Emotional context could make digital ads 40% more effective

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Reaching consumers when they’re in the right mood could increase the impact of digital advertising by as much as 40%, according to new research from Yahoo.

The Receptivity of Emotions study examined consumers’ emotional states and how receptive they are to advertising throughout the day, finding that US and UK consumers are ‘upbeat’ 46% of the time – the most common mood. Crucially, the research found that when these consumers are upbeat they are 24% more receptive to content in general, but 40% more likely to be receptive to digital advertising specifically.

Yahoo’s research represents one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted into the role that emotions play in consumers’ receptivity to advertising.

Studying U.S. and U.K. consumers

Based on a recognised emotional measurement framework, Yahoo gathered over 18,000 mood data points during a week-long study of consumers in the US and UK, using a specially developed smartphone app. This was supported with additional insights from a dozen in-depth interviews and an online survey of over 4,000 people across the US, UK, Germany, and Canada.

Examining the success of different forms of marketing across these four countries, the Receptivity of Emotions research found that when consumers are upbeat, they are 30% more likely to engage with native video content than in other emotional states. They’re also 28% more likely to engage with content marketing, and 21% more likely to engage with direct marketing.

In fact, a consumer’s mood was found to have almost the same effect on their likelihood to engage with digital ads as what they are doing at the time, meaning emotional context is almost as important for digital marketing as current activity. While 71% of consumers in these four countries would click on or read digital ads if they better reflected what they were doing at the time, two thirds (67%) would do the same if they better reflected how they felt.

When is the right time?

Nigel Clarkson, managing director, Yahoo UK says, “Digital marketers all appreciate the importance of reaching the right person, on the right device, at the right time. But the ‘right time’ should be about more than the web page they’re viewing at that moment. We should be striving to take a consumer’s emotions into account as well.

“The idea of aiming to engage with consumers when they are feeling upbeat may seem obvious at first, but never before have we been able to appreciate the extent of the impact it can have on a campaign’s success. Nor have we had concrete insight into when during the day this emotional state is most likely, and what types of marketing will benefit most. These new insights reinforce the importance of context in marketing, and take it to a whole new level.”

Encouragement for mobile marketers

In the UK and US, the time of day when the most consumers are upbeat was found to be between 11am and 2pm, making these the optimal hours for digital advertising. The study also showed that these hours of the day coincide with when consumers are most likely to be managing their lives, finding answers or looking for inspiration.

The Receptivity of Emotions research is particularly encouraging for mobile marketers: Upbeat UK and US smartphone users are 15% more likely to immediately follow up on digital advertising on their smartphones than those in other emotional states. Upbeat users are also 25% more likely to say that digital advertising on smartphones provides them with inspiring prompts.

The study used both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative research involved gathering over 18,000 data points from 600 people between the ages of 16 and 54 in the US and UK. Respondents used a custom-developed smartphone app to complete a week-long survey.
For the qualitative research 12 in-depth, two-hour interviews were conducted in New York and London and 4,000 people (1000 per market) were interviewed via a 15-minute survey across the UK, US, Germany and Canada.