Raymond Snoddy on media: Ads must aim for heart not the head

It is time to get more emotional about advertising - at least it is according to research unveiled last week by the University of Bath. Why and how advertising works, and to be more precise, which types work better than others, and why, has long been the holy grail of the business.

Now, Dr Robert Heath, an advertising specialist from Bath's School of Management, has managed to lift the veil another inch or two. His theory, which is only a little counter-intuitive, is that it is emotion, rather than rational data, that works best, at least for enhancing brands.

Heath cites the success of the 'Papa/Nicole' Renault Clio ads, which centred on philandering French characters. 'The launch of the Renault Clio was an outstanding success, despite the ad failing to communicate the main message of small-car convenience and big-car luxury,' he explains.

Slightly more weakly, the adman and academic suggests that it was 'some aspect' of the emotional appeal that was at work, and that perhaps it was the evocation of positive emotions that lowered attention to more rational matters in the minds of consumers.

Anyway, Heath's case is that in a study of the effect of 23 TV ads in the US and 20 in the UK, consumers who had been exposed to executions with high emotional content showed a marked positive shift toward the brand involved. Those who had seen ads with low emotional content, even when the work contained lots of news and information, showed no real shift.

The message for TV advertising is clear: creativity and well-told stories enhance the images of brands and presumably lead to success over time. The research would seem to back the belief in the industry that advertising is often there 'just to allow the brand to set up a dialogue with the consumer'.

So far, so good. But does such research have any wider implications about the ideal media mix to use?

The most obvious point is that if it is true that ads with high emotional content transmit positive brand vibes, then TV is the best place for that interaction.

In such a context, it is perhaps worth asking whether it is entirely rational for UK advertisers to be turning their backs on conventional TV as they are. Have you ever seen anybody getting emotional about, or emotionally involved in, an iTV ad for the Clio?

One can get excited about online price comparisons for the vehicle. But what was it that drove you in the direction of that model in the first place, as opposed to another provider of small-car convenience with big-car luxury?

The Heath research co-incided with the latest data on TV and interactive ads in the UK and US. According to Universal McCann, TV advertising in the US has held up very well in the face of electronic rivals and will take about $72.5bn (£37.2bn) this year - about a quarter of all spend. The really interesting thing is that this has held constant as a proportion since 2000. Is this because US admen are dozy and simply don't understand this interactive malarkey? It's possible, but I doubt it.

At the same time ZenithOptimedia estimated that online advertising in the UK accounted for 13.5% of spend and would rise to 20% by 2009. This is the highest percentage in the world, and double the rate in the US; Sweden and Norway are the only other nations spending more than 10% online.

This could be because of high broadband penetration here and because the industry is twice as smart and technologically adroit as the Yanks. Or it could just mean things are starting to get out of kilter. Certainly the implications are worth getting emotional about.


- The first Renault Clio ad, featuring Nicole (Estelle Skornik) and Papa (Max Douchin), was broadcast on British TV screens on 1 April 1991.

- The series ended in 1998, when Renault and its ad agency, Publicis, chose to conclude the story with Nicole's wedding, at which she chose Bob Mortimer over Vic Reeves.

- This final ad, which cost £1m, was shown on 29 May at 7.40pm on ITV, during Coronation Street.

- In the seven years that the ad campaign ran, 300,000 Renault Clios were sold in the UK, with consecutive year-on-year sales rises to the end of 1997.

- The campaign was the most successful on record, with a 93% recall figure, according to a Sofres Automotive study into car advertising. In 1996 another survey found that Nicole was recognised by more Britons than John Major, Bob Hoskins or Chris Evans.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug