Emotion trajectories

What are they and why to take them into account at the planning and production phases of your ad?

 







1. Introduction

As you already know well, the world of advertising and marketing is competitive. What makes your video campaign successful, depends on several factors; in particular you should know who your target audience and competitors are and be aware of the latest trends. But even that might not be sufficient.

To be successful, your campaign needs to be creative and have an impact on people – your potential clients – when they see it. You should also assure that your target audience stays fully concentrated during the entire ad. Although this might sound easy in theory, its implementation in practice can be challenging and often costly.

The crucial questions are thus:
1. How to make sure that your video ad will have an impact on the audience who will be watching it?
2. How to ensure that your video ad will capture the audience’s attention until the very end?

Ad development is, of course, a creative process with a lot of factors coming into play. However, creative ad development can be supported by taking into account certain trajectories of emotions that increase engagement in video advertisements, as identified on the basis of empirical observations. Including positive emotions, such as joy, and surprise in your ad is an efficient way to increase consumers’ engagement in watching your video. However, the way how you include such emotions does matter significantly, as demonstrated in the Study of T. Teixeira, M. Wedel and R. Pieters on ‘Emotion-Induced Engagement in Internet Video Advertisements (Journal of Marketing Research, April 2012, Vol. 49, No 2, pp. 144 – 159).

In the following sections, we will present you some of the main findings of this study which shows us the influence of typical sequences of joy and surprise emotions on concentrating attention and retaining viewers over the course of advertisements. We will give you some concrete examples of ads which we have tested within our Feelin community to better illustrate these findings in practice. However, this article does not aim to discuss the results of the study in detail; thus, in case you are interested in knowing more, please read the study, the entire reference of which can be found above.

2. Emotions as a tool to increase consumers’ engagement in watching video ads

The study on ‘Emotion-Induced Engagement in Internet Video Advertisements’ aims to examine the impact of joy and surprise has on moment-to-moment engagement of viewers in video ads by letting them freely to decide what they want to watch and what to avoid by zapping a video ad at any time. According to the hypotheses, both joy and surprise increase the concentration of attention of viewers although the effects of surprise are stronger due to its unexpectedness. On the other hand, both joy and surprise also increase viewer retention i.e. they reduce the probability that viewers stop watching the video ad in question; the effects of joy are stronger as the exposure to surprise falls rapidly once the disconfirmation of expectations is solved.

Without going into the details, these hypotheses on the consequences on both concentration of attention and viewer retention were supported by the findings of the study. In addition, as joy reduces zapping progressively across the exposure, the findings show that viewers, when experiencing joy, are less likely to zap in the later part of the ad in question than in the beginning.

The study also highlights the importance of the first few seconds for ads to captivate viewers’ attention. In particular, early surprise more strongly reduces zapping than surprise at a later stage. It is, however, noted that this might also be caused by a selection effect, i.e. towards the end of the ad, people who do not like it have already zapped away.

Based on these findings, the study identifies five different emotion trajectories of ads, the most effective trajectories being a peak-valley-peak trajectory and a peak-and-stable trajectory.

2.1. The most optimal emotion trajectories

A. Peak-valley peak emotion trajectory

In the peak-valley-peak trajectory, emotional sequences vary, culminating to a peak of a positive emotion at the end of the ad.

According to the study, such a peak-valley-peak repetition of joy leads to the highest retention of viewers and is thus the most effective trajectory when the goal is to maximise viewer retention.

Such a peak-valley-peak trajectory can be identified, for example, in the video ad of Nintendo ‘C’est pas Koh Lanta’ which was tested within the Feelin community (by 27 men and 19 women living in France, having a mean of age of 33). 24% of the audience reacted when watching this video ad – which is 7.13% more emotional reaction than the average (16.79%). 87.3% of these reactions were positive, which is 38.1% more than the average.

Video ad of Nintendo ‘C’est pas Koh Lanta’ as an example of a peak-valley-peak emotion trajectory

Another example where this kind of emotion trajectory can be identified is the video ad of Luminus ‘Ensemble, faisons la difference’ which was also tested within the Feelin community (by 36 men and 12 women living in Belgium having a mean age of 37). When watching this video ad, 29% of the audience reacted (12.38% more emotional reaction than the average (16.79%)) of which 80.2% were positive reactions (31.1% more than the average).

