No more tears! Emotional ads may not help improve customers’ memory
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No more tears! Emotional ads may not help improve customers’ memory

An ad's emotional arousal can have a negative effect on immediate memory but a positive effect on delayed memory

Debunking a long thought that an appeal to emotion sparks a call-to-action that motivates viewers to become consumers, a new study suggests that emotionally arousing advertisements may not always help improve consumers' immediate memory.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Advertising, indicates that an ad's emotional arousal can have a negative effect on immediate memory but a positive effect on delayed memory -- but only if the level of emotional arousal elicited by the ad is congruent with the ad's claims.

"Emotionally arousing appeals have long been used in advertising, but the impact of those appeals on consumers' memory has always been a bit unclear," said the researcher, Hayden Noel, Assistant Professor, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US.

"So we examined the impact of different aspects of emotionally arousing ads on memory. Why did we focus on emotion? Well, in the majority of business-to-consumer ads that are crafted to drive sales, eliciting emotional activation, or arousal, plays a critical role," Noel added.

For the study, the team conducted three experiments using print and video ads from different English-speaking countries.

The researchers tested the moderating roles of retention time and the fit between the emotional arousal communicated in the ad and the ad claim. All experiments used combinations of low and high emotionally arousing ads.

The researchers found that when the level of emotional activation elicited by the ad doesn't fit the ad's claim, then the message conveyed ultimately doesn't stick in the consumer's mind.

Emotional appeals continue to be essential tools for marketers and emotionally arousing ads are generally the most successful type of advertisement, "leading to higher levels of profit relative to other ads that may appeal to intellect or rational thought," Noel said.

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