As the relentless rise of ad blocking shows, digital ads tend to drive the wrong kinds of emotion – anger, frustration, annoyance. These are not the feelings we want to generate in consumers! But because of the scale and pace of the digital environment, companies feel a need to constantly create content and push it into the internet quickly and cheaply, chasing short-term metrics to prove their return on marketing dollars.

That leads to a style of digital advertising that’s very transactional, looking for a quick sale or click. The brand is often superfluous.

Sales-focused, activation-style ads are important, of course. Analysts Les Binet and Peter Field, for the IPA, recommend that activation should make up a big chunk of media spend: 40%. But the other 60% should focus on brand. However, the most recent IPA findings show that a shocking 72% of campaigns focused on activation. This is short-termism in its purest form.

We weren’t the only ones worried by this. Undertone, a digital agency, approached us last year. Undertone knew that their interactive, engaging digital ad formats could actually drive long-term profit gains for their clients by delivering a positive emotional experience – emotion being the main driver of long-term profitability. But their engaging ad formats require more investment, and they needed to prove that investment would be worth it.

So System1 Research embarked in a large-scale validation study with Undertone to prove their formats worked. One ad tested in that study was for Emirates, the Dubai airline. The ad brings you into a Google Earth view of the interior which moves from cabin to cabin revealing luxury after luxury.  It’s not trying to sell you a flight – it’s submerging you in the brand’s experience and allowing you to truly feel what you can expect on board. The overall emotional journey confirms that people walk away feeling positive and excited, not  bothered or interrupted.

While this ad improved on the emotional experience for consumers, it also received a higher predition of short-term gains than standard banner ads. This is what Undertone’s clients needed to see in order to feel more confident in the higher investment.

But the billion dollar question was whether this digital advertisement could actually drive long-term profit gains. And the research proved that it could! The Emirates ad gained a 5-Star rating – putting it in the top 4% of our database. It’s predicted to drive long-term profit gains that are tough for even TV advertisements  to achieve, let alone digital advertising.

While short-term sales spark is important, building long-term profitable growth beyond that initial lift is essential for maintaining the health of brands. This can be done with the right creative and the right campaign objectives in mind – putting your brand on a path to profitable growth with zero waste.

Jocelyn Simon

System1 Research

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