Video ad of Luminus ‘Ensemble, faisons la difference’ as another example of a peak-valley-peak emotion trajectory

The figure below represents how engaged the audience remained during the entire video ad of Luminus. As you can see, the final score of 81% is an average score. You can also notice that the retention score dropped at the very beginning of the video quite a lot and then less intensively, staying most of the time slightly above the average.

Retention score of the video ad of Luminus ‘Ensemble, faisons la difference’

This shows us how creating an efficient ad is actually an interaction of several factors that all need to be properly considered. To effectively apply the peak-valley-peak trajectory in the context of the Luminus ad, the first peak should have occurred already earlier, i.e. within the first seconds; in that way, the final retention score would have been higher. As already mentioned, the first few seconds of an ad are crucial to captivate viewers’ attention. Also, the length of the ad video has an impact on the retention score and must always be taken into account.

B. Peak-and-stable trajectory

The peak-and-stable emotion trajectory is the other optional, nondecreasing, trajectory. According to the study, this trajectory is best overall in concentrating attention. On the other hand, attention concentration by itself reduces the probability of zapping of the viewers.

A modified version of such a peak-and-stable trajectory can be identified in the video ad of Evian ‘The Baby Bare Necessities’, the shorter version of which (unfortunately not available on YouTube) was tested by the Feelin community (by 35 men and 50 women, having a mean of age of 43). 13% of the audience reacted when watching this video ad – which is 4% less emotional reaction than the average (16.79%). 92.5% of these reactions were, however, positive, which is 43.3% more than the average.

Video ad of Evian ‘The Baby Bare Necessities’ as an example of a modified version of a peak-and-stable emotion trajectory

The figure below represents how engaged the audience remained during the entire video ad of Evian. The video succeeded in keeping most people engaged in the content with 85% of the audience remaining engaged to the end (+4% compared to the average video tested).

Retention score of the video ad of Evian ‘The Baby Bare Necessities’

However, you can also notice that the retention score dropped quite significantly during the last seconds of the video ad after the logo of Evian appeared on the screen and was much higher before that specific moment. One option to avoid such a situation to occur and maximise the benefits of the peak-and-stable trajectory is to get the brand noticed earlier by placing it at other, earlier, points in the video (see our blog for further recommendations).

2.2. Other emotion trajectories

The peak-and-stable and the peak-valley-peak trajectories are the most optimal emotion trajectories identified by the study on ‘Emotion-Induced Engagement in Internet Video Advertisements’. Three other trajectories were also identified: an ‘increasing peak-valley-peak’ trajectory, a linear increasing trajectory, and a stable-and-peak trajectory. The first one is a milder version of the peak-valley-peak trajectory as presented above, in which the changes are not that rapid: in this version, there is a general positive trend over time which is on the highest level at the end of the video ad. Because of its similarities with the ‘normal’ peak-valley-peak trajectory, we will, however, not discuss this trajectory further in this article.

A. Linear increasing trajectory

The idea behind the linear increasing trajectory is that people prefer upward-sloping emotional sequences more generally. However, according to the study, in addition to the two most optimal trajectories, the increasing peak-valley-peak trajectory performed better on both attention concentration and retention than the linear increasing trajectory.

A linear increasing trajectory can be identified, for example, in the Coca-Cola 2021 Christmas video adCheminée Noël 2021’ which was also tested by 186 persons of the Feelin community (by 123 men and 63 women living in France and Belgium, having a mean of age of 34). As it can be seen from the table below, 24% of the audience reacted when watching the video ad (7.39% more emotional reaction than the average): 84.4% of these reactions were positive, which is 35.6% more than the average.

Video ad of Coca-Cola ‘Cheminée Noël 2021’ as an example of a linear increasing trajectory

Regarding retention, the table below shows us that the retention score of the Coca-Cola 2021 Christmas video is slightly below the average; 76.2% of the audience remained engaged to the end of the video, which is 4.8% less than the average video tested.

Retention score of the video ad of Coca-Cola ‘Cheminée Noël 2021’

Although the retention score of the Coca-Cola 2021 Christmas video is pretty satisfactory, as well as the survey results – which indicate whether the audience like the ad, whether they would share it and whether at least some of them would be interested in the product/ service (not discussed here) – using one of the two most optimal trajectories, as explained above, might have led to an even better engagement of the audience through the entire video.

B. Stable-and-peak trajectory

Lastly, the study describes the stable-and-peak trajectory as a typical trajectory ‘for certain mystery advertisements that present the key emotional scene at the finale, targeting classical conditioning of attitudes through emotional reinforcement at the end’.

