Emotions in Advertising

David W Stewart, Jon Morris, Aditi Grover. The Sage Handbook of Advertising. Sage Publications. 2007.

Emotional response is seemingly one of life’s contradictions. It is ephemeral and long lasting. A well-researched and theoretically supported method for measuring it consists of three dimensions that are orthogonal and related at the same time. Pleasure or the degree of happiness is clearly and scientifically found to be different from arousal or level of involvement. Yet the more pleasing something is the more arousing it tends to be. But the contradictions don’t stop with the concepts. Research has shown that an emotional response can occur with or without cognitive processing. Rational thought can either spark or control affect. A fearful reaction, like seeing a snake, can provoke an avoidance response with no rational thought. For a trained snake handler the reaction may be quite different. Thought controls the emotional response to withdraw.

Another incongruity happens to all of us in daily experiences. Most of us have felt happy and sad, confident and apprehensive, or love and hate. Advertisers often hope to stir these kinds of emotions in order to bolster their message and motivate consumers to action, but they only rarely seek to determine if they are successful. In contrast to widely used methods for measuring cognitive and behavioural response to advertising there remains much skepticism about techniques that are used to measure emotional reactions regardless of how well tested or empirically supported.

So then what is emotion and what is an emotional response? This chapter seeks to answer these questions in the context of advertising and response to advertising. It focuses on what creates an emotional response in marketing communications and how can that response be measured. The chapter is organized around five sections. First, emotion is defined and emotions classified. What counts as an emotion and what is a stimulus of emotion or an antecedent of emotion? Section 1 addresses these issues. Section 2 briefly examines the use of emotions in advertising. Section 3 then describes several of the more prominent theories of emotion and Section 4 considers more specific issues related to the measurement of emotional response. Section 5 concludes the chapter by suggesting some opportunities for future research.

What is Emotion?: Defining Emotions and Related Constructs

Emotion is both a very common experience and a remarkably complex phenomenon. Early research and theory described emotions in terms of physiological responses to external stimuli. It is well known that the autonomic nervous system (ANS) of the human body is involved in arousal. The ANS is a collection of neural centers that control most of the normal body functions (breathing, heart beat, etc.) without conscious thought. The ANS has two divisions, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). In simple terms, the SNS acts to arouse emotions, while the PNS slows down most emotional activity. When someone is aroused emotionally, the SNS responds by elevating blood sugar, pumping more blood to the brain, muscles, and sometimes the surface of the skin, changing the rate of breathing, causing the skin to perspire, and dilating the pupils. When the emotion-arousing situation has passed, the PNS operates in the opposite direction to return the body to a resting state. In short, there is a clear, and relatively well-understood physiological reaction associated with emotion.

Unfortunately, a simple physiological definition of emotion fails to capture the richness of the experience and does not account for the fact that the same physiological reaction can be interpreted differently. People commonly talk about feeling anger, love, and sympathy. They will describe television commercials as warm or cold, pleasant or unpleasant, funny or somber. These are labels for some felt internal state. Psychologists Schachter and Singer (1962) suggest that when an external situation elicits an internal state of arousal, people search the environment for a reason for the arousal. They use cues in the environment to interpret and label the internal state. If the situation is one in which anger might be expected to occur, the internal response is interpreted as anger. If the situation is one in which joy might occur, the internal response is labeled happiness. Thus, there is a strong cognitive component to the emotional experience in addition to the physiological response.

Classifying Emotion

There are a number of classification systems for emotions (Osgood et al., 1957; Mehrabian and Russell, 1974; Russell, 1978, 1979, 1980; Plutchik, 1980). Almost all classifications include a general activation or arousal dimension associated with the intensity of what is experienced. A feeling of rage is more arousing than a feeling of irritation. A feeling of joy is less intense than being elated or euphoric. This intensity dimension has strong motivational overtones. The stronger the arousal properties of an emotion, the more likely action will have preceded or will follow the experience.

