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.”


Building the Lloyds Banking Group corporate brand

Russell Parsons

Lloyds Banking Group’s decision to launch its first multi-brand campaign detailing how its Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland brands are “Helping Britain Prosper” the week it announced the closure of 200 branches and the loss of up to 9,000 jobs might seem odd or necessary, depending on your level of cynicism.


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