Emotion Makes a Difference in Advocacy Advertising

by Elena Veatch

advocacy advertising

Why Emotion Beats Reason in Advocacy Advertising

Here at The Campaign Workshop, we always stress the value of storytelling with strong visuals in political and advocacy advertising. In other words, using photos or footage of authentic people looking straight into a camera and speaking candidly about things they’ve experienced, makes communications materials more compelling. There’s far more potential to persuade folks through testimonials than there is through wonky policy white papers – the question is, why?

We process emotion-laced language and imagery far more readily than we take in dense information loaded with statistics. Our brains are wired to absorb content that makes us feel something over content that’s difficult to understand. As a result, when we read a piece of direct mail or watch a video ad that evokes sadness or fear or anger, our brains form networks of associations between the visual and the emotion it triggered.

This automatic reaction makes it easier for us to recall memories linked to our emotions. Even if we can’t remember the meat of a political or advocacy ad, we can at least recall the visceral emotion it conjured up. When we later hear about the same issue or candidate, we’ve already sub consciously formed an opinion. Appeals to emotion beat appeals to reason.

We may decry Trump’s tactic of making arguments about immigration or health care by elevating anecdotes over statistics, but the fact is, Trump’s way is more efficient in changing minds. While progressives shouldn’t take a page out of the president’s book by lying to the public to get folks on our side, making our ideas more digestible would help move the needle for causes and candidates alike. To learn more, check out Drew Westen’s The Political Brain.

Have questions about using emotion in advocacy advertising ask them here: