IPA’s new Adworks shows why advertisers and agencies need to tap into consumers’ emotions

The UK’s IPA trade body for agencies has just produced its latest version of Adworks, a compilation of articles and case histories purporting to show sceptical clients and others that advertising really does work.

Over the years it’s done a remarkably good job, as much by not over-claiming for ads as making the case for them.

The UK Advertising Association recently produced some research claiming that every pound spent on advertising produced £6 in the real economy, contributing £100bn to the UK’s depleted coffers. This may or may not be true – but it sounds fanciful.

Here’s one of the pieces from the new Adworks by Marie Oldham (left), chief strategy officer at MPG Media contacts (or Havas Media as we’re supposed to call it now, in some places anyway).

Marie delves into the tricky area of emotions in ads. She refers to the recent IPA Effectiveness Awards (Adworks is based on this), which you might not know about, and also introduces the concept of ‘needstates,’ which, some might say (us) doesn’t mean any more than ‘needs.’ But her argument is an interesting one; apart from anything else it shows how difficult it is just to try to sell something these days.

The decline of the stiff upper lip

Chris Hoy does it, Andy Murray did it and even the Queen did it in 2012: Great Britain is busy reconnecting with our emotions and shedding a tear in public is no longer seen as weak or embarrassing. The post credit crunch world has seen the re- emergence of family values, a focus on supporting local business and creating support networks to inform everything from our parenting styles, where we go on holiday or where to get the best value car insurance.

‘Reality TV’ has moved on from Big Brother and we now want to see personal histories unfold on Who Do You Think You Are?, we are inspired by Mo Farah’s story and John Bishop’s tears as he cycled for Sports Relief gaining an audience of six million and 391,000 Facebook likes. Who could have predicted that the nation would respond to the tragic death of Claire Squires during the London Marathon by actively visiting a stranger’s fundraising page; over 64,000 people collectively donating £1m plus.

Like it or loathe it, Facebook and Twitter offer us an outlet for emotional outpouring, whether it is to comment on a human tragedy, shame a banker into resigning or salute a hero. Anyone who witnessed the singing volunteers at the Olympics, or the sweeping brush-toting residents of London who cleaned up after the 2011 riots can see that Great Britain is no longer the home of the stiff upper lip. Equally, we are starting to realise that the spend, spend, spend years of the 80s and 90s may have clouded our view of what’s really important and that wanting your children to succeed in life is a deeper human motivation than wanting to have the most expensive car in your street.

Getting beneath the skin of consumers

Successful communications campaigns often tap into the zeitgeist to reflect the emerging trends and feelings of the moment, positioning brands as relevant and ‘for people like me’. However, I would argue that genuinely transformative big ideas tap into something much deeper. Agencies and clients who understand that human beings are driven by powerful needstates such as Belonging, Conviviality, Security, Recognition and Vitality can gain deeper insight from which to build ownable territories. These are some of the needstates that shape our aspirations and behaviours around family, our need to belong to communities, our need to feel accomplished and our need to feel secure in our lives.

For example, the closely connected needstates of Power, Vitality and Recognition explain why men throughout history have volunteered to go to war, needed to sail the seven seas in search of adventure and to climb treacherous mountains. The same needstates today are satisfied through adventurous gap year travels, running marathons or even the desire to parade every moment of your exciting life on Facebook and amass hundreds of friends who reinforce your personal Vitality by ‘liking’ your every comment. In order to gain rich insight into the purchase decisions made by parents you need to understand how creating a home is not about furniture but is about creating a safe haven from the nasty world for your children, how a barbecue with friends makes us feel valued, accepted, connected and how using fabric softener is an act of love.

The strongest entrants into this year’s IPA Effectiveness Awards immediately demonstrated to the judges that they not only understood what makes human beings tick but also that times have changed, and for many audiences the recession has offered a much needed chance to reassess the lifestyle choices we are making and a chance to return to what is important in life.

