How John Lewis, Pixar and Lloyds inject emotion into their marketing

Programmatic and digital advertising is increasingly about the data but many brands are concerned they are losing the emotional touch. At Quantcast’s Supernova event in London today (21 October) Lloyds explained how it wants to make its digital advertising as emotive as its TV campaigns while the agency behind John Lewis’ ads explained why data is not the answer to everything.


Brand lessons from Disney’s Pixar

Matthew Luhn, story supervisor and instructor at Pixar animation studios, is no stranger to emotive messaging with the studio’s films, which include Toy Story and Up, famous for pulling on the heart strings.

He told delegates that brands can learn a lot from Pixar’s approach to filmmaking.

“On Toy Story we worked with a psychologist and we worked with neurologists to really study the brain’s emotional response for Inside Out,” he explained.

“Without that research we wouldn’t be able to connect so deeply with viewers and that process has informed all of our movies.”

The research, he said, particularly informed the facial expressions and looks of characters such as Buzz Lightyear and Woody.

“They [psychologists Paul Elkman and Dacher Keltner] acted as our consultants into understanding people’s emotions and creating a true illusion of life,” he added.

“Humans are capable of making 10,000 different expressions, 3,000 of those are tied to emotions. If a brand does the same sort of research it can connect more deeply with its creative.”

Big data can ruin emotive brand building

Speaking earlier in the day, Les Binet, head of effectiveness at adam&eveDDB, said the agency wouldn’t have been able to create the popular John Lewis Christmas ads had it relied on big data as a metric for success.

He urged brands to apply a 60:40 rule to their marketing budgets – 60% of their budget spent on brand building and 40% on activation.

“That balance is the perfect recipe for long term success and is the approach we used for our Christmas ads with John Lewis,” he said, before urging marketers to not get overwhelmed by big data strategies.

“You couldn’t make a John Lewis Christmas ad if you were evaluating success through big data. That way of thinking is based on short term functional goals that are anti-emotional. Emotive advertising is key for long term success,” he explained.

John Lewis Monty

Binet also claimed that most marketers still believe online sales account for 40% of UK retail, when it is in fact 12%. That means there is a “fundamentally wrong” view attached to offline media.

“The average person still watches 3.5 hours of TV a day in the UK – so, in general, you’d be a fool to ignore offline media,” said Binet.

“Just looking at the online world isn’t enough as after 20 years it still isn’t the key driver of purchases. We must strive for a common currency for both online and offline data, a way to look at the number of impressions and reach for both.”

Making programmatic more emotive

Ed Cole, manager for digital marketing strategy at the Lloyds Banking Group, explained how he is is striving to make programmatic and emotional marketing more closely aligned.

He said the banking brand is currently testing ways to make its online ads more emotive.

“I’m confident digital and programmatic advertising can become as emotional as television and we are keen to test it at Lloyds,” he added.

“You could be on a website and see our iconic black horse and still generate an emotional response. The difficulty is converting that into visits to our website. I want to test people’s perspective of our online photo ads and look at whether we can can convert that emotion into ROI like TV can.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here