Do Emotional Images in Advertising Pull at Heart Strings?

New York, N.Y. – November 12, 2010 – In order to connect with their audience, some advertisers use humor, others use startling facts, and others still use images or themes that might elicit an emotional response. When asked about a few images often used in advertising to elicit a reaction from viewers, two in five Americans (41%) say that given the options of a puppy, a baby, a sweet old lady and a sweet old man, a puppy is most likely to tug at their heart-strings when they see it in a commercial. One-third say a baby (34%) is most likely to do so, while small percentages say a sweet old lady (3%) or a sweet old man (2%); 19% say none of these is likely to tug at their heart-strings.

These are some of the findings of a new Adweek Media/Harris Poll  survey of 2,098 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 5 and 7, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

Differences by Gender

When examining which image is most likely to get an emotional response from viewers, there are interesting gender differences. Women are more likely than men to say that when they see it in a commercial a puppy is likely to tug at their heart-strings (45% of women say so, compared to 37% of men) and that a baby is likely to tug at their heart-strings (39% of women say so, compared to 29% of men). While women and men seem equally unaffected when they see a sweet old lady (3% and 4%) or a sweet old man (3% and 1%) in a commercial, men are much more likely than women to say that none of the given options are likely to tug at their heart-strings-three in ten men say this (29%), compared to just one in ten women who do (10%).

 

Differences by Age

Although all American adults seem equally as likely to say that a puppy will tug at their heart-strings when they see it in a commercial (between 40% and 42% of each age group say this), adults aged 35-44 and 45-54 are more likely than both those younger and those older to say that they are affected when they see a baby in a commercial. Almost two in five of those 35-44 (39%) and 45-54 (38%) say that when they see a baby in a commercial it is likely to tug at their heart-strings, compared to fewer younger Americans, aged 18-34 (30%), and older Americans, 55 and older (34%), who say the same. It might be that those in the middle age groups are more likely than those older or younger to have young children, which could explain why they react to seeing images of babies. This theory is further supported as those adults with a child at home say they are more likely to feel a tug at their heart-strings when they see a baby in a commercial (48% of those with a child in the household, compared to just 30% of those who do not have a child in the house). Adults without a child at home are more likely however to say that the image of a puppy tugs at their heart-strings (45%, compared to 29% who have a child at home).

So What?

It is interesting to learn which images appeal to different groups of people. While it seems that a puppy is a reasonably good choice if an advertiser is looking to emotionally connect with viewers, the question is whether a ‘tug at the heart-strings’ actually drives consumers to action, rather than just providing a fleeting emotional hook. Additionally, from this survey it’s not entirely clear which themes most appeal to men in advertising, as these traditionally heart-warming images don’t seem to be it.

 

TABLE 1

TUGS AT YOUR HEART STRINGS

Which of the following is most likely to ‘tug at your heart-strings’ when you see it in a commercial?

Base: All U.S. adults

Total

Age

Gender

Children in HH

18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Male

Female

Has children in HH

No children in HH

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

A puppy

41

40

42

40

41

37

45

29

45

A baby

34

30

39

38

34

29

39

48

30

A sweet old lady

3

5

2

4

2

4

3

3

3

A sweet old man

2

4

2

1

2

1

3

3

2

None of these

19

22

16

17

21

29

10

17

20

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

 

 

 

Methodology

This Adweek Media/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 5 and 7, 2010 among 2,098 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll ® #140, November 12, 2010

By Samantha Braverman, Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

 

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

About AdweekMedia

AdweekMedia encompasses the publications, websites, digital products and events produced by Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek. Through this dynamic media network, each brand keeps the agency, marketing and media communities competitive and connected by delivering the latest news and expert analysis most relevant to their specific needs.

AdweekMedia is part of Nielsen Business Media, which is a unit of The Nielsen Company. Nielsen Business Media is a leading market-focused provider of integrated information and sales and marketing solutions, helping businesses go to market more effectively and efficiently. For more see www.adweek.com.