A second dimension of emotion is pleasantness. Fear is clearly an example of an emotion producing extreme displeasure. Love (at least if requited) may produce extreme pleasure. Some emotions, such as surprise, may be neutral on this dimension. People generally avoid unpleasant emotions, when possible, and seek out pleasant emotions. Most marketers, of course, seek to pair their products, communications, and other relevant stimuli, with pleasant emotions and avoid pairing with unpleasant emotions (although some products may be appropriately paired with the elimination or avoidance of an unpleasant emotion such as embarrassment).

A third dimension of emotion that has frequently been identified is ominance/submission. Submission refers to a lack of control over one’s environment and is related to such emotions as anxiety and depression. Dominance, the other pole of this dimension, is associated with feelings of control over one’s environment and with feelings of power, potency, or aggressiveness. A final dimension of emotion that has frequently been identified is social orientation, the extent to which the emotion is directed at self or others. Emotions such as affection, defiance, suspicion, and resentment are directed at others, while emotions such as pleased and joyful are directed more at self.

Uses of Emotion in Advertising

Advertising is a combination of art and science. After studying the audience, the premises, and the avenues of communication, artistic approaches are devised to convey a selling proposition to sometimes waiting and sometimes skeptical publics. In some cases, the product attributes contain all the necessary elements to stimulate the excitement necessary to stimulate demand. In other situations, specialists, writers and artists must add a twist or turn to propel the features of the product into an inspired madness that creates an accepting mantra. In the world of advertising, executives have long known that elevating an emotional response to the product enhances their chances of successful selling. Transformational advertising, for example, creates a premise that may transport the recipient into a world of imagination by using music, humor, and story telling. This kind of advertising is often seen as more creative and emotion laden.

Regardless of the source, the underlying motivator for selling is emotion. Emotions are direct reactions (see Phillips and LeDoux, 1992) to the stimulating atmosphere that is being created by the artistic execution known as an ad. Feelings from cheerfulness and fascination to cynicism and dissatisfaction are engendered or reinforced by television commercials, magazine ads or point of purchase displays. Emotional appeals have long been used in advertising and personal selling. Examples of the efforts of advertisers to arouse fear, humor, sexual desires, patriotism, and a wide variety of other human emotions are easy to find. Coca-Cola invites consumers to have a “Coke and a Smile.” DeBeers suggests to husbands that they “tell her you’d marry her all over again.” Kodak produced a long-running advertising campaign with the theme “Preserve the Memories,” a theme that played on sentimentality and affection for family. Advertising for fashion products and fragrances frequently uses sex appeal themes. Fears of property loss are a common theme in insurance ads. The range of emotions that may be evoked by advertising is diverse and emotional response play a unique role in bonding a consumer to a product.

A rich literature focuses on the factors that influence the impact of advertising messages on not of individual consumers and the market as a whole (e.g., Stewart and Kamins, 2003). In terms of content, an advertisement is usually defined along two general dimensions: (a) an informational or cognitive dimension, and (b) an emotional or feeling dimension. Both of these two dimensions also have a verbal and a non-verbal component. The informational dimension’s verbal component comprises rational and logical arguments; the non-verbal component such as visual imagery, music and language variables, serve to complement, reinforce and clarify the meaning of a verbal message. The emotional or feeling dimension may be verbal but is often nonverbal. The emotional dimension is generally expressed in the form of emotional appeals or messages imbued with content designed to elicit, reinforce and transfer feelings.

Adding appropriate emotional content to a purely information-based advertisement is generally believed to enhance attitude change in audience and audience receptivity. One the other hand, in many mature product categories there are few genuine technological differences that provide a basis for a strong informational claim. Advertisers, therefore, attempt to develop emotional bonds between consumers and the firm or its product(s).