A recent video ad of Free, ‘Déclaration du Président’, can be considered as a slightly modified version of a stable-and-peak trajectory. Tested for the time being by 54 persons of the Feelin community (by 30 men and 24 women living in France, having a mean of age of 37), 43% of the audience reacted when watching this video ad, which makes a parody of the upcoming French presidency elections (26.05% more emotional reaction than the average). 75.8% of these reactions were positive, which is 27% more than the average.

Video ad of Free ‘Déclaration du Président’ as an example of a modified stable-and-peak trajectory

Retention score of the video ad of Free ‘Déclaration du Président’

As you can see from the table above, the final retention score of 77.6% of the Free video ad is 3.5% lower than the average of the videos we have tested (see the grey line on the chart). Although it can still be considered as an average score, the fact that the score dropped rather quickly from the very beginning and stayed below the average until the very end could have been avoided, for example, by using one of the two most optimal trajectories, like in the context of the Coca-Cola 2021 Christmas video (as discussed above).

A different, modified version of a stable-and-peak trajectory can also be identified in the 2020 Christmas video ad of Kruidvat. A shorter version of this ad (45 seconds, not available on YouTube) was tested by 87 persons of the Feelin community (by 34 men and 53 women, having a mean age of 42). 17% of the audience reacted when watching the video (0.46% more emotional reaction than the average): 65.5% of these reactions were positive, which is 16.3% more than the average.

The 2020 Christmas video ad of Kruidvat as an example of a modified stable-and-peak trajectory

Retention score of the 2020 Christmas video ad of Kruidvat

As you can notice from the first figure above, the positive emotional peak is at the end of the video ad, in particular where the little girl appears behind the snowman to say ‘hi’ to Santa Claus. On the other hand, the second figure above shows us that the retention score dropped already at the very beginning and stayed most of the time below the average with a final retention score of 75% (-5% compared to the average video tested). It is, however, worth mentioning that Kruidvat’s logo is well placed during the entire video – and not only at the end, which is often the case – which means that it was most probably also seen by the viewers who stopped watching the video before its end. Anyway, here again, the retention score could have been better by including more positive emotional peaks through the entire video ad (peak-valley-peak trajectory) instead of having one peak at the end of the video.

3. Final considerations

3.1. Challenges related to the planning and creation of an effective video ad

As also mentioned in the study on ‘Emotion-Induced Engagement in Internet Video Advertisements’, there is value in using these optimal emotion trajectories as a template in creative and design, although it is not an easy task.

Advertisers and agencies are not often aware of these trajectories, nor of the benefits of using them; and if they are, another challenge may be that viewers do not always react in a way which was initially expected. Let’s take an example of an agency whose aim is to create an ad following the peak-and-stable trajectory by placing, at the beginning of the ad, a scene which should arouse positive emotions in general, such as a classical scene of family Christmas dinner with dogs and children everywhere. If the target audience of this ad is, however, teenagers or young adults, the peak-and-stable trajectory would probably not work as well as amongst another target groups (such as middle-aged women). This could lead to a situation where the audience will not react to the ad at all and will stop watching it before its end.

The above-mentioned example is rather simplistic but, as you probably know well, the challenges encountered in the real life are often more complex. It is, therefore, crucial to be aware not only of the different optimal trajectories but also of the audience you want to target with your video ad. At Feelin, we are more than happy to help you with these challenges as well as the other possible ones.

3.2.Feelin as a tool to identify emotion trajectories and improve video ads

By using Feelin – an app through which we capture reactions of hundreds of persons to video ads only in a few hours thanks to their smartphones – you can minimise your risks related to the planning, creation and production of your video ads. By pre-testing your video ads with us, you will learn how to improve their performance. In addition to the audience’s feedback, the performance of your video ads will be benchmarked to the thousands of other relevant video ads we have already tested. Once tested, you will also receive a final report on your video ad in question, including specific recommendations how to improve it. We will help you not only with the challenges related to the target audience and the identification of the most optimal emotion trajectory but also with other issues, such as the placement of the logo on your ad, its optimal length, the use of music and many other issues!

Pre-testing your video ads will thus help you, among other things, to minimise risks, save costs, test different ideas in a safe environment, get feedback, optimise branding and recall as well as message transmission and in general, make your video ads more effective.

One of the assets of Feelin – which also distinguishes us from our competitors – is the velocity with which we can test your ads: thanks to our FEELIN App, you do not need to wait for days or months for the results, but you can have them in a few hours only!

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