Making the nation cry, talk, and buy

John Lewis (below) certainly delved deep into our emotional lives and the world beyond price to remind people of the role of their brand at life-defining moments and of the emotion imbued in many purchases we make. The campaign succeeded not through the power of advertising weight (it was outspent by many competing brands) but through the power of emotion. In addition to personal yet universal storylines, longer time-lengths and anthemic music were used to draw consumers into each film and engage them in a rich experience. In return, viewers were inspired to talk about the campaign at home, with friends face-to-face and online, to share the films widely and to let the staff know what they felt when they went to store.

British Gas more overtly taps into the belief that we strive to create a world of warmth and safety and that trust is a defining KPI even for brands that deliver services and utilities. In a world of negative press, energy price rises, category confusion and increased competition, the unifying idea and the conversion of rational product message into emotional consumer benefit is starting to win through for the former monolith.

The Nikon paper is also worth a read as an example of human understanding completely changing the direction of a brand. The ‘I AM’ insight offers the brand a strong platform from which to tap into the increasing image culture emerging on our phones, laptops and tablets, a great example of technology facilitating our deep seated human need to define our lives by creating and capturing happy memories in forms that we can share in our virtual world as well as display in our physical world. Interestingly, different needstates come to the fore as we move through life; and The Art Fund paper highlights this with a brand that for too long depended on Accomplishment and Philanthropy needstates amongst older life stages as the core of its revenue base, but needed to get to grips with the social needs of younger consumers in order to win new members.

The IPA Effectiveness Awards are not the only place where this shift in consumer values is being understood and leveraged. We have all seen how Procter & Gamble are making the seismic shift to recognise ‘Mums’ and the powerful role they often have as family ‘glue’. Mums whose aspirations and desires are delivered into our lives daily as home-cooked food, healthy lunchboxes, soft towels, shampoo that won’t hurt your eyes and hundreds of miles spent driving kids to swimming, hockey and horse riding – not to get the kids off their hands, but to give them the best chance in life.

Procter’s positioning as the champion of Team GB’s ‘Nearest & dearest’ was inspired; the ‘Thank you mum’ platform obviously has legs both globally and beyond the Olympics so you can look forward to seeing more of it in the future.

The need to tap into consumer needstates on a more meaningful level is also outlined in research carried out by Mumsnet for the ‘venus2mars’ event in 2011.

Mumsnet asked women which ads connected with them and why. Campaigns such as Aldi, John Lewis (old couple), Dove and VW’s Darth Vader got positive mentions because of their authenticity, understanding of the human condition and a sense that these situations could happen to ‘real people’. Equally, some campaigns were slated for having no warmth or humanity. Campaigns that involve a group of women sitting around a kitchen table discussing what products they use for ‘tummy troubles’ were widely derided. Though sheer weight of ratings make these ads remembered, it is not likely that they achieve cut-through on a more meaningful level or build any long- term value.

Insight-rich campaigns drive effectiveness in both the long and short term

It is not rocket science to say that the power of emotion shone through in many of this year’s successful entries. However, the latest datamine analysis into long- and short-term effects of advertising provides four very robust findings:

1/ Emotional advertising has much broader effects than rational approaches – it tends to move all the dials;
2/ Emotional effects last much longer than rational effects;
3/ This means that emotional effects build up over years in a way that rational effects do not;
4/These longer and broader effects of emotion mean that the ultimate paybacks from emotion are much higher.

However, what I believe we really learnt is that emotional responses which are deeply rooted in human values are the critical factor. Our world has changed significantly in the last five years; older consumers are getting back to the values they believe in, and modern families are creating homes and lifestyles that are not about bling and designer labels but are about shared experiences, being connected to the world and brands that offer value beyond just price. We also mustn’t forget that the children and teenagers of today are growing up in this new world, and the brands they respect (Moshi Monsters, Nike, CBBC, Apple) offer multi-dimensional access, rich experiences and strong brand values.

Whenever you set out to communicate in this new world, be sure you know what makes your audience tick on a human level.

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