The study of emotional appeals in advertising has most often classified emotional appeals based on valence: some emotions are positive and some are negative. Negative appeals common in advertising content are fear, anger, guilt, disgust and sadness, among others. Common positive appeals include happiness, joy, humour, pride and warmth. Burke and Edell (1989) have offered an alternate classification that further differentiates positive appeals: (1) warmth appeals (e.g., pride and nostalgia), (2) upbeat appeals (e.g., joy, excitement and humour) and (3) negative appeals (e.g., fear and guilt). There is a very substantial empirical research on the effects of emotional appeals in advertising, including anger (e.g., Averill, 1982; Frijda, 1986; Lazarus, 1991; Roseman et al., 1994), empathy (Wells et al., 1971, Bagozzi, 1986; Davis, 1983; Aaker and Williams, 1998), fear (e.g., Brooker, 1981; Mewborn and Rogers, 1979; Witte, 1995; Boster and Mongeau, 1984), happiness (e.g., Lazarus, 1991), hope (DeMello and MacInnis, 2005; Lazarus 1991), humour (Duncan and Nelson 1985; Gelb and Pickett, 1983; Brooker, 1981), irritation (Aaker and Bruzzone, 1985), pride (e.g., Lazarus, 1991), and warmth (Aaker et al., 1986).

Pechmann and Stewart (1988) have drawn another distinction between the types of emotion used in advertising. The product itself may have emotional or experimental benefits. Perfume may offer sex appeal; automobile insurance may reduce fear of property loss. These are emotions that are directly relevant to the product and/or its benefits. A second use of emotion in advertising is unrelated to the product. Rather, the emotional response is evoked to increase the effectiveness of the persuasive communication. It may do this by increasing attention to the ad, by making the ad more memorable, or by suggesting a basis for decision-making. Several researchers have also found that “attitude toward the ad,” or the likeability of an ad, i.e., how positively or negatively the viewer regards the ad itself, has an impact on attitudes toward the advertised product (Mitchell and Olson, 1981; Shimp, 1981; Smit et al., 2006).

Theories of Emotions

Although emotion is widely recognized in the study of consumer behaviour, systematic inquiry into the determinants of emotion and its effects on consumer response has been hindered by the lack of a general theory capable of explaining the complex nature of the process and the phenomenology of emotional response (Bagozzi et al., 1999). Though several theories of emotion have been influential in marketing research, no single theory has captured the complexity of emotional response and its role in consumer behaviour. There are many variants in theories of emotion but most theories fall into one of six broad classes: physiological, arousal, facial expression, basic emotions models, dimensional models and attribution/appraisal process theories.

Physiological Theories of Emotions

Physiological theories, the oldest theories of emotions, posit that emotional response is characterized by an internal physiological response that is expressed via a specific or nonspecific change in the body’s autonomic functions. Emotions, therefore, are manifestations of involuntary physiological or biochemical processes (e.g., changes in skin conductance, blood pressure, skin temperature and heart rate, facial expressions, respiration and pupil dilation, among others).

William James and Carl Lange are credited with independently developing the earliest theory of emotion—the James-Lange Theory of Emotion (James, 1884). This theory suggests that a specific and distinct physiological response produces a unique emotional response. When individuals become aware of this unique physiological response, they infer an emotional state that varies in valence and intensity. The James-Lange theory dominated research on emotion for more than a decade until Walter Cannon (1927), a bio-psychologist, questioned the one-to-one correspondence of the physiological response and emotional response. Cannon asserted that physiological responses are diffuse and that a particular physiological response can correspond to more than one emotional state. Physiological arousal when one is excited by anger, for example, is not much different from when one is excited by elation.

Two contemporary approaches to emotional response trace their roots to the early work on the physiology of emotional response: arousal theory and the theory of facial expressions. Arousal theory focuses on physiological responses, while facial feedback theory suggests that facial expressions (or subtle changes in facial musculature) play a critical role in the experience of emotion (Laird, 1974).

