Emotion Kicks Information’s Ass

Medical News Today: Consumers who are very skeptical about the truth of advertising claims are more responsive to emotionally appealing ads than ones peppered with information, according to a new study.
The finding comes from work by researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Washington State University who examined consumers’ responses to advertising, including brand beliefs, responses to informational and emotional appeals, efforts to avoid advertising, attention to ads and reliance on ads versus other information sources.
As part of the study, researchers showed consumers eight television commercials, half of which were defined as emotional, half as informational. For example, an emotional ad for Ernest and Julio Gallo wine emphasized a familial atmosphere at the winery and surrounding vineyards, while an informational ad for Joy dishwashing liquid showed how effectively the product removed baked-on foods.
“Highly skeptical consumers have likely become skeptical over time, in response to numerous interactions in the marketplace that have led them to distrust ad claims. Advertisers have developed strategies for approaching these skeptical consumers, including using emotional appeals, whose success does not require acceptance of informational claims,” said co-author Doug MacLachlan, professor of marketing and international business at the UW Business School.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. “ones peppered with information”
    Is that red, yellow, green, white or black pepper?
    They did consider color, right. Sociably and emotionably color matters in ads. Pigments in print and rays on screen.
    Did they do any research on how skeptical we have become of research that is highly skeptical?

  2. And guess what else? The world is round! 😉

  3. Hmmm. Wonder where a certain creative director could lay his greedy hands on a copy of this study….

  4. Carl LaFong says:

    Oddly enough, I’m just the opposite. If an advertiser is trying to appeal to my emotions, I tend to assume that they are lacking in substance and there is nothing special about their product or service. I’m not saying ads should aim for the head and not the heart. It’s more about striking the right balance: A few hard facts can make a soft sell more persuasive. But then, I’m a freak that way.

  5. “The world is round” is an emotional appeal through wording. Please use the term spherical and limit that to the 3rd dimension.
    Which creative directors are greedy? I need facts. I need to know where I want not to go today.

  6. Emotion beats information at everything.

  7. Carl LaFong says:

    Well, Seamus, that would explain why Bush beat Gore and Kerry.

  8. Bush beat those guys?

  9. Hmmm… I can’t help feeling that this will be used to support a further chase to the bottom by admen. I wonder if the constant appeal to emotions contributes to declining overall credibility in a sort of tragedy of the commons…

  10. Actually, David, Bush did NOT beat those guys. He is merely a master thief.

  11. Larry Flynt Jr says:

    I thought he was a master baker.