was able to measure consumers’ emotional responses to digital ads. It found digital ads that evoke strong emotions in consumers are, according to Knatar’s ‘Demand Power Score’ metric, four times more impactful and therefore more likely to drive brand equity.

Not just attention, but emotion

The study considers that widely used industry metrics for online ad measurement, like click through and completion rates, are misleading marketers and have little actual correlation with a campaign’s success or brand impact.

Measures such as facial expressiveness are allegedly better at determining impact because they indicate a degree of emotion or cognitive engagement with content – creating more accurate predictors. According to the research, ads that do well in these areas are more likely to drive long-term brand equity and 2.6 times more likely to go viral.

Graham Page, Global Managing Director of Media Analytics at Affectiva, said: “Advertisers are increasingly focusing on measuring the attention audiences give to digital ads, however, attention is necessary but insufficient for advertising effectiveness.

“Campaigns that are truly effective go beyond this to actively engage viewers emotionally. Understanding the potential for campaigns to connect with viewers on a deeper level before they air is crucial to maximise return on investment – and to create ads people love and that live longer in the memory.

“Emotion AI tools have become an essential part of the campaign development process and enable advertisers to build that necessary emotional connection with their audiences.”

Positivity and humour

The report revealed that the top 30% of digital ads in Kantar’s database, in terms of likelihood to contribute to long-term brand equity, were ones that left viewers with positive feelings like pride, contentment and attraction – with an emphasis on humour.

According to Kantar, use of humour in advertising has been on a long-term decline across all channels, but this is even more pronounced in online ads. Though humour has mounted a comeback in TV advertising in recent years, there is little sign of that trend being mirrored in digital advertising.

Based on this, the study proposed humour as a significant opportunity for marketers to generate a successful point of difference to separate them from their competition.

Based off of Affectiva’s AI tool and Kantar’s subsequent ‘Demand Power Score’ metric, an example of a creative execution which successfully utilises emotion is “It’s not you, it’s the tee” – a TikTok ad for t-shirt brand True Classic, which sparked intrigue initially and left viewers smiling at the end.

The study found low performing ads were those that elicited emotional responses associated with negative feelings such as being unimpressed, annoyed and disappointed – something for markers to consider avoiding in future.

Commenting on the findings, Ecem Erdem, Global Thought Leader - Creative, at Kantar, said: “With marketing budgets under increasing pressure, it is more important than ever to ensure that precious investment will make an impact.

“Digital advertising is a cornerstone for the marketing mix – our research shows that marketers plan to invest more in digital channels over the coming year. As digital advertising matures, it’s time that advertisers treat it as an important brand-building channel as well as a transactional one and leverage emotions and human stories to deliver the most impact.”