Arousal Theory

Arousal theory emphasizes the role of physiological response in an emotional experience, and extends Canon’s view that arousal is responsible for not only initiating an emotional response, but also for intensifying this response (Clark, 1982). Furthermore, this theory suggests that physiological arousal arising in response to an event can be transferred to and from one stimulus to another (e.g., Zillman’s theory of Excitation Transfer: Zillman, 1978). Although arousal theorists are yet to clearly define the concept of arousal (Stewart, 1984), researchers agree that arousal may be exhibited by way of two responses—an automatic unconditioned response and a learned conditioned response. Eachof the two responses can influence a wide range of affective, behavioural and cognitive responses (Corteen and Wood, 1972).

Theory of Facial Expressions

According to the facial expressions theory, expressions of the face are the primary means by which emotions and feelings are experienced and communicated (Darwin, 1898; Ekman, 1973; Ekman and Freisen, 1982). Facial muscular movements trigger physiological arousal and send sensory feedback to the brain’s autonomic nervous system. This feedback then triggers the experience of a subjective emotional response (Tomkins, 1962). In light of the importance of the sensory feedback, the theory of facial expressions is also commonly referred to as the facial feedback hypothesis. The sensitivity of the face also performs a communicative role by influencing and regulating the emotional experience of an observer.

Despite the emotional sensitivity of the face to a stimulus, individuals in the real world learn to mask and control their facial expressions either through a deliberate process of learning (Izard, 1972, 1977) or by imbuing cultural expectations in their responses. Other limitations of the facial feedback theory include an individual’s limited ability in judging facial expressions due to his or her own history, immediate situation and cultural background (Ekman and Oster, 1979) and the lack of a corresponding facial expression for every emotional experience. Hope, for example, one of the more pervasive emotional responses, does not have a universal facial expression (MacInnis and DeMello, 2005). Further, not all emotions are articulated non-verbally (e.g., facial musculature), and some emotional experiences may not be communicated at all (Ekman and Davidson, 1994).

Basic Emotions Approaches

Several scholars have attempted to identify a set of basic emotions that define all subjective emotional experiences. These approaches are based on cross-cultural and developmental research that suggests the existence of a finite set of discrete emotions—such as joy, anger, sadness, and fear—that are innate to all human beings (e.g., Izard, 1992; Plutchik, 1982). The subjective experience of emotion is the result of the particular pattern of responses across these various basic emotions. Thus, in any given situation it is possible to describe emotional response by measuring the extent to which each of the basic emotions is experienced (Richins, 1997). Inconsumer research, workonhedonic experiences has provided the impetus for moving away from simple dimensional classification to approaches that provide a means for describing more differentiated and subtle emotional states (Hirschman and Holbrook, 1982; Holbrook and Batra, 1987; Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982; Westbrook, 1987).

The basic emotions approach has been criticized as merely labelling without a sound theoretical foundation that explains the experience of emotion (Roseman, 1984). Taken to the extreme, there could be a basic emotion for every emotional response resulting in thousands of such basic emotions. The reliance of basic emotion approaches on labels of the subjective emotional experience is especially problematic. Because the composition of the basic emotion set is derived from evidence that certain emotions are expressed and labelled similarly across cultures, these approaches cannot account for emotional reactions that are not readily labelled in some cultures or for emotional expressions (e.g., facial expressions) that may be similar across a wide range of emotional experiences.

Dimensional Theories

Several of the more influential approaches to the study of emotion in the context of consumer behavior fall within a general class of theories that are often referred to as dimensional theories. All dimensional theories attempt to simplify the representation of affective responses by identifying a set of common dimensions that can be used to distinguish specific emotions from one another. Within the context of consumer behaviour, dimensional theories have proven especially useful in predicting consumers’ responses to store atmosphere (Donovan et al., 1994), to service experiences (Hui and Bateson, 1991), and to advertising (e.g., Holbrook and Batra, 1987), among others.

Russell and Mehrabian (1977) provide evidence that three independent and bipolar dimensions are need to completely measure the variance of emotional responses: pleasure-displeasure, arousal-calm, and dominance-submissiveness (PAD). There is also strong evidence that the same dimensions of emotion exist across cultures. In contrast to dimensional approaches, circumplex models propose a variety of affective responses based on the relative similarity of emotions and their applicability to a particular target setting or object (Watson and Tellegen, 1985). Circumplex models recognize underlying dimensions of emotion but suggest that these dimensions are combined, much like a colour wheel, to produce subjective experiences of emotion. With circumplex models, however, the full range of emotions and the subjective feelings associated with them may not be captured (Izard, 1971, 1972, 1977, 1992; Plutchik, 1980, 1982).

