Emotional Intensity

By Tom Dougherty


Emotional Intensity. Great Advertising.

Emotional Intensity=Great Advertising 

By Tom Dougherty


Every company that uses advertising in its marketing mix agrees that advertising must be noticed and it must compel consumers to take action. Without fulfillment of the first of these principles, the second is impossible. This doesn’t sound like brain surgery, does it?

You must claim the highest emotional intensity

Creativity is not enough

Yet much advertising is terribly ineffective and, for that matter, bad. The reason is simple. Look at advertising as a business form.

This is a unique approach in today’s self-serving world’s often ostentatious art direction, but I will risk it just the same. You see, advertising is not art in the classic sense.

Advertising is commerce that uses art as its vehicle. The best advertising calls attention to the message, not the art form. It claims the highest emotional intensity.

However, most advertising today falls into two categories: complicated and trendy art, or dull vanilla executions that fail to ignite emotional connection.

I can understand, if not forgive, the advertising overindulgence, but what about the majority of advertising that bores consumers to death with demonstrations and exaggerated characters?

I’d like to take a stab at the thinking that has erroneously created such dangerous crevasses. First, dull is not safe. Dull is a sure-fire way to waste your precious advertising dollars.

Effective Advertising has Emotional Intensity

Effective advertising must be noticed and later recalled. It must have emotional intensity. It has to command the consumer to stop dead in their tracks and notice the ad.

If you want something to be noticed it has to “STAND OUT.” As much as we in the business world like to believe that the consumer appreciates our “art” we have to get real in a hurry. Advertising is a passive medium.

Most consumers view it as an interruption while they are reading, hearing or watching something else.

Emotional intensityTo be effective, advertising has to reach out and shake passive consumers, grab them by the shirt collar, give them a shake and tell them that what they are about to read, hear or see is important to them.

It’s all about emotional intensity. The best headline in the world for me would be: “Tom Dougherty, read this. This is about you.” Someday, as the interactive world fulfills its promise, such headlines might be possible. Until then, we have had to settle for less personal calls to action.

Either way, it requires the same discipline-you must know and understand the target audience. Here’s the problem with the dull stuff: It is stuck in the shrinking world that my dear late parents inhabited.

Those of us who have been in this business for a while need to refresh our look at target markets. About 20 years ago, a target audience was defined as all people over 45, and we had a pretty good idea who these folks were. They grew up during the Depression and cut their teeth on the big bands.

Things have changed

Conservative by nature, they lived within a world of polite civility. Here’s the rub. Today the over-45 generation is those of us who cut our teeth on the irreverent ’60s. Our heroes were today’s aging rock stars.

Our idea of humor was not Uncle Miltie but Saturday Night Live. Irreverence was the flavor of the day. Sure, our perspective on the world has changed some over the last 20 years but the fact is that we have much more in common with our children’s generation than we do with our parent’s.

Emotional intensity

Emotional Intensity is why the target notices

Sometimes I feel as though packaged goods advertising has gotten stuck in a time warp.

They are still selling The Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet to the kids that grew up on the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Being over 70 in 2014 means you might be as square as Mick Jagger and David Crosby.

If you want to be relevant to this generation, you have to call us by our name, and our name is “popular culture.” We expect advertising messages to be both entertaining and informative.

We want to see ourselves in the work.

If you want our active involvement in your brand, don’t take risks. Remember that the biggest risk is to continue to make the same old dull advertising emphasizing product benefits and ignoring our basic need to be validated by what we purchase or use.

What about the “artsy” advertising that seeks to “express” itself? These ads are designed to elicit a response from the customer who says, “What’s going on?”

It did not work

The problem with this thinking is that it doesn’t work. Remember-advertising is passive, it comes to the consumer unbidden, or “intriguing” won’t cut it. It needs high emotional intensity.

It’s estimated that the average consumer receives 1, 800 messages every day. Surviving in the Information Age means being able to filter out most of the junk in an attempt at making life easier, we have developed a keen sense of skipping messages that do not “involve” us. We have moved past the Information Age to enter the Knowledge Age.

Information that is irrelevant to us is received as noise.

We have developed these filters just to survive. It started with the rock ‘n’ roll music we listened to as kids while we studied. Our parents couldn’t understand how we could concentrate on two things at once.

They were partially correct. We listened to the music as background, filtering out the messages as we learned to concentrate on the work at hand.

Improve your advertising

Emotional intensityGreat masters of the advertising arts understand how difficult it is to create timely, relevant advertising that stops you dead in your tracks, demands to be read, inspires connection and action while calling as little attention as possible to the medium that brings the message.

In other words, all the consumer is left with is a powerful message and a view of themselves taking action.

The call to action here is both aimed at advertising agencies and clients. As clients, allow the agency to connect the work to consumers, as they are today-not as they were when we were kids.

Agencies need to honor their craft. Let’s do a better job of forwarding commerce and demand that all successful advertising be judged on the business it generates.

Know the playing field and demand work that is the best in the category. Remember: Anyone in art school can paint a portrait of a Paris Cafe. Only the truly talented can paint the same picture and make me go out of my way to eat there. Never forget the emotional intensity.


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