As featured on Adweek
For all the ongoing talk of brand safety, digital advertisers really need to start thinking about new ways to ensure that their messages show up in the places where they are most appropriate and most engaging. It’s probably time to shake up this conversation and stop thinking just about ways to “protect” a brand’s image and start looking at how to actually enhance it.
And that comes from creating a media strategy that leverages the contextual signals evoked from the articles people are consuming.
To discover these contextual signals, we need to examine how content elicits an emotional response from a person. Emotions, after all, are a result of a stimulus…namely, the content or context a person is being exposed to.
In fact, the purpose of great content is to elicit an emotional response. A person becomes inspired when reading something motivational, or angry when watching a heated news broadcast. Our emotional feedback system allows us to make sense and interact with the world. It’s what makes us human.
If we want ads to perform, then they need to become more human.
An emotional, native experience
How can you do this? Start by asking if your ads distract from the contextual experience. Banner ads that blindly shout out their messages or 15-second pre-roll ads that ignore the connection the viewer has with the content are all basically emotionally unavailable messages. It’s no wonder why people loathe advertising. Yet, most marketers do little to nothing to help improve the advertising experience.
Advertisers can begin to turn this tide and make ads appear more human by enhancing them with emotions.
Emotional targeting allows for ads to have empathy. It gives brands a new lever to communicate with their audiences in a more seamless, more human approach. It’s completely contextual and utilizes latent features that are rooted in psychology and linguistics.
Studies have shown that advertisements that elicit an emotional response perform three times better than non-emotional ads. Now, brands can build the right emotional ad and pair it with the right emotional context to construct a truly emotional native experience.
Ad performance based on emotional response can vary depending on the brand vertical. CPG, for instance, has seen a 50 percent increase in ad engagement on content that is happy and upbeat. Tech and telecom, on the other hand, increase ad view time performance during provocative and opinionated content. Lastly, automotive brands have shown stronger engagement on emotions of uncertainty and suspense.
This is a leading indicator that different brands perform better in different emotional contextual experiences. It’s not about finding “safe” environments so much as using emotional targeting to begin to optimize advertising performance for brands.
Deterministic and transparent
Because emotional context is based on the content that audiences are reading and engaging with, privacy regulations (such as GDPR and California Consumer Privacy Act) are less constraining. In fact, this kind of targeting does not require any user information. Instead, brands focus on building creative messages that will resonate with the content’s emotional experience, which leads to both improved ad performance and a greater range of messaging opportunities for the advertiser.
In fact, research shows there is still a significant and exciting correlation between the emotions an article elicits and the engagement rate of the ads within it. That’s why marketers are returning to contextual targeting. But we have only just begun to scratch the surface. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this contextual and emotional resurgence.