Should emotions be considered for a better placement of ads?

  • The importance of emotions for the placement of ads to enhance the customer experience



Do emotions evoked by online advertisements and the videos in which these are placed have a considerable effect on how the viewers perceive the interruption of an ad? Should emotions be considered when placing ads on video streaming websites?


“Youtube, do you know how to set the mood?”



In today’s digital era, video streaming websites such as YouTube have more than 2 billion hours of video content watched every day. Online advertising in between videos is becoming more frequent, which is causing more irritation than before.1 The cause of feeling irritated is not only due to the higher frequency of ads, but also due to the lack of relevance and length, among other factors.2


Does an advertisement always evoke a negative feeling in the audience? Is there a way to reduce negative emotions in the cases where the emotions evoked by the advertisement and the ones of the video coincide, hence the relevance is better aligned? This last question was addressed by students of the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH), who analyzed how the matching and not matching of emotions evoked by advertisements and online videos affect the likeability, the brand recall, and the emotions of the viewers.





An experiment was built to confirm four different hypotheses:


      • 1. When placing a happy advertisement in a happy video, the negative emotional effect of the interruption will be smaller than with a sad advertisement.

2. When placing a sad advertisement in a sad video, the negative emotional effect will be smaller than with a happy advertisement.


3. The negative effect of the interruption by the advertisement will be stronger when placing a sad advertisement in a happy video, compared to a happy advertisement in a sad video.


4. When the emotions of the advertisements and the videos match, both the likeability and the brand recall increase compared to when they do not match.


After carefully selecting “Happy” and “Sad” advertisements, as well as “Happy” and “Sad” online videos, three groups of viewers were defined in the following way: (1) a control group with no ad interruptions, (2) a group where the emotions evoked by the advertisement and the online video matched (“Happy” ad - “Happy” video and “Sad” ad - “Sad” video) and (3) a group where emotions evoked by the advertisement and the online video did not match (“Sad” ad - “Happy” video and “Happy” ad - “Sad” video).


In order to analyze how the matching and non-matching of emotions affect the feeling of interruption of the viewer, two research methods were used. An implicit emotion analysis was conducted with the TAWNY Emotion Analytics platform, analyzing the participants’ facial expressions when watching the videos. In addition, an explicit analysis in form of a survey was part of the study for validation and comparison. 96 respondents with heterogeneous nationalities and an equal distribution of genders took part in the study.




From the data of both the explicit and implicit analysis, the following implications could be derived regarding the use and effect of emotions when deciding on a suitable placement for advertisements.


As the main conclusion, it could be seen that happy advertisements create stronger positive reactions and are more attractive when placed in non-matching emotional contexts. This means that a happy advertisement, even when it is shown during a sad video will create a more positive reaction and will elicit favorable emotional responses even though the emotional context does not match.


“Trigger stronger positive emotions with your ad – in a sad environment!”


This means that although interruptions by advertisements have generally been related to negative emotions such as irritation, they can also serve as mood enhancers when they are watched in sad emotional contexts.3 The reason for this could be because the participants that watched the happy ad in a negative mood were more likely to attribute the mood enhancement and the positive feelings to the ad, and as a consequence, evaluate it more favorably.4 With this finding, it is recommended that brands that are interested to evoke strong positive emotional responses should place happy advertisements in sad videos.


The second interesting finding was that sad advertisements create an even stronger effect of sadness when they are placed in sad emotional contexts.


“Sad ads in sad contexts can create a stronger sense of empathy for the cause”


This result could be interesting for brands like the Cancer Foundation or the Red Cross that often aim to evoke a high sense of empathy and compassion among their viewers, hence wanting to keep them in a state of sadness. On the contrary, its placement in happy videos seemed to compensate for the sad emotion evoked by the ad, therefore having a smaller negative effect.


In this study, it could not be concluded that the matching of emotions increased the likeability of the advertisement, as the reactivity for the happy advertisement was so high that it was even more favorable when placing it in a negative emotional context. Finally, it could not be confirmed that there is a relationship between the matching and non-matching of emotions and the brand recall. Nevertheless, considering that advertising is highly dependent on staying in people’s memory5 to trigger action, it is likely that happy advertisements would perform better in general.


It can be stated that the emotions evoked by advertisements play a large role in the overall emotions of a person while watching a video. With the stated findings, it is up to the brands themselves to reflect on their brand strategy in terms of which emotions they aim to evoke and place the ads in a way that either enhances positive emotions or reduces negative ones. This information also brings interesting insights to video streaming platforms to enhance their existing algorithms of where to place a specific ad. We believe that emotion should become a new dimension in the world of advertisement placement to improve the effectiveness and return on investment for brands.


Are you a marketeer that found these insights interesting and would like to know more? Or perhaps a student wanting to perform a similar study for research purposes? Do not hesitate to reach out to us!

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1 Mimi An. (2016) “Why People Block Ads (And What It Means for Marketers and Advertisers)”, Hubspot, July 13th. Available at: (Accessed : 09/2020)

2 Zoe Brown. (2018) “How online advertising is annoying customers and how you can improve your advertising as an SME”, The UK domain, April 19th. Available at :,a%20grievance%20for%20online%20consumers. (Accessed: 04/12/2020)

3 Zillmann, D. (2000). Mood management in the context of selective exposure theory. Communication yearbook, 23, 103–123.

4 Chang, C. (2006). Beating the news blues: Mood repair through exposure to advertising. Journal of Communication, 56(1), 198-217.

5 Ambler, T. & Burne, T. (1997) The impact of affect on memory in advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 39(2), pp. 25–34





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