The best advertising campaigns straddle the point at which logic meets creativity. They meld art with science, channelling insight and data to fashion compelling stories that elicit an emotional response.
This balance is crucial; if too much weight is exerted on one side, the whole thing can topple over. Yet, in an industry obsessed with tech and measurability, this is exactly what’s happening.
According to Orlando Wood, Chief Innovation Officer at System1, “the advertising brain has stopped working properly. It has lost its power to persuade, its ability to make people feel, and its talent to entertain.” He argues that today’s analytical culture has sent creativity into reverse, with professionals now too in thrall to spreadsheets and bottom lines.
Rebalancing the scales
As you may well know, the human brain has two sides: left and right. Our left brain is the domain of logic and reason; it’s constantly on the hunt for patterns, sequences and facts, sifting through details to establish order and objectivity. It’s safe. Cautious. Analytical in nature. Crucial to forming a sense of security in a big, scary world.
The right brain, on the other hand, is where sparks fly. Here, the imagination runs wild. It encourages intuition and invokes emotional responses, caring more for the ‘big picture’ as opposed to small details.
Currently, advertising is veering too far to the left. This is problematic: in a world where the average person is inundated with brand messages every hour of their waking day, it’s creativity that differentiates and emotivity that engages. To sacrifice either is to resign your brand to being just another faceless interruption.
It’s all about people, and people aren’t just numbers
Ultimately, any successful advertising campaign is the result of people working together to develop an understanding of other people. Brands, creative agencies and media planners must combine their different strengths to ensure there’s a bubbling pot of research, analysis, inspiration and openness – only then can we conjure ideas that truly connect.
It all boils down to how well we understand the motivations, concerns and attitudes of the target audience. We need to pinpoint what makes people tick, and craft narratives around our discoveries. This requires both an analytical approach, and creative intuition. It demands the methodical interpretation of data, and the ability to apply it in interesting ways that resonate.
Emotion linked to market share
Research by Binet & Field suggests brands that utilise emotive imagery in their advertising are more likely to see increases in market share. Recognisable settings, hummable tunes, character-led narratives and unfolding stories are all levers that can be pulled to trigger an emotional response in ads, while humour, positivity and nostalgia are well-trodden paths for advertisers who want to foster deeper connections with their audience – as seen during the height of the pandemic.
Campaigns that press the right buttons emotionally are more likely to be shared and talked about – but there’s more to it than shareability alone. Indeed, research from Harvard shows that we buy on feelings and justify with logic; it’s in the emotionally charged subconscious – structured with its own sophisticated logic and processes – where purchasing decisions are fermented, with brand loyalty also dependent on how we’re made to feel.
We need to overcome our own irrationalism
Of course, every human likes to think the decisions they make are based on carefully considered, rational thought. We yearn to feel in control, which can leave little room for the destabilising forces of our emotions. It’s therefore no surprise that some campaigns fall into the trap of placing too much importance on logic; the safety-first left brain often speaks with more authority.
Yet, think of a memory. What do you remember more: the details of the actual event itself, or how it made you feel? Advertising works in the same way – and that’s why we need to reconsider our over-reliance on tech.
The delivery and measurement platforms available today allow us to run ads with unprecedented autonomy, accuracy, flexibility and efficiency – but at what cost? How can relationships be fostered if people are treated as emotionless statistics? We cannot let data block our view of the real-life people we’re trying to reach.
So, let’s ensure that tech is used correctly as an enhancer of creativity; because while it can help in unearthing insights and guiding us to illuminating conclusions, it cannot replace you. When all’s said and done, it’s your ability to make other people feel something that will sell the brand.