Peter Noel Murray Ph.D.

Inside the Consumer Mind

How a Video Message Evokes Emotion and Arouses Response

Analysis of a commercial for World Humanitarian Day

Posted Sep 12, 2013

The world needs more food
Almost every day we are reminded that our world, its people, and its creatures need our help. The charities and cause organizations whose missions are to meet these needs reach out to attract our attention, engage us in their programs, and win our support.

Most of these campaigns don’t achieve their objectives. Yes, their stories describe heart-wrenching needs. And the visuals they use show conditions that we find unacceptable. However, while these elements are emotional portrayals of problems, they do not produce the response that the organizations need to solve them.

One reason why many campaigns fail is their use of negative emotion. Their strategy is to elicit viewers' sympathy for those suffering and then appeal to them for help. Negative emotions are effective only when people see a direct connection between taking action (i.e. sending money) and solving the problem. Because most organizations make fund raising appeals year-after-year, people don’t see that their contributions create tangible results.

The secret to effectively using emotion in advertising for a cause is to structure the message so that it promotes the desired action of making a donation while at the same time communicating that these funds actually will make a difference. This is hard to do.

However, one recent campaign is an excellent example of how story-telling components can be shaped into emotion-evoking communication that is structured to stimulate action.

This past August 19th, the United Nations Foundation and partner organizations* launched a new global campaign for World Humanitarian Day. “The World Needs More__” campaign, created by the advertising firm Leo Burnett New York, presents a unique program involving hash tags and social media to raise funds to support the UN Foundation’s efforts to help people in need.

Take a look at the 60 second video which promotes World Humanitarian Day before reading the analysis that follows. To view, click HERE.

Smiles and positive relationships with caregivers

What stands out about this commercial is its uplifting message. The brilliance of this positive emotional approach is that it implicitly communicates warmth and projects competence.

Psychological research has shown that perceptions of warmth and competence are two of the most important factors which shape our judgments of people and organizations. In addition, studies reveal that when high levels of warmth and competence are perceived together, they are associated with active behavioral responses such as helping.

Warmth is communicated from the first vignette and throughout the commercial by showing the emotional wellbeing that results from caring about those in need and improving the physical conditions in which they live. Here are examples:

Joyous response to the distribution of aid packages

The positive nonverbal behavior shown in the commercial (e.g. head and body movement, eye contact, and smiles) causes viewers to feel more connected to the message and to experience feelings of happiness and warmth. These emotions shape overall attitudes. Perceived warmth determines judgments about friendliness, trustworthiness, empathy, and kindness. They are grounded in our evolutionary need to identify friend versus foe.

Perceptions of warmth become even more powerful when they are combined with judgments that the organization possesses the competence to actually create the positive vision it presents in a commercial.

In this commercial, competence is communicated by its overall focus on how life looks when needs are being satisfied. This perception is reinforced by specific nonverbal imagery.

The visuals depict people of intelligence, efficacy, and skill who are capable of carrying out these solutions.

Relief team members listening to their leader

Another vitally important element which communicates warmth and competence is the music track of the commercial. Music has extraordinary power to evoke emotion because we experience it directly without first processing it cognitively. The commercial’s music score is uplifting, which reinforces perceptions of warmth. Its progression in rhythm and structure connotes motion and progress associated with competence. The increase of music intensity and volume throughout the commercial elevates the emotional experience of viewers.

Rescuers celebrating success

The success of every campaign depends on many factors in addition to communication. In this case, for example, negative attitudes towards the United Nations would depress viewer response. Apart from such uncontrollable factors, however, the World Humanitarian Day commercial is built on an emotional foundation that goes far deeper than most other cause and charity campaigns.

With this discussion of emotion fresh in your mind, take another look at “The World Needs More__” commercial … and enjoy. Click HERE.

* The campaign is a collaborative effort between the UN Foundation, the UN Development Programme, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, and advertising agency Leo Burnett New York.

© 2013 Peter Noel Murray, Ph.D.

More Posts