Commentary

Seeking Emotional Outcomes

"Advertising is based on one thing: happiness." Or at least that's how Don Draper once deconstructed it on AMC's "Mad Men." A simple belief; however, one not to be simply dismissed.

After six seasons of "Mad Men," one thing is true about Don Draper, the creative director: he works in service of this belief, in a way. He famously sold luxury carmaker Jaguar on the idea of "Unattainable Desire." Pitched Hershey's chocolate as the "Currency of Affection." For Hilton hotels, he spun "The Thrill of International Travel," and perhaps, most famously, he packaged the Kodak Wheel slide machine, as the Kodak Carousel, a photographic time machine that serves nostalgia.

Desire, affection, thrill, nostalgia. Don Draper simplified advertising as being about "happiness," but more accurately, Don Draper believes effective advertising is about emotion. Specifically, any good creative idea is only as good as the strength of the emotion that it makes a person feel.

In 2014, we exist in an advertising climate worlds away from 1960's Madison Avenue. A world full of hashtags, views, and retweets. Fleeting moments of social ambulance chasing that is everything today and nothing tomorrow. A time where the ultimate win is adding a new "follower," and it feels like the majority of our creative stockpile is spent directing traffic (follow us on Twitter, Shazaam this ad, like us on Facebook) rather than eliciting emotions.

It begs the question: what if we spend less time trying to get people to do something, and more time trying to get people to feel something?

After a review of some of the most beloved (and viewed) work of the last year, it appears that the spirit of Don Draper is alive and well. The following emotion-driven spots work masterfully because they focus their creative energy on making people feel:

Audi "Prom" (11MM views)

A simple story of adolescent guts in which a student goes stag to his High School prom. But, with a boost from his Father's Audi as his ride for the evening, he works up the courage to kiss his dream girl, even with her larger, scarier boyfriend nearby.

Emotion: I feel brave.

Dove "Real Beauty Sketches" (62MM views)

The eye-opening and eye-watering spot that made real women question their perception of their own beauty. Dueling sketch-artist sketches, one from their self-description and one from a second-hand physical description proved out Dove's line, "You are more beautiful than you think you are."

Emotion: I feel confident.

Chipotle "Scarecrow" (12MM views)

A chilling odyssey of poorly and inhumanely treated animals through the eyes of a scarecrow employee of Crow Foods, an evil and irresponsible food company. It's a menacing look at the dark side of the food industry that makes us yearn for food responsibility.

Emotion: I feel ashamed.

Three wildly successful ads that thrive based on their ability to inspire emotion, with no action required. Unlike advertising that asks for behavior or action, emotion-based advertising is effective because it's involuntary. Consumers can decide if they want to pull out their phones and bang out a tweet, but we can't control our ability to feel brave, confident, or ashamed.  

So, how can we harness the awesome power of emotion, and make Don Draper proud at the same time? Plan for it. Alongside "creative tone" and "consumer takeaways," we need to make conscious decisions about what type of emotion we're trying to elicit.

Call it emotional outcome. An emotional outcome is a single word that completes the following statement:

This campaign, or this ad, or this brand action should make people feel ______________.

Establishing an "emotional outcome" not only leads to better work, but it also makes the internal evaluation of the work much simpler. It is much easier, and more intuitive, for a group of people to ask themselves, "When I watch this ad, do I feel proud/confident/ashamed?" than it is for a group of people to watch an ad and ask themselves, "Is this ad any good?" We all know what certain emotions feel like, and you either feel it or you don't; taste is subjective, feelings are innate.

As we watch “Mad Men”’s final season, let us become intoxicated by Draper nostalgia, and start orchestrating some feelings in our own work. Let’s make a commitment to influencing behavior that manifests itself not in a tweet, but in a smile, a goose-bump, or a tear.

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