Though the dimensional and basic emotions approaches have afforded some valuable insights regarding the role of emotions in consumer behaviour, they were not designed to address the process and consequences of emotions. To fill this void, other theories, which more specifically focus on the causes and consequences of emotion, have been proposed and applied in the context of research on consumer behaviour. One theoretical approach in particular, attribution theory, has been used to explain consumer behaviour and has also addressed to some extent the causes and consequences of emotional responses.

Attribution Theory

Although developed for a different purpose, attribution theory has frequently been used to predict differentiated emotional responses arising from the distinctions that people make about the cause(s) of an event (Kelley, 1967; Weiner, 1985). Consumers’ emotional reactions often vary depending on the perceived cause of a particular outcome. For example, the same product failure may produce anger or regret depending on whether the consumer attributes the failure to the manufacturer or to his or her failure to follow the directions for use (e.g., Folkes, 1984; Maxham and Netemeyer, 2002).

Attribution theory was developed to explain and predict behavior that arises from perceptions of causal factors (Weiner, 1985, 1986; Weiner et al., 1979). Three distinct dimensions of causal attributions have been identified: (1) the locus of the cause (internal versus external to the individual), (2) the stability of the cause (likely versus unlikely to recur), and (3) the controllability of the cause of the outcome of the relevant situation (controllable or not). These dimensions of attribution have been shown to be associated with different patterns of behavior and emotional reactions. For example, as Weiner observes (1985), if an individual attributes the cause of a negative outcome for another person to his or her own actions (i.e., internal, controllable attribution of cause), the person making the attribution of personal responsibility for another’s misfortune is likely to feel guilty.

Attribution theory is more properly a theory of the process of identifying and coping with causal factors and outcomes. The empirical research validating attribution theory does provide evidence of a link between cognitive distinctions and differentiated emotional reactions, however, and it suggests a need to more fully consider the relationship between cognitive processing and emotion.

Appraisal Theories

Closely related to attribution theory is appraisal theory. Appraisal theories have been credited with providing the most convincing and comprehensive answers to date for key theoretical and practical questions about the nature of emotions (Ekman and Davidson, 1994; Scherer, 2001; Johnson and Stewart, 2004). These theories adopt a unifying approach to the study of emotions and specifically address and make predictions about the degree of arousal, emotional intensity and variation in responses across individuals. Appraisal theories rest on the assumption that it is the unique perception of an individual that is the ultimate determinant of his or her emotional response.

Among the earliest of the appraisal theories was that proposed by Lazarus (1991, 1999) who asserted that an emotional stimulus induces a process of cognitive appraisal that is preceded by both an emotional response and physiological arousal. Lazarus identified three specific appraisal forms: (a) primary appraisals: used for judging the valence or direction (e.g., positive, negative or irrelevant) of an individual’s well-being; (b) secondary appraisals: used for judging resources available to an individual to cope with the appraised situation; and (c) re-appraisal: used to monitor and re-evaluate the primary and secondary appraisals with respect to the environment to maximize one’s well-being. Lazarus’ view explicitly recognized arousal as critical for initiating an emotional state, but also appreciated the vital role of cognition in providing meaning for the experienced arousal state. Appraisal theory is very much a functional theory of emotion because it focuses on the role emotion plays in coping with the environment by examining the antecedents and consequences of emotional response in a specific, goal relevant circumstance.

Each of the several types of theories reviewed here suggests something about how emotion might be used in advertising and how emotional response to advertising might be measured. Unfortunately, there has been a general lack of connection between theories of emotion and emotional response and the use of emotion in advertising. While there is general recognition that emotional appeals in and the evocation of emotional responses by advertising, there has been relatively little effort to use specific theories of emotion to provide normative guidance for the creation of effective advertising. More often the measures of emotional response suggested by various theories have been applied in an attempt to assess the effectiveness of advertising after its creation by tapping into dimensions of consumer response not assessed by other measures. A particularly vexing problem is that each of the several theories of emotion suggests rather different approaches to the use of advertising and different measures of both the subjective experience of emotion and the effects of emotion. As a result, advertising researchers and the managers they inform, often reach quite different conclusions about emotional response specifically and the effectiveness of an advertising execution more generally.

Measuring Emotional Response

The complexity of emotion, the many definitions and theories of the construct, and the many effects that emotion may produce result in a significant challenge for scholars and practitioners interested in the measurement of emotion and emotional response (e.g., Poels and Dewitte, 2006; Stout and Leckenby, 1986; Page et al., 1988). It is also important to recognize that measures of the effects of emotion are not necessarily the same as measures of emotional response. Effects of emotion may be manifest in heightened or lessened attention, greater or lesser recall, and more or less preference, among others. Such measures of response may reveal the effect of emotional content in advertising, as well as other elements of an advertising execution. On the other hand, there are also specific measures of emotional response, which may or may not be related to other measures of response or to the overall effectiveness on an advertising execution.

Emotion can be measured in many different ways that do not always produce consistent results. Emotion in advertising can also produce very different outcomes depending on what is being measured—attention, recall, feelings, attitude or sales. For example, the same emotional response that heightens attention to an advertisement may distract attention from the primary product message. A rich advertising and emotions literature explores the many effects of emotional advertisements on such outcomes as attitude (e.g., Moore et al., 1995; Aylesworth Goodstein and Kalra, 1999), persuasion (e.g., Aaker and Williams, 1998; Burke and Edell, 1986; Holbrook and Batra, 1987; Edell and Burke, 1987), and processing and acceptance of information (Keller et al., 2003; Raghunathan and Trope, 2002). The variety of measures of emotional response is truly staggering. Poels and Dewitte (2006) provide a comprehensive review of specific measures of emotional response to advertising that have been reported in the literature. Most of these measures can be categorized as one of two types: physiological and descriptive (self-report).

Physiological Measures

Several physiological techniques have been employed for measuring the level of arousal produced while an individual views an ad. For example, electroencephalographs track electrical activity in the brain and pupillometric studies determine emotional responses based on the change in the size of an eye’s pupil. Caution must be exercised when interpreting results from physiological techniques because confounding influences may be present (e.g., transfer of affect from programmes or between advertisements in the same product-category).

A newly emerging field of neuro-marketing combines neuroscience and qualitative methods to study brain responses and processes with respect to feelings produced when an individual views an ad or a product. Neuroscientific techniques such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging techniques (or f MRI) are increasingly being used to assess physiological responses (e.g., Kolb and Taylor, 1981; Nakamura et al., 1999; Morris, 2005). Although the f MRI is possibly the most promising and reliable method of neuro-marketing most of the current techniques rely on older and less useful technology: EKG (Electrocardiogram), and GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) that measure a single dimension, arousal. Some newer adaptations of these techniques claim to evaluate a combination of heart rhythms and skin conductance to produce a two-dimensional approach similar to the self-report of pleasure and arousal (Hall, 2004). Unfortunately, the validity of these types of measures with respect to purchase behaviour remains to be demonstrated.

Facial expressions, as suggested by the theory of facial expressions, are also important tools because of their ability to effectively communicate internal body states without the use of languages skills (Darwin, 1898; Hazlett and Hazlett, 1999). Various coding systems for facial expressions have been proposed including the Facial Action Coding System or FACS (Ekman and Freisen, 1978) and Marschalk Emotional Expression Deck (Agres, 1984). Each of these coding systems classifies facial expressions based on a select set of dimensions (e.g., pleasantness- unpleasantness and acceptance-rejection). Facial expressions may be captured via cameras or via use of elaborate devices such as electromyographs (EMG), which measure subtle changes in the facial musculature.

Empirical evidence suggests that coding systems are not foolproof in identifying a unique emotional response because individuals can consciously control facial expressions through upbringing or cultural considerations (Izard, 1972, 1977; Scherer and Wallbott, 1994). Skeptics of these types of measures raise doubts about the application of laboratory-based findings to a reallife scenario. Methods are therefore being developed to capture consumers’ emotional response in a more typical, real-life scenario (e.g., while using an ATM machine). One such effort is by Teradata, a division of NCR Corporation. NCR, a company that handles several million dollars self-service transactions annually, in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Integrated Media Systems Center is working to develop a system that captures consumers’ facial expressions. Analysis of such information, along with customer reported data via surveys is expected to develop a rich database of consumers’ emotional responses.

Self-Report Measures

The various descriptive theories of emotion suggest that the labelling of the subjective experience of emotion provides a means for measuring and distinguishing among emotional states (Hirschmann and Holbrook, 1982; Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982; Holbrook and Batra, 1987; Westbrook, 1987). The marketing and advertising literature is filled with paper and pencil scales for labelling emotional responses (see Bearden et al., 1999, Bruner et al., 1992, 1996, 2000, 2005 for comprehensive listings of these scales). For example, measuring emotional response using the PAD dimensions can be accomplished with two methods. The b-polar PAD scale (Mehrabian, 1980, 1995, 1997) measures emotional responses in terms of three independent dimensions: (a) pleasure (i.e., positive and negative emotional state), (b) arousal (i.e., extent of physical activity and mental alertness associated with the emotional response), and (c) dominance (i.e., degree of control experienced associated with the emotional response).

Alternatively the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) (Lang, 1980) has been demonstrated to be better than the verbal checklist for measuring emotional responses because the visual method eliminates cognitive processing (Morris and Waine, 1993). Morris et al. (1995, 1996) developed a measure of emotional response to marketing communications stimuli, AdSAM®, that is based on SAM. ADSAM® uses a graphic character, instead of semantic terms, to represent the three dimensions of the PAD model. Drawing on early work on emotions by psychologists and other social scientists, AdSAM® operates on the theory that all emotions are composed of three underlying dimensions: Pleasure, Arousal, and Dominance. Any emotion can be understood as a unique combination of these fundamental dimensions. Anger, for example, is characterized by low pleasure, high arousal, and high dominance. The same combination of pleasure and arousal withlow dominance is experienced as fear or anxiety.

AdSAM® has been used to assess responses to television advertising (Morris et al., 1992, 2002), pre-production vs. post-production advertising (Morris and Waine, 1993), and political messages (Morris, 1999). SAM and ADSAM have also been used to measure emotional responses in a variety of studies, including reactions to advertisements (Morris et al., 1992), pictures (International Affective Picture System, IAPS) (Greenwald et al., 1989; Lang et al., 1993), images (Miller et al., 1987), sounds (Bradley, 1994) music (Morris and Boone, 1998) and more. More recently, Morrisetal. (2002) showed in a study of over 23 000 responses to 240 advertising messages in a well known copy-testing system, that emotional response—as measured by AdSAM®—explained up to 37% of the variance in purchase intent and brand interest. Cognitive measures, believability and knowledge, explained 0-13%.

In another applied environment, the ARS Group, a well-known copy testing company has shown, using AdSAM®, that responses to successful advertising are a combination of rational and emotional components. The greatest advertising success is achieved when ads have both strong rational and emotional messages. In the ARS study emotional responses were related to significant changes in consumer brand preference and persuasion scores that have been validated as predictors of in-market changes in market share and product trial in the case of new products. An ad that performed well on both measures had ∼7 times greater probability of being effective than an ad that is in neither (ARS, 2005). In is interesting to note that this is one of the very few studies to attempt to link measured emotional response to actual sales data. Most studies of emotional response have linked emotion to such intermediate measures of response as attention, recall, and attitude that are themselves not strong and consistent predictors of brand preference and sales. This is a major problem with respect to understanding the influence of emotional response on the effectiveness of advertising.

Verbal versus Visual Measures

It is difficult to design a verbal based instrument that shares the same meaning when translated from language to language. There is also a general assumption that some dimensions of emotional response are not captured by verbal, self-report measures that are inherently cognitive. Despite this general recognition, most self-report measures reported in the literature are verbal. One exception, AdSAM® (Morris, 1995) is a visual measure. Since AdSAM® uses a graphic character the language bias found in verbal measures (Edell and Burke, 1987) is eliminated (Morris et al., 1996; Morris, 1995; Morris and Waine, 1993). The facial expressions used in AdSAM® have consistent meanings globally and the SAM measure can be effectively interpreted in multiple cultures (Bradley et al., 1992). Furthermore, research by Russell (1983) and his colleagues (Russell et al., 1989) found the Pleasure and Arousal dimensions tapped by AdSAM® to be consistent cross-culturally in Gujarati, Croatian, Japanese, Cantonese Chinese, Greek, Chinese and English.

In contrast to research that has focused on the nonverbal dimensions of emotional response, cognitive theories, such as attribution and the appraisal theories, emphasize the role of knowledge structures in the processing of emotional responses. These constructivist theories largely rely on cognitive measures for emotional response including, written self-reports (e.g., spoken and written words) on rating scales, open-ended questions on surveys and during interviews, responses to projective instruments (e.g., sentence completion tasks, self-assessment tasks and perceptions regarding other peoples behaviour). Attribution and appraisal theories generally employ cognitive responses and dismiss the importance of any immediate affective responses (e.g., Lazarus, 1991). Cognitive responses can be measured, for example, in terms of effect on awareness (e.g., aided and unaided recall), and beliefs generated (e.g., thought-listing surveys). As with other measures of emotional response to advertising, the measures suggested by attribution and appraisal theories have only infrequently been examined in the context of their ability to predict changes in sales or other relevant in-market sales.

Summary: The Future of Emotions Research in Advertising

Many of the same measures of emotional response used today will continue to be used in the future. Future contributions will come in the form of more sophisticated uses of current measures, i.e., emotional segmentation and identification of drivers of emotions, as well as the further development of physiological techniques, i.e., f MRI. In order for these and other techniques to be adopted and better serve management decision-making, a better understanding of emotion will be required by the marketing community. While there is a rich body of theoretical literature this literature has yet to be systematically linked to normative guidelines for the use of emotion in advertising or well-articulated measures of in-market advertising effectiveness. After a review of measures of various measures of emotional response to advertising Poels and Dewitte (2006) concluded that “[m]uch is still unknown about the predictive validity of different measurement methods … We call for studies that investigate how the measurement types relate to external measures such as purchase intention or brand choice behavior” (p. 20).

The present review suggests a similar conclusion but also suggests the need for five other changes in the way research is conducted. First, there is a need for a more explicit link to theory. Second, there is a need to complement research on individual response to aggregate response and the variability within such aggregate response. Third, there is a need to assure that validation involves relevant in-market measures of response, such as changes in sales and market share, in addition to studies of the relationship between emotion and other intermediate outcomes of response to advertising, such as recall, attitude and intention. Fourth, it is important to distinguish between the effects of emotional benefits of products and services depicted in advertising and emotional elements of execution. Finally, knowledge about the effects of emotion will grow as research more clearly distinguishes between emotions represented in the advertising and the emotions evoked in the consumer by the advertising.

Verbal (rational) measures, such as recall, message comprehension and product beliefs, have existed for many years and valid or not are better understood and easier to apply than emotional response techniques. A great deal of research has focused on attempts to link emotional content in advertising to these measures or show how specific measures of emotional response are related to verbal measures. There remains a general lack of attention to and appreciation for the need to establish the validity of measures of advertising with respect to such outcomes as market share and sales. This neglect exists for most measures of advertising effectiveness but is especially problematic for measures